As a gallery owner, much of your day requires you to spend time with customers, call artists, hang artwork or patch walls, update your website, and maintain social media. You may even be the person responsible for cleaning the bathroom and washing the windows. These are the things you do in your gallery: the day-to-day tasks. But are you devoting enough time on your gallery business? How much time each day, week, and month do you work on the growth and development of your business?
The Day-to-Day Trap
Most art galleries operate with a small staff of one to three people, some of whom may only work part time. The day-to-day tasks are endless and, of course, important. Ask yourself (honestly) if any of the following are true for your gallery.
- Your inventory of art is getting stale?
- Your exhibitions or events are becoming repetitive?
- Your gallery artists haven’t changed in years?
- You make frequent operational shortcuts?
- Your energy, passion, and sense of purpose have decreased?
- Your sales and cash flow are lower?
If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, you may not be spending enough time working to develop your gallery’s long-term business success. Now ask yourself how much time you devote to following.
- Conducting advanced budgeting for the gallery and future exhibitions?
- Evaluating new artists and gallery suppliers?
- Testing new marketing, customer programs/services, and event ideas?
- Freshening up the look and feel of the gallery space and website?
- Learning new professional skills?
- Enhancing collector or artist services?
- Creating long term business goals and strategies?
These are examples of tasks that are crucial for your gallery’s growth and development. Gallery owners and directors, along with many small business owners, have an unconscious tendency to stick with what they know best, which is often the everyday tasks. These are just enough to keep your business running, but if you focus your efforts only on them, you and your art gallery business will eventually become burnt-out, frustrated, and stagnant. Working on the equally important task of business growth and development can feel uncomfortable, but ignoring can put you out of business, especially in this current art market and collector expectations.
Steps for Breaking the Bubble of the Day to Day
Positive change will likely come down your ability as a business owner to rededicate yourself to the growth of your gallery. In doing so, you will break the bubble you have been living in and make room for more strategic thinking about your gallery business. In the process you may also reinvigorate your artists, staff, and art collectors. Success will be dependent on making a true commitment to not only the necessary tasks but also giving yourself the time to do them. Here are some suggestions on how to get started.
- Identify the day-to-day tasks that you spend the most time on every week. Determine how frequently they need to be done, how they can be completed more efficiently, and if they can be delegated to someone else.
- Identify the tasks that are crucial to your business growth that are not receiving your focused attention. Be specific and break them into categories: for example, marketing, finance, artist development, gallery presentations, etc. Then prioritize them and schedule reoccurring days and blocks of time during which you will work on those tasks. Mark that time on your calendar. Consider it an appointment with yourself.
- Find a way to work without distractions or interruptions. If you find it difficult to focus in the gallery due to the phone, staff questions, or other distractions, work for a few hours in the morning or late afternoon at home, at a coffee shop, or somewhere you can be most productive.
- Turn your email off while working. Nothing is more distracting than that little notification that pops up on the screen when you have a new email message waiting. Same goes for your phone.
- Pick a new professional skill to learn and research training options. Set a goal for mastering it.
- Experiment with new ways to hang the gallery and display three-dimensional artwork.
- Plan how to refresh the physical gallery space. For example, change the paint on the walls or light the artwork differently. Also consider adding or rearranging the seating areas or other furniture. Your gallery window display probably changes frequently, but don’t forget about your space as a whole. Make sure it provides a fresh experience for your repeat visitors.
- Evaluate your processes to determine more efficient ways to accomplish them. For example, technology can automate many tasks, such as email and social media marketing.
- Test a new artist whose style may be a little different from your inventory. You may find you are not meeting your clients needs with the art you thought they wanted.
Think about the goals and aspirations you had when you first started as a fine-art dealer. Are you there yet?
It’s hard to find a balance between attending to the day-to-day tasks and growing and developing your art gallery. All businesses need to be constantly looking to the future and working on the business as well as in it on a daily basis. A fine-art gallery is no different. One tool you might consider a business planner. Check out the Daily Greatness Business Planner or others similar. These are wonderful tools to organize your strategic thinking and time management.
If you are constantly putting out fires, your gallery can’t grow. You also will not be able to serve your artists, staff, or art collectors very well. It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day rhythm of working in the business and to lose site of where your business is going. If you make a real commitment to allocate time on a regular basis to work on your gallery business, you will be successful in growing your gallery for the future.