What are you good at? Take your time.
Are you the expert in all aspects of your business? Are there necessary people in your organisation or immediate universe that enable you to be the best you can be?
You see, there are fundamentally three sides to a type foundry: creative, technical and commercial. I’m not a type designer and if I were, I’d be a bloody nightmare. Trying to design, sell and control the intellectual property would put me in an early grave. I also tend to have a “that’ll do” attitude towards my DIY so god knows what my fonts would look like.
I’d love to be able to design type but I’m very happy being able to talk fluently about type and sell licenses or custom projects. I like getting to know how a business works with fonts and how we can streamline that process and make it less costly.
I am, simply, a salesperson. And I was once ashamed of that title. Sure, I’ve turned my hand to copywriting and other functions required to run a business, but at my core, I’m the guy that has done some of the type industry’s largest licensing and custom font deals and should be proud of that. Not because of the invoice value, but for being able to deliver a complex solution to global organisations that saw my efforts worthy enough of a purchase order. That complex solution has been in the guise of anything between a custom typeface for M&S, a global font license for Shell or a subscription license to Net-A-Porter.
I hid my sales title by calling myself a “commercial director” in my last job. What a melon. I thought, for a while, people disliked the title of sales so I didn’t introduce who I was in a true fashion and was trying to reposition myself as something I wasn’t. This is akin to being able to hit a golf ball 300 yards dead straight, then changing the swing because it looks odd to other people. People pleasing or a need to be liked is probably at the core of it, but eventually I’m glad I saw it for what it was.
Nowadays I don’t really pay much heed to what people think of me; other people’s opinions of me or my job are none of my business. I’m also too old to be governed by fear of other people.
We are all subject matter experts and mine happens to be sales – particularly the gauging of people and situations, because that’s all sales is.
Now I get to be a sales person with no agenda, and it’s freeing to be able to present options and not have an overbearing exec team telling me which way to sway the client. For example what I really love now I run my own shop, is telling my clients all the stuff some of the type world doesn’t want you to know. For example, I talk openly about the economic and financial cut off point of licensing a font over having a custom typeface created. This is something that you get denounced for whilst working for a large foundry. Why? Because they don’t want to charge once for a custom font when they can charge annually for something designed 100 years ago that you’ll never own.
I know my limitations and I know what I’m good at, but more importantly I’ve come to realise where the gaps are and fill them with the right people. It is with some confidence I say I’m the least scholastically qualified person in my own company. But let’s not confuse schooling with an education.
So, you should know what you’re good at and be proud of it. Don’t humble brag cos that’s twatty. Know and talk about what makes you good at what you do. More importantly, realise that you’re not the centre of the universe, you don’t know it all and be sure to have an appreciation for everything and everyone that enables you to be the best you can be.