Amy Kim Explores if Business Plans are Necessary

This post is part of an interview series conducted by Arts Entrepreneurship students at SMU. With this project, we are seeking to understand if, in creative entrepreneurship, business plans are necessary. SMU student Amy Kim conducted these interviews and offered her analysis.

Jae Lee -Founder/CEO of Living Sound Production

Did you have a business plan when you started your business?

I had a business plan when I started my business. However, I firstly began by being a sound engineer for Churches and Christian bands, and to serve them better with more professionalism, I went to school for it and built experiences from the other field as well. Through those times, I found things that I loved and was good at. So later, I wanted to focus on the things that I loved professionally and started to plan to change what I was passionate about to a business.

Do you think business plans are necessary for entrepreneurship?

It is undoubtedly a necessary thing to have a business plan. There are way too many risks and difficulties that you will have to take when starting a business without any plan. The more you specifically plan out your business, the more you can prevent from having a risk of bankruptcy.

What three pieces of advice can you offer developing arts entrepreneurs?

Firstly, I would like for them to start with something that they are passionate about, something that you can pour all their time and energy, and still be happy with it. Second thing is to know what you are getting into. Have enough research about successful people who are already in the field, and start by walking in the same path that they went. Then, you can always change it to the way you want it, whenever. Lastly, have patience. Don’t expect that you will succeed right after you started it. Not many people will know what your strength is, or what you can do. So have a long-term plan, and don’t give up because you can’t see the result that you were expecting. Keep on analyzing and correct whatever you are doing wrong.

Lane Harder- Lecturer in Music Theory and Composition; Director of  SYZYGY at SMU

Did you have a business plan when you started your business?

I guess I first started [working as a percussionist and composer] when I was eighteen, and I knew nothing at that time. I didn’t know anything about deductions on the taxes or forming an LLC, so it is something that I sort of fell into it, mostly, since I didn’t realize at that age, and even pretty well into my 20s, that it was something that I am going to continue doing. I think I thought that… at some point, I would have a full-time job, and that will be it. However, because of the other musical activities that I was involved in, and as people keep asking me to do things, and hiring me for the various jobs, it became something persistent. So no, I did not have a business plan when I first started. Not even close.

Do you think business plans are necessary for entrepreneurship?

It is crucial and indispensable. The smarter you can be about where your money is coming from and where it is going, the more effective you can be. It is easier to make decisions about short term and long term planning if you have a lot of those things in place. However, I understand that it can be hard to plan sometimes, especially to adhere to the plan because you don’t always know how much you are going to make and what you are going to do.

What three pieces of advice can you offer developing arts entrepreneurs?

As unglamorous it is, learn as much about business as you can. It’s something that you’ll be very glad that you did. So first, learn it when you’re young so that you can find a way to implement it to whatever it is that you will be doing. The application process of business skill is so vital that it will teach you more than any other textbook or any class because you need to work within your industry. Number two; keep the art the most important thing. Don’t lose sight of what you are doing and why you fell in love with it in the first place. Let the business support the arts because when it becomes the other way around, there is a possibility that it may cease because you are losing the purpose of it. Lastly, build a community for people, in which you are not only getting the resources, but you also provide resources for them. I think one of the most important things that you can do as an artist is to be part of your community and truly serving for it. If there are times of need that the community can support you, you can also support the community by helping other people. The more that we can take a lateral view of our community, we realize that we are all part of the same ecosystem.

Erin Hannigan- Principle oboist of Dallas Symphony Orchestra, adjunct  professor of oboe at SMU

Did you have a business plan before you started your business?

Well, it was not really a business plan. I had a plan of how I was going to try to get to where I wanted to go. It was more of a personal goal kind of thing, versus a business plan.

Do you think business plans are necessary?

You know, for arts entrepreneurship, I do think it is necessary because that can embody all kinds of different career options. So, I think having a business plan is a smart thing going into something like that.

What three pieces of advice can you offer developing arts entrepreneurs?

One thing is to remain very creative. I think in this world, where Orchestras are struggling and the arts maybe not as appreciated as they once were, it is a better time than ever to be an entrepreneur to go out there and try to come up with something new. A lot of people are branching out with different types of a chamber group, and do things outside of the orchestral world. Don’t just think within the same confines of what’s always been done. The second one is, always making sure that you get the right advice along the way. You know, we are good at what we do, which is playing our instrument. However, that does not necessarily translate to running a business well. Lastly, look at the community, in which you live and look at it very openly and see what it’s missing and what needs to be added. Find the way to use your creativity to fill that need. For example, if you were to make a music school, you are not just going to create another music school. You are going to make a music school that focuses on community outreach or focuses on students who wouldn’t have access to top-level teaching or couldn’t afford it. So, look at the community in which you live, see what the potential weak spots are and try to correct some of those things through your arts initiative.

Interview Analysis

To think about what Lane Harder meant about his second point of advice, “putting the arts first before business,” it came to me that even if the arts wouldn’t continue without any funding, don’t lose the beauty and the purity of it. Some people say music that it is a flower from the manure of money. Therefore, when chasing the practicality that links to money, the music will end up losing its purity. A balance must be found to make a living through artistry.

Throughout the interview, as Erin Hannigan and Lane Harder mentioned about the engagement with the community, I have learned that the most important thing with the arts entrepreneurship is a relationship with the community. As an artist, it is tough to find a boundary line between the art business. Therefore, it is very significant to plan how you will appeal and emphasize the purity of the arts so that we can implement creative ideas to help the community.

Therefore, to succeed in what I am trying to do, it is necessary to have mentors who can give us the right advises along the way. Even if it is not a duty of mentors to take responsibility, according to Erin Hannigan, depending on who the mentor is, the direction will change. Therefore, when Lane Harder advised to start and learn about the business while young, I could see that the younger you are, the more mentors there will be and you can meet more people who are willing to help. Also, the sooner we start, the more time that we will get to revise our business plan.

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