Building Relationships as a Long Term Strategy for Arts Centres.
I sometimes describe an arts centre as being a set of relationships, because I believe organisations are about people not buildings.
For more than 10 years now, I’ve been building ARC’s relationships – in Stockton and the Tees Valley, in the North East, across the wider North, nationally and more recently, internationally. I haven’t managed an intergalactic one yet but if I hang around long enough, you never know…
Those relationships are two-way: we share ideas, resources, skills, expertise, models of practice, space, experience and experiences. Without them, ARC would be an empty shell. The stronger our relationships, and the more diverse they are, the more creative, vibrant and relevant the organisation becomes.
In my time as CEO of ARC, the organisation has grown, and my role has matured with it. Recently I’ve noticed a distinctive shift – initially I’d build and hold those relationships myself, working to keep them on track, meaningful and positive. Now there’s a whole team of brilliant people at ARC, who take on those relationships as well as building their own. We’ve become a richer, more diverse organisation as a result.
I believe that approaching any interaction as a means of building a relationship helps you focus on long term rather than short term objectives.
Approaching potential customers with the intention to sell them a ticket is only ever going to achieve a short term objective. When I first arrived at ARC, I could only think and plan for the short term, so that’s what we did. Now we can think much longer term, which means we approach potential customers thinking ‘how can we make ARC a place where you want to come?’.
I try and apply this approach to everything I do – from answering an email to meeting a potential new partner. Sometimes it means things take longer to come to fruition, because you choose to sacrifice a short term outcome for the benefit of securing something more meaningful.
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reaping some of the rewards of this strategy – with a number of exciting new partnerships and projects finally landing. In the past, I would have felt impatient or frustrated about how long they’ve taken, because I would have been focused purely on getting immediate results.
It’s been good to reflect on the benefits of investing in building sustainable relationships rather than achieving short term goals.