# Division of labor: managing an artist as a buisness partner?

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So me and my creative director have been working together for 5+ years, and we're looking into being partners to start an LLC.

Around the division of labor between me and this person, when we get to an LLC

currently, I'm the producer, who does all the business end managing and-coordinating project assets and personnel, from HR, to PR, to the writing dpt. keeping documentation, managing tasks, etc. All the business functions.

And he is the creative director, in the sense of leading the development of the game itself, mainly being the head artist, and working with the dpt. leads, and others as to making sure everything works in game.

He doesn't seem to be interested in the day to day management of the team itself, and he isn't a good salesman, not even for his own work.

I ask him to help with overall management, and he tells me he's too busy making content. (There are times where he acts like I'm disturbing him, or wasting his energy on worrying about such "mundane concerns, such as system and file security)

I respect, and appreciate his dedication, but he seems to be more an artist than a manager.

For example, we needed an asset from our lead animator, which he needs, so I tell him to send him an email, he tells me he doesn't have time, and won't be able to get to it, since he's too busy making the art. So I end up doing it, and then passing it by him.

I strive to lead by service, and although I'm technically the team and overall project admin, I sometimes feel like I'm his secretary.

Most times I can't just wait for him to do stuff like this, if I did, the entire team would suffer. At the same time, I'm realizing I'm enabling him a bit, so he doesn't have to do some of the things he should be doing.

I'm not quite sure how to solve this,I want him to be all he can be.

We've admitted to each other multiple times that he can't do my job, and I can't do his, and we work together very well.

Furthermore, neither of us are very good at math, which may burn us later, if we don't find a person we trust to fill that role, as an advisor, or as a 3rd.

Regardless, I'm not sure how to approach this, since If we piss each other off too much, it all crumbles.

There are times I tell him I need X from him, or for him to act more professional, like being able to check email more than once a day, or be here a specific time, or # of hours, and he tells me he's not getting paid, and I'm asking too much from him.

He would tell me he can't do something until another person gets on and gives it to him, and I ask him, why doesn't he email them? and he tells me he doesn't have their info, which is mind boggling, since I put everyone's contact info on a list, which he knows about.

There was even a time I told him I treat this as work, and he told me he didn't..... which I'll Need to go figure.

Any advice as to how to approach/ navigate this would be helpful.

Artists, dam, sometimes I wounder how they get around on their own to begin with.....

As my title suggests, I feel like I'm managing him more than I feel I'm managing with him.

He says he wants to do this professionally and get paid, I know he has the skill.

I tell him he should freelance more, and he tells me it's to hard since it requires putting himself out there, and its feast or famine.

I tell him he should make a website for his portfolio, and he tells me he doesn't have time, and most of his stuffs WIP, and he doesn't want to show it till it's done.

It seems he doesn't think this way by default, and needs to be pushed, or pulled.

I know he's got a high IQ, and his EQ is lower it seems.

I trust him entirely, but seems he's not ready for what he says he wants.  And I'm trying to figure how to get him there.

Sigh....IDK if this is on track to be 50/50, which is what we both want.

Thanks.

Edited by GeneralJist

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It looks like you are not talking about ownership of the company, but instead about authority for decisions.

Read some business books.  Nearly every book out there will warn you: NEVER start a business with 50/50 split of authority.

You can split up your equity equally if you want, where both people have equal funding of the company.  ALWAYS make sure that somebody has the authority to break what is otherwise a tie. You can even set things up so that the person with the bigger financial stake has a minority stake at authority for daily decisions; this is often done with an executive board that appoints a CEO who makes everyday decisions.

The line of authority needs to be clearly spelled out in the incorporation documents or partnership or collaboration agreements.

SOMEBODY needs to be able to break a tie.  Make it a 51/49 split.  Or a 50.000001 to 49.999999 split.

Or bring in a third person so it becomes a 49/49/2 split. Or to put someone in charge, a 49/48/3 split.

In every relationship disagreements will eventually come up.  Sooner or later little disagreements will become bigger disagreements, and somebody will need to give.  It is far better to establish up front what happens in the event of a disagreement.

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ahh, good points.

oh,

Not to mention when I try to help him find commissions, and I ask for a small %, and he acts so surprised and shocked I'd even think of such a thing....

Edited by GeneralJist

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Not to mention when I try to help him find commissions, and I ask for a small %, and he acts so surprised
and shocked I'd even think of such a thing....

