Guest Post: Sean Low from The Business of Being Creative

Vicente and The 4 P’s

Hi everyone.  This is Sean Low from The Business of Being Creative. I am really honored to have the opportunity to guest post for Vicente while he is on his annual expedition.

I have known Vicente since 2004 and have worked with him since 2005.  My focus is on helping Vicente grow his brand, specifically in commercial projects and licensing.  I have had the good fortune to be involved in structuring Vicente’s deal to design the Lorien Hotel, 15 Union Square West, The Clubhouse at Liberty National Golf Course and his line of candlesticks and vases with Baccarat to name a few. 

I am a consultant to all creative businesses – designers (interior, event, graphic) to photographers to florists to bakers.  If you create something for a living, you are my client.  My experience with Vicente and other creative business owners have helped me hone what I think are the keys to their success.  They are the 4 P’s:  Passion, Philosophy, Platform and Process.  You will need all of them all the time if you are to succeed long-term in the design business.  Because Vicente is who he is, he makes for a great example of what it takes to make a successful creative business.

Passion is the easiest one.  What gets you out of bed in the morning?  If you are reading this blog, my guess is that you live and breathe design.  To you, the world is all about defining spaces.  Vicente would be the first to tell you that he has no short-term memory (or medium-term for that matter).  I takes him quite a long time to remember anyone’s name, mine included.  Just not the way his brain works.  HOWEVER, if you ask him about ANY design he has done, his memory is encyclopedic.  I have seen him refer to spaces he designed 25 years ago as if he did them yesterday.  But that is not the impressive part.  Vicente can remember where he thought of each design and what his intentions were when he first conceptualized it.  He can then refer that thought into the actual design.  When Vicente talks about design, his eyes widen, his voice deepens and becomes more intense.  You can literally feel his blood pumping.  None of which compares to when you walk through VW Home with him and hear him describe how he came to acquire the pieces during his travels around the globe.  Just how Vicente is wired.  You cannot fake passion and if you do not have it for design, time to look for another line of work.

The Lorien Hotel

Philosophy.  It is not enough to be passionate about design.  You have to stand for something.  What do you want to share with the world?  Vicente is a renaissance man – intrepid world traveler, photographer, designer and collector (he owns Frida Kahlo’s personal photography collection). Vicente believes in timeless design unconstrained by period, culture or any specific style.  Crossing all boundaries to create a modern, relevant statement.  His global point of view translates everywhere in his work.  You might say that Vicente can be considered an icon because he is, well, Vicente and you are not Vicente.  Such a cop out.  Vicente has been iconic from the beginning and has refused to do anything other than be who he is.  Your clients expect passion, but they buy your philosophy.  Vicente knows his work is not for everyone and, not only is that okay, it is welcomed.  Which leads me to platform.

15 Union Square West

Platform.  I love David Lynch’s rant on watching his movies on an IPod or IPhone.  The very clean version: if you watch his movie on that device, you have not seen his movie.  Same goes for your creative business’ platform.  If you are all about the overall design, making your focus on the money you can save your clients is not going to work.  You might be saying, “But I do not do that” and, at the same time, making your “designer discount” front and center when you first talk to a potential client.  Who do you want to share your message with?  Vicente wants clients who can appreciate his approach and thought process.  He has very little patience for those who might say, “I just do not like blue”.  And Vicente’s business model reflects his philosophy – straight percentage (35%), very small design fee (to cover the cost of rendering – Vicente is old school and much prefers hand-drawn to the computer), no hourly fees.  He did not change his model during the recession (or the 3 previous ones he has lived through).  His flexibility comes in the size and scope of projects he is willing to consider when times are tougher.  So long as he has the right clients who understand and appreciate the way he does business, Vicente can work on a $100,000 project as easily as he can a $1,000,000 one.  Tough times are no reason to abandon business integrity, else you might find yourself making movies (permanently?) for the IPod instead of for the IMAX.

Liberty National Golf Course

Process.  Every beautiful statue belongs on a proper pedestal.  Think of your Passion, Philosophy and Platform as the statue, your Process as the pedestal.  How are you going to share your message to the world?  You need a process that will support all that you are about.  From the moment a potential client first contacts you until the project is finished, how does it all work?  What comes next and how do you communicate all of the steps to your client?  Vicente is a great guy, but I would not call him warm and fuzzy.  He is an uber-Capricorn like me (no wonder we get along so well) and is very clear in how he does things.  Once a client has engaged Vicente’s firm, there is an intensive interview to make sure Vicente understands the overall scope of the project, likes/dislikes, etc.  Vicente then prepares an extensive presentation for clients where he describes his vision for the project.  When he presents, clients can take notes (Vicente hands them a pen and notepad), but clients cannot interrupt him.  The way he describes it, you would not ask a chef why they are using a particular ingredient or technique while they are cooking, you would just comment on the finished product.  Process.  Vicente needs to present his entire thought.  He then has a detailed line-item presentation of each element to be included in the design, together with its cost and his fee.  Nothing is left to interpretation.  Oh, and Vicente’s contract is quite specific about how things work.  Vicente is friendly, but he is not his client’s friend in this situation, he is their designer.  Everything in Vicente’s business process makes that abundantly clear. When Vicente completes a project, he does it all at once, asks his clients to leave the space until he can set his work as he envisions it, down to the flowers and candles.  Then the reveal.  Needless to say, it would not work for Vicente to install piecemeal.  So, yes, Vicente’s passion, philosophy and platform are ever present in his business process, down to the flowers on the nightstand.

Vicente's Equator Bowl for Baccarat

Vicente was gifted with being horribly dyslexic.  He did not have the choice to conform and learn how others did.  He had to figure out how he could learn the same thing another way.  Vicente also had to let others do what he could not. It literally makes no sense to Vicente not to do things his own way.  Vicente’s business is simply a reflection of his own intrinsic truth.  This, of course, is the biggest lesson of the 4 P’s – your creative business has to be the best, truest version of you and your art without apology or compromise.

22 comments


  • jeffrey felner

    wonderful informative and enlightening post

    January 20, 2011
  • Thanks, Sean, for a powerful posting. You’ve given me a lot, through great examples, to think about. I love the concept of the 4P’s and look forward to brainstorming and looking within to see how they apply and translate to my art and career.

    January 20, 2011
  • As a designer, I am humbled by your description of the 4 P’s as displayed by Vincente. Thanks for sharing.
    Faith

    January 20, 2011
  • David Palombo

    Thanks you vey much for this. Sean, I to am dyslexic (over-rated) and passionate about my work. I too do all my drawings by hand however i have never been able to state it all as you have. Thank you

    January 20, 2011
  • Wow, Sean. Super inspiring post! Something to remember for those times when I am second guessing myself on the business end of things. Thank you!

    January 20, 2011
  • Thank you. I get it! We must trust & respect the process. “L”

    January 20, 2011
  • melissa lee

    THIS IS THE MOST PRECISE POST I HAVE READ HERE TO DATE…
    I AM SURE THAT YOU HAVE HELPED MR.WOLF A GREAT DEAL NOT ONLY BECAUSE OF THE 4 P’S, BUT MAINLY BECAUSE YOU VALUE HIM AND UNDERSTAND HOW HE OPERATES IN LIFE..

    XXOO
    MELISSA

    XXOO
    MELISSA

    January 20, 2011
  • Touché!

    January 20, 2011
  • Linda

    What an inspiring, meaty post. Thank you. The four P’s are very practical and helpful. Then right at the end you mentioned Vincente having dyslexia. I’m thrilled to find another great mind who is gifted in so many ways. My very creative son has dyslexia and I am excited to see where that will lead him in his career.

    January 20, 2011
  • Delane

    Sean,
    Excellent post! Thank you.
    Delane

    January 20, 2011
  • What food for thought – and now need to spend some time dwelling to see how I can better apply these to my world.

    January 20, 2011
  • Great post Mr. Low. I visit your site from time to time and find it very inspiring and helpful indeed.

    ~Be well
    Carl

    January 20, 2011
  • Marivinyc

    Wow, I loved this posting…It is definitely food for thought for all of us involved in the “business of being creativity” because well, it’s a hard sale but the world definitely needs people like us. Bravo to Vicente and his way of handling the 4P’s, it is inspirational…

    January 20, 2011
  • Great guest. Love the four P”s. It is truly the footprint for a successful life and business.

    January 21, 2011
  • Susan E. Brown Interior Design :
    Wow, Sean. Super inspiring post! Something to remember for those times when I am second guessing myself on the business end of things. Thank you!

    January 21, 2011
  • Gary Nelling

    Sean – All the guest posts are excellent, but yours is particularly organized and insightful. I enjoy that it is also simultaneously honest, humorous and sympathetic in your depiction of the human condition and relationships. Your illustration of a personality with strengths and shortcomings presents us a whole person who is greater than the sum of his component parts, and has made as much of an impression on me as the flow of your design business logic. – Gary

    January 21, 2011
  • Chloe C

    well written & inspiring, thank you!
    being dyslexic is a PITA.

    January 21, 2011
  • Gary — Thank you very much for your kind words. How you read my post was exactly my intention and I am thrilled to have you validate what I wrote. So appreciated. Sean

    January 21, 2011
  • Excellent points and thanks for sharing your insight. I follow your blog and was so pleased to see your guest post here.

    January 21, 2011
  • Sean,
    I concur with the comments that sit above mine. Clear and concise- I almost wish it was 3-steps (to share on my blog). I appreciate your insight especially from someone who is trying to re-emerge into work and business AND switch design hats. I’ve also put The Business of Being Creative on my list for reads tonight!
    Thank you!

    January 24, 2011
  • Mia

    The sad truth is most bloggers, even those who incessantly work on monetization strategies, end up sitting around the few dollars a day mark and find it difficult to rise above this level.

    January 26, 2011
  • […] his art and his business is beyond valuable.  To give you a flavor of what I am talking about, here is a guest post I did for Vicente while he was on his annual trip.  Yes, Vicente travels the globe […]

    June 03, 2011

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