There’s a frequent presumption that business and the arts struggle to be compatible. The stereotypes abound, whether it’s the “starving artist” who can’t balance a checkbook, or the “sellout” who abandons their craft for a regular paycheck. Business and the arts may not be the easiest fit, but they don’t have to be in conflict. I’ve written before about why the arts produce great leaders, and I see more evidence of this all the time.
YPO member Leon Jakimic spends his days immersed in both sides of the arts-business dichotomy. Jakimic is the founder and CEO of Lasvit, a design and manufacturing company focused on turning glass into lighting experiences. Jakimic is from a region in the western part of the Czech Republic called Bohemia. And according to Jakimic, “bohemian” is a perfect description of the art his region and company are famous for producing: free-spirited creativity with a systematic approach. Lasvit is a multiple winner of the Best Lighting Brand at Harper’s Bazaar Interior Awards, and their designs are featured in Palazzo Versace in Dubai, the Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi, and the Peninsula Hotel in Paris. They’ve even created the trophies for the Tour de France.
On an episode of my podcast YPO 10 Minute Tips from the Top, Jakimic shared how he runs a successful design business with a collection of people who fall on opposite extreme ends of the right-left brain spectrum:
1. Go in Eyes Open
Business and the arts can work well together - but that doesn’t mean it comes naturally. “It’s the biggest challenge of any creative company, to be honest,” admits Jakimic. “It’s work to find the right people.” And he’s always searching for the unicorn, saying, “To find people who are extremely creative, yet practical and able to develop business? When you find such a person, you grab him or her, and keep them forever!” From the outset, the leader needs to recognize the challenges and be ready to solve conflict.
2. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Every company needs clear communication to achieve their goals, and this becomes even more critical in a business with an arts focus. Jakimic is a businessman by education, but a creative by learning experience. He says, “I’ve spent the last 20 years talking to some of the most creative people on the planet.” It’s a good thing, too, as 300 of Lasvit’s 500 employees are artists. When it comes to completing a project with a diverse team, “It’s all about communication,” Jakimic says. “Any bespoke project that we work on, there’s always a triangle between the owner, the creative architect and designer, and our product design.” Cultivating a culture of communication is critical to success.
3. Hold Regular Meetings-of-the-Mind
Business people and artists have different ways of achieving goals and approaching challenges. One of the most important things leaders can do is to make sure people feel heard, and Jakimic has made this a key feature of Lasvit. “4 times a year, we have company-wide teleconferences that everyone attends,” he explains. “And most importantly, we have an amazing 3-day summer summit where we take very single employee. We repeat our values, talk about the state of the economy of our business, and share experiences.” It’s an excellent way to foster cooperation, he says, explaining, “In this way, we all learn more than we knew before. Each of us better understands the role of another person in the company, and how what we do affects what they do, and ultimately, our combined success.” The momentum of such a gathering lives well past the summit itself, and the benefits are priceless.
4. Cultivate Clarity of Vision
Jakimic understands that, as in art, the pieces of a business must come together to form the finished product. That’s why “I learned early on to be transparent, to value clear communication,” he says. Jakimic also taps into his team’s passion, saying, “It’s about believing in your goals and what you are passionate about, and from that, others will become passionate about it too.” Jakimic goes on, “When everyone has that shared vision and is working toward the same goals, loyalty and a strong work ethic will follow.” When the communication is clear and the goal is defined, a team can coalesce around the mission. It creates unity of purpose and encourages a bond among otherwise disparate teams.
5. Tap Into Disparate Strengths
Jakimic knows that his company is composed of people with wildly different temperaments and abilities. Some leaders may fear such a construct, but Jakimic has made it an advantage in his company. He explains, “We have some extremely bohemian artists, and then we have very meticulous people, like our engineers. But each group has a special forte.” Jakimic knows that if communication is clear and goals are defined, then it becomes a point for the team to rally around. “It’s all about achieving the vision you’ve already established,” he asserts, explaining, “We need to bring artists and engineers together to maximize the potential of the company.”
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