Would you sell what you make to your friends and family?
Day 11 of Alan Moore's 13 Design Questions for New Artisans
When it comes to New Artisans, this question has an interesting philosophical angle for me. Do New Artisans “sell”?
“Sell” is a loaded word. What is a perfectly honourable aspect of business carries a very large shadow of sharp practice, pressure on buyer and seller, and exploitation of our vulnerabilities.
I would like my friends and family to “buy” the idea I’m proposing but have no inclination to sell to them. People don’t resist change, but they do resist coercion, and selling can so often be coercion, no matter how well-intentioned.
What does make a difference, I find, is my commitment to what I’m doing and the discussions as to why. Why do I post every day, read what I do, and host the groups I do? Money, as a precondition, gets in the way - it colours the nature of the transaction. That doesn’t stop the flow of money, though. Once people understand what the idea is about, on their own terms rather than mine, they are more than happy to pay. They buy the idea once they understand.
I think what it boils down to is motivation. Those who love and believe in what they do have a vocation, and that means money, whilst necessary, is not a precondition to engaging. Teachers teach, Nurses care for the sick, Craftspeople shape, and Artists create because it’s how they understand who they are. (I cannot think of a single large business on the stock exchanges with a genuine vocation. Owner-managed businesses are often different, though, because they can make choices beyond money.)
As with all of Alan’s questions, they come “preloaded” with others that emerge as we try to answer them.
As I considered the idea of selling to my friends and family, I found myself reframing it to “how would I describe what I do, who I do it with, and who I do it to, to my grandchildren”.
That made it a whole lot more straightforward because no matter what they do, they have a clear identity that my four-year-old grandson understands. One is a designer but also a beekeeper, which is much easier to explain. Others, even though they may run businesses are farmers, doctors, vets, gardeners, and other staples of good children’s stories.
If I can’t explain what I do or those I work with do, in the context of the great children’s authors, from Julia Donaldson to Roald Dahl, without having to lie, I need to think about what I’m doing.
And definitely no Grinches.