No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. Maybe. No. No. No. No. Yes. Maybe. No. No. No.

This has been my life for the last two years reviewing submissions for The Road Gallery. As I have become more certain where I want to take the gallery, so has my decision making process about which artists to include. Having clarity of purpose and direction has been invaluable to curating the gallery and perhaps the most important lesson of all. Beyond that, here are five other life lessons reinforced through my life as a gallery owner.

(1) Be candid. Prior to running the gallery, I worked in organizations for 19 years. As a manager and leader, I made too many compromises in an attempt to please others or avoid interpersonal conflict. Now I am completely in charge of my own business and its success, I am far less likely to settle or be overly accommodating. On the occasions I have, I’ve kicked myself, especially in situations where I knew I was making the wrong decision. In the end, those decisions served no-one well. I am learning to stick to my guns and say what I mean. Less and less am I letting my well-intentioned gestures and desire to please get in the way of the right decisions.

(2) Trust your instincts. Our instincts are shaped through years of experience navigating and reacting to situations. Instinct is a valuable asset, especially in the subjective world of art. In curating the gallery, following my instincts about an artist has been as important as trusting my gut when I review a submission. I made a promise to myself when I first conceived the gallery that I would not partner with arrogant, unreliable or difficult artists, essentially prima donnas or jerks. I have encountered more than a couple of people along the way that ticked those boxes. Despite a few close calls, I have listened to my intuition, especially about people. I’m certain it’s saved me from a lot of angst and irritation.

(3) Have an abundance mindset. In Stephen Covey’s seminal book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” he talks about the importance of having an abundance mentality – believing that there is plenty for everyone and that we can all win and be successful. I’m a firm believer in this concept and it guides the way I run the gallery.  I have consistently tried to make good business decisions that not only drive revenue but also deepen relationships, build trust, show flexibility and generosity and create opportunities for people. For the most part, these decision have achieved positive outcomes, some tangible, some intangible. The decisions I have made with a scarcity mindset, thinking resources are limited and there is not enough to go round, have backfired. My experiences have reinforced that we should stick to leading with an abundance mindset.

(4) Relationships are at the core of everything. Whether it’s with artists, collectors or service providers, relationships matter. When I have taken the time to make an investment in a relationship by listening, inquiring, helping, understanding or empathizing, it has served me well. When I have been lazy or disinterested or when I have written an email when I should have picked up the phone to find out more, I have lost out in some way.  Making the extra effort to fill up the relationship account is well worth it.

(5) Keep innovating and adapting. While I have stayed true to the mission I set out for the gallery, I have learned that you can never stand still or rest on your laurels. Since I launched The Road Gallery, there has been a rise in the number of on-line galleries; competition has grown exponentially. As such, I’ve had to keep challenging myself to differentiate my gallery from others. Adapting to changes in your environment, being rigorously honest with yourself about what’s working and what’s not and having the courage to take risks and try new approaches are critical to success.  When you are running your own business, the emotional highs and lows are much more pronounced. That means pushing through the moments of doubt and investing your energy in the things you can control. Be your own analyst and consultant.  Learn from the successes, learn from the mistakes and keep driving forward with smart problem solving.


Cover image by artist Kyle Utter