Which Type of Company Are You Running?

Posted on: September 7, 2012

Recently, I read an amazing article in the Washingtonian about an amazing, but reclusive DC chef, Johnny Monis. The article reminded me of a business truth that is simple, yet often overlooked. There are two types of companies—those run by artists and everyone else.

Let me explain …

Monis opened Komi when he was just 24. Flash forward a little less than ten years, Monis, now 33, is a local legend, and Komi is one of the hottest—and most exclusive—restaurants in the DC area. But what Monis has created isn’t for everyone. For example, you won’t find menus at Komi, or salt and pepper. Komi serves a set multi-course dinner for $135 per person, beginning with a series of mezzethakia—small, light dishes—and progressing to heartier flavors, including pasta and a family-style entrée, followed by desserts. An optional wine pairing is available for $70.

Sound good? Is your mouth watering?

Don’t get too excited, you can’t just role into Komi and get a table for two. If you want to spend an evening with Monis and his gang, you’ll have to call at least a month in advance. And leave your smartphone and your friends in the car. Komi doesn’t seat parties larger than 4 and they don’t allow photos (yep, you read that right—no photos).

How do businesses as inflexible as Komi, and owners as tight-lipped as Johnny Monis, develop such following? What is it about them that drives people to demand their services? I could go on and on about exclusivity—even false exclusivity—causes people to act in all sorts of irrational ways, but I don’t believe that’s what makes Komi or Monis special.

The thing that separates Komi from all the other chichi restaurants in the DC area, and Monis from all the other celebrity chefs, is that, as Washingtonian’s article suggests, Monis is an artist. Businesses run by artists don’t need marketing (but they can benefit from it). They set their own rules, and they refuse to let anything compromise their art.

So I ask, what type of company are you running?

Are you passionate about what you do and who you do it for? Does time fly when you’re doing what you do? Are you insanely committed to getting things exactly right? Do you stick to your guns even when everyone else thinks you’re nuts? If you’re still nodding, you might have found your place in life and perhaps you are an artist.

Here’s a great video with Seth Godin about the difference between an artist and someone simply following instructions:

Artists don’t need marketing. They can benefit (exponentially) from it, but they don’t need it to succeed. The same is not true for the other type of business. Whether you’re running a flooring company or a remodeling outfit, if you’re not an artist, you need marketing. Why? Because you’re actually NOT actually in the business you think you’re in.

That’s right—a flooring company run by someone other than an artist isn’t actually in the flooring business. They’re in the marketing business … they just happen to sell floors.

Fail to recognize this and you’ll soon find yourself working for an artist … or another marketing company.

Which type of company are you running?

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