Thursday, May 21, 2009

The BEST Thing

What's the BEST thing you have done for your business lately?

I have made some major structural changes to the business this year. Having some part time help has really forced me to be more organized - not that the biz isn't already pretty organized, but mostly I keep everything in my head or on the computer, and so far my helper hasn't had access to either of those.

In the process of re-aligning some processes based on how they might be most efficient for others, rather my just "knowing" how to do them, I thought that some of you might find this information useful. So I'll share some of the BEST things I've done for the business in prior years. These are mostly processes I've set in place that have *really* helped me become more efficient, achieve my objectives, and even occasionally just saved my butt when it was crunch time!

2003- Get professional slides made. I think they were $200, which was a big chunk of money for my biz at that time. And they weren't even shot by a true jewelry photographer, but someone local who could do (and did) an adequate job for my needs. When I look back at them now, I can see a lot of room for improvement, but they got me into the shows I needed to be at for that time frame. And every time I've had to have new slides, I've ratcheted up the photography budget so they could really highlight my jewelry. Whether you use your images online, in print, or for jury slides (or all three!), don't scrimp here. Good photography is worth every penny you have put toward it.

2004 - Research. Again. And then some more. I began exhibiting at shows in 2003, and at first everything about that was chaotic. So I spent a lot of time in 2004 learning (both online and in person) how much to bring to shows, how to get on top of the set up and tear down so that it was orderly, how to remember *everything* I needed for each show, etc. I got some pointers on how to sell my work with confidence. I learned about pros and cons of certain business options. About where to buy or how to make the displays and other show-related items I needed for exhibiting. I made lists from my research, and I refