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How an outsider helps you disrupt the trade

Sometimes you're better off outside of the inner circle.

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March
31, 2021

5 min read

The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur's contributors are their own.

It's hard to disrupt the industry that is paying your bills. People are taught a way of working, and companies pride themselves on their systems and processes, all of which are codified in lengthy and monolithic manuals. "Reputation" and "experience" enable certain companies to charge insanely high fees or prices even if their services or products are below average and do not fully meet the needs of their customers.

I am a Latinx immigrant who has lived in the United States for over 20 years. Even as a naturalized American citizen, an immigrant will forever make me an outsider. But that was also my biggest advantage.

I only entered the art world as an intruder 12 years ago. When I opened my art consultancy and advisory firm, I worked as a lawyer in a large New York law firm for several years. I was unhappy doing something I never liked and in 2009, after planning to quit for a few months, I went to start my own business with no formal education, background or experience in the arts. Being outside the inner circle of the industry has led me to success, and here are three advantages I found along the way:

You find opportunities where others don't

I chose my gut and was informed by passion. As a lawyer, in my very limited free time, I had started collecting emerging artists, visiting galleries, and attending art fairs. Meanwhile, my novice eyes began to notice how opaque and impenetrable the art world could be. Other advisors didn't seem upset and were only interested in the transaction. They did not blog, expand their knowledge on social media, or focus on different areas and projects that diversified revenues and kept their businesses relevant. They viewed other endeavors as a waste of time – time to be used instead on selling.

This strange behavior gave me the opportunity, and while I was putting a business plan together, I outlined a mission statement that still applies to this day: to start a business that bridges the gap between collectors and artists and demystifies the art world. I wanted to help my clients understand and live with contemporary art, use all forms of social media to educate and educate my audience (back then only Facebook and Twitter were widespread, videos were not predominant and Instagram did not exist) . and never stay complacent or be afraid to explore different areas of an industry that has become a global market of $ 50 billion today.

Related: The Immigrant Edge: How Immigrant Millionaires Succeed in Business

They become a blank canvas for new ideas

It helped me to enter the art scene with a certain naivety and without prejudice when I was with a different attitude than those out there who accepted the way things were. This blank canvas allowed me to differentiate myself and my business in an industry known for chaining old ideas.

Years after I started my business, venture capitalists started funding websites that sold art online. Slowly, these websites started using content and social media to drive traffic and grow their sales. Brick-and-mortar galleries followed suit. Up until a few years ago, some gallery owners told me that their businesses were still not on Instagram because they didn't understand the value. It turns out that Instagram was by far the most used social media channel by art collectors in 2020, with 34 percent of them using it to buy art.

Related: Why Amazon and Jeff Bezos Are So Successful in Disruption

They keep exploring

Insiders are usually hardwired to self-preservation – once they reach a certain level, long periods of smooth sailing can lead to complacency. In order to develop ideas that interfere, you have to “unlearn how things are done”. Even if you're not an immigrant or an outsider in your industry, there are ways to challenge the status quo.

The perspective of an outsider has enabled me to keep asking the question: "What else is there to discover?" Twelve years later, not only have I sold over $ 60 million worth of art inventory while working with minimal overhead, but I've had the exciting opportunities of curating exhibitions on three continents, collaborating with world-famous artists, and making my own to create and host TV series, among many other exciting projects.

Sometimes groundbreaking ideas come from situations you encounter on a daily basis. What could be done better? Where can a middleman be cut? Leave all of your assumptions, hard knowledge, and prejudices at the door. Ask yourself why something needs to be done a certain way. How many other secondary areas can be included in your offer? Does your idea violate the laws of nature? Is it illegal? Usually the answer is no, which means you can continue exploring and eventually bothering.

Related: How To Be Successful In Business By Thinking Like An Outsider

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