I'm surprised too. He's your partner, and as long as the other gig doesn't interfere with your project,
isn't it just good karma to help him succeed? You want to build as many brownie points as you can with him,
not squeeze every possible dime out of him.

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I think you answered you question yourself.

a) He seems to be REALLY dedicated. That is tremendously valuable. I just GUESS he also has the skills... in combination I guess he is an irreplacable artist.

b) He seems just not willing to do anything other than art. He has just as much time as you have for quick and simple tasks like writing an e-mail (given that e-mail is not written in any complicated language, like a legal one). He just doesn't want to do it.

Now, I would expect EVERYONE (yes, that includes the busy artist that does an extremly good job) to do some side tasks like backing up his own files, communicating over e-mail and all (else the job he does is not so good at all. Whats the worth of good art when it is lost in a Disk crash?).

You CAN of course go out of your way to enable him to concentrate more on his art. For me personally, that would mean a) every artist in the company gets the same treatement, so given he is not the only artist in the company, every other artist should also be freed from these tasks just so there is no 2 class treatment. That means more work for other people, possibly an additional guy in a support role, but might enable artists to work at a higher efficiency.

But: at this point, I am questioning if he is ANYTHING more than a simple artist. IF he should take the role as an art director / creative lead seriously, he should be in charge of decisions and communications regarding art direction and leading the other artists, outsourced or not. Else, what exactly IS he doing to fill the role he has been appointed to? Come up with good ideas (in a healthy team, ANYONE can bring in good ideas. The role of the art director is less having the best ideas, and more collecting and integrating them into a bigger vision)?

I think you really should discuss his roles and your working together as a team with him. I do not think you have to force him to make time for other tasks and thus free you (or others) from having to do his responsibilities for him, if you feel what he produces IS worth giving him special treatment (given there are not other artists on the team, other than outsourced ones and freelancers). But I would make it clear to him that in this case he is basically just an artist, not a lead or art director (with "just" in paranthesis... this is just as important a role).

If you do this work for him, might as well make it official. Just make sure you discuss really what that means, so he can gauge the creative impact he will still have...

Edited by Gian-Reto

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Not to mention when I try to help him find commissions, and I ask for a small %, and he acts so surprised
and shocked I'd even think of such a thing....

I'm surprised too. He's your partner, and as long as the other gig doesn't interfere with your project,
isn't it just good karma to help him succeed? You want to build as many brownie points as you can with him,
not squeeze every possible dime out of him.

Well ya, OFC.

I'm talking about something like a referral bonus, like $5-10 on a$100 item.

some hoe his time is worth something, and mine is not.

@ Gian,

I guess your right, good break down of he issue.

One hand, I don't want to show favoritism, on the other hand, I know and understand the development of the art is one of the most important aspects of the project.

My job is to make his job as seamless as possible,  yet I don't see as clear a management mindset as he should have.

For example, there were a few times he told me he was so worn out in  making sure others in the dpt. were on track with their tasks, that he didn't have time to do his own work. I told him "welcome to management", and he said he didn't like how people would always message him for questions on how to do it, and he would ask why can't tehy figur it out (sometimes).

Furthermore, I've always been hesitant as to simplifying my 3 titles and 4 roles to just project lead, not just due to my personality, and service style of leadership, but because I know he would be up in arms about it.  (even though I'm  administrating the tram)

I think he may actually consider himself lead, tho we never discussed it formally, guess it's about time,specially going into LLC, but I'm certain it will rock the boat,and I'm not sure who would be hurt more by the convo. Needs to be done tho.

I bumped his title from lead artist & co lead to creative director to displayhis 5 years of work. fancier title, o pay raise, (no pay at all XD)

He woldn't take it well if I said he''s "just and artist" IDK if I even fully believe that.

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I'm talking about something like a referral bonus, like $5-10 on a$100 item.

Sounds like you need to figure out what your relationship really is.

Are you partners in a partnership?  If so, no referral bonus since you're both helping each other.

Is he a co-worker (or co-owner) in an LLC? Then he shouldn't be getting ANY independent work, everything is an agreement for the company and he happens to be a worker for the company. Neither of you get the money, it belongs to the LLC and is extracted either as regular pay or as an authorized capital withdrawal.

