The event business recently lost an icon: Robert Isabell. Yesterday, the New York Times ran a full page story (in the Style Section, of course) memorilizing Robert and his work. There will only be one Robert Isabell and his accomplishments were and are ground-breaking. His passing, and that of Philip Baloun last year, got me to thinking about what, if any, legacy a creative business owner would want to leave.
Maybe the legacy has to be that of a singular artist with encapsulated work -- so when you are gone, everything is gone. Certainly the case for Robert and Philip. Philip's business was systematically dismantled within months of his passing and I suspect Robert's will be too. Just not sure that it HAS to be this way. There are legions of examples of artists and designers whose business transcends them. Just to name a few -- Versace, Chanel, Dior and, among the living -- Phillipe Starck, Armani, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein.
What I am sure of is that the legacy of your creative business has nothing to do with whether the name of the business has your name on it. Nor does it have to do with the breadth of the business (i.e., if it is regional, national or international). It has everything to do with how far the brand has transcended the core of your art and whether the style of your brand has become engrained in the market as a lifestyle. If it has, then there is a fair chance that the business can survive you.
Ask yourself to what end are you running your creative business? If it is to simply practice your art, then stay true to that. You don't get bigger than Robert or Philip, and their businesses are gone forever. But if you want to build something bigger than the core presentation of your art, then you have to see your core for what it is -- the place to start (and to which all things will return).
Going beyond your core is much easier said than done. Establishing the essence of your art as a lifestyle should be your first step. However, you do have to choose. If you don't, you will be caught in the middle between doing what you do and focusing on leveraging your core. This will dilute both your art AND your brand. Like everything else, it boils down to living your own truth, both as an artist and business owner. Your creative business can only be a reflection of that truth.