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. Do you have a balance between operational & strategic management of running the gallery?
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 your business’s growth and development?
The Day-to-Day Trap
Most art galleries operate with a small staff of three to five 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 might 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?
- Researching new partnerships and collaboration opportunities?
These are examples of tasks that are crucial for your gallery’s growth and development.
Along with most small business owners, the gallery sector has an unconscious tendency to stick with what they know best, often everyday tasks. These are just enough to keep your business running. Still, 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 business growth tasks and development can feel uncomfortable, but ignoring these areas 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 to your ability as a gallery leader to rededicate yourself to your business’s growth. In doing so, you will break the bubble you have been living in and make room for more strategic thinking about running the gallery business.
In the process, you may also reinvigorate your artists, staff, and art collectors. Success will depend on making a true commitment to the necessary tasks and 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 and are not receiving your focused attention. Be specific and break them into categories: 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 challenging 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. The 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 internal 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 client’s needs with the art you thought they wanted.
Think about the goals and aspirations you had when you first started running the gallery. 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 continually looking to the future and working on the company as well as in it daily. Running a gallery is no different.
If you are continually 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 lose sight of where it is going.
If you make a real commitment to allocate time regularly to work on your gallery business, you will be successful in growing your gallery for the future.