Is he an independent contractor? That means everything gets listed on work orders, and you itemize everything including referrals.  Pay is Net 30 or whatever you work out.

You really need to get that straightened out first.

My job is to make his job as seamless as possible,  yet I don't see as clear a management mindset as he should have. For example, there were a few times he told me he was so worn out in  making sure others in the dpt. were on track with their tasks, that he didn't have time to do his own work.

This depends on your role. If he is working as an independent contractor you have no say. If he is a partner or co-collaborator you're not in a people-management role and you should let him do his own thing.

For people-management, which would apply if you were working together at your own LLC or other corporate structure, one component of management is to stop everyone else from interrupting your team.  If they want to interact with the team you should block them as they enter.  Once they start working they should directly communicate, but a good manager will remove all the pesky interruptions.

I bumped his title from lead artist & co lead to creative director to displayhis 5 years of work. fancier title, o pay raise, (no pay at all XD)   He woldn't take it well if I said he''s "just and artist" IDK if I even fully believe that.

If you are "bumping his title" then you are not operating at a 50/50 split. Again, you need to figure out what your relationship really is.

If he is independent his title is "contractor".  If he is a partner or co-collaborator those are his title.  You can only "bump his title" if he is a worker at a company since that is where titles like that are used.

Assuming you do go with a company format like LLC, a common foolish tactic is to artificially inflate titles at a startup.  Keep the job titles honest, it works out better. You are not "CEO" of a 2 person company, nor are you a "Development Director", or Lead Anything.

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isn't it just good karma to help him succeed? You want to build as many brownie points as you can with him,
not squeeze every possible dime out of him.

I'm talking about something like a referral bonus, like $5-10 on a$100 item.

You're willing to risk the relationship over nickels and dimes? The relationship doesn't seem like it's very important to you.

some hoe his time is worth something, and mine is not.

To him, that's the way it is. Either this relationship is important enough to you to accept the way he regards you, or you should dump him and find someone with a more professional attitude.

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Ya,

One of the reasons why I called myself a PR manager, and only a PR lead until a had a PR dpt.

So far, every time I try to talk to him about getting on the same page for issues like this, (that aren't related to development) He tells me he's too busy "actually creating content", which suggests he some how thinks  concerns like this are secondary.

@Tom

Ya, things to think of for sure.

No, I'm not saying the relationship is worth a \$ amount, I'm saying I've been helping him as a friend for years, and he's said he'd leave if we didn't start looking to make money, and so when I try to help him do so on the side, somehow it's ok for him to be making money, and not for me. It's a weird standard in some respects.

Should I be offended if he refuses to sign a contributor agreement, with my name as "the company"?

He told me I should get all the new people and other people to sign, but not the core team,since "we trust them so much", that logic is flawed, leaving our most important people out of transferring IP.

Sure, we're all volunteers, and we're technically still a mod.

For context, I don't think it's not that he doesn't trust me, it's that the last person he worked closely with tried to take credit for others work.

I of course intend to sign it all over to the LLC once it's formed and me and him work out partnership agreements.

I've been trying to get all current and past people to sign, but was talked out of it by him.....

Sigh.

Edited by GeneralJist

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@ Gian,

I guess your right, good break down of he issue.

One hand, I don't want to show favoritism, on the other hand, I know and understand the development of the art is one of the most important aspects of the project.

My job is to make his job as seamless as possible,  yet I don't see as clear a management mindset as he should have.

For example, there were a few times he told me he was so worn out in  making sure others in the dpt. were on track with their tasks, that he didn't have time to do his own work. I told him "welcome to management", and he said he didn't like how people would always message him for questions on how to do it, and he would ask why can't tehy figur it out (sometimes).

Furthermore, I've always been hesitant as to simplifying my 3 titles and 4 roles to just project lead, not just due to my personality, and service style of leadership, but because I know he would be up in arms about it.  (even though I'm  administrating the tram)

I think he may actually consider himself lead, tho we never discussed it formally, guess it's about time,specially going into LLC, but I'm certain it will rock the boat,and I'm not sure who would be hurt more by the convo. Needs to be done tho.

I bumped his title from lead artist & co lead to creative director to displayhis 5 years of work. fancier title, o pay raise, (no pay at all XD)

He woldn't take it well if I said he''s "just and artist" IDK if I even fully believe that.

I have seen multiple people that, after having had to face being manager of a team, found out that they didn't like managing people at all... ESPECIALLY as this was taking away time from what they REALLY enjoyed doing (in my case, working in IT, mostly programming or some other IT related task).

Some suffered through and complained and complained. Some started doing a bad job and kept blaming others (like your artist is basically doing, to some extent)... sadly they are few, but some did the only sane thing: they told their boss that they were no longer happy in their new role, would step down the ladder again to be a programmer/whatever, maybe in a more senior capacity than before, and that they would gladly accept a new lead being placed above them.

I even have seen cases were it worked quite well. The new boss was a guy that was clearly not as competent in programming as the rest of the team, but he knew that and filled his role, managing the team, perfectly. The guy who stepped down as team lead went on to work in a quite important topic on the team as senior programmer, and because the new boss basically shielded him from the day-to-day management tasks, he stayed on the team for quite some team. Seemed to be pretty happy with his new role.

With that said, I don't think this is an easy step. Our society teaches people that going up the ladder is always good, no matter how happy you are with your current role, tasks or wage, or how unhappy the new role will make you. Additionally, your artist seem to show the usual behaviour of creative folks: they want to have creative freedom, and they want to be the lead in shaping the creative vision.

Now, IDK really how you could come to an agreement that leaves most of the creative decisions with him while freeing him completly from the management aspect of being a lead. Don't know if this is also done in more creative industries, but there are teams and companys were sometimes the "lead" is split into two parts. Someone who leads people, and someone who makes the creative/technical decisions.

You could work in this direction. Free him from all people tasks. Make sure someone else (you?) starts managing the people even in the creative space so he does not have to. On the other hand I would teall him that even if he is only left with the art direction part, he should take this role serious. Being Art Director means keeping track of a greater vision, integrating other peoples work into it and making decisions. Not just work on your own little part of the greater whole at full speed.

If he cannot do that, or does not want to do that, he is basically blocking your project from working at full efficiency given there are multiple artists involved. He is taking up a role and preventing you from filling it with someone more capable or willing to take on the tasks that come with it.

No matter how good his art or dedication is, when he is just one of many artists, the damage he does to the project this way might outweight the work he does for it.

Of course, I still don't know the full picture, so I will no judge anyone... All I would like to say is you better discuss this indepth and make sure you both are coming to an agreement you can live with and ensures no-ones deficiencies is endangering the fledgling company, BEFORE starting your LLC and setting things into stone that could later blow up.

If you don't, things WILL blow up at some point, and the damage could be irreparable.

Hoping he will change on his own is futile. People hardly ever do that. You also shoudln't do anything on your own without having a good talk first. I know these things are easier said than done, we all like to avoid such talks. But in this case, I'd rather have things get ugly and blow up sooner than later. The sooner you both come to either an agreement, or part ways if it comes to the worst, the sooner you can again concentrate on your project.

EDIT:

On last thing I forgot to add.

When leading people, never forget to cater to what THEY want out of a job, not what you think or what society teaches us is what we should want.

With artists (as with most tech people I have met), money or status is hardly ever the motivator number one. Being able to work on cool projects is often #1. Being able to bring in ones own ideas, and concentrate on the craft that you enjoy is.

Make sure whatever the agreement is, or the new role you would like to move this guy into, is catering to what was making him join the project in the first place. If its creative freedom, or being an art director, well, I talked about this before.

Maybe he just wants to work in his own unique style and this project gave him the opportunity to do so. Maybe he likes to work at insane hours (some people rather work at night than during office hours). Maybe he need his chinese Junk foods, or whatever.

Give him the work environment he enjoys, and tasks that excite him. Make sure he can work with the bare minimum of stress, or as much as he wants to. I am certain that will keep him on the job way more than money, or the rank you appoint him to.

Oh, and you can always point out that nothing is set in stone for the next 50 years. He can always move the ladder up again, given there is an empty position (don't ever create positions just for people.... that is extremly bad practice IMO), he is more ready to fill the role, and wants to move up himself. Just to make sure he understands its not like "either you cling to your position now, or you will be barred from ever taking it on again!"...

I have seen people clinging to positions because they got into them "by mistake" (clearly not able to do the job)... its quite ugly. Huge stress and angst for them, huge annoyance for everyone having to work with them, and a real waste for the company.

Just my 2c.

Edited by Gian-Reto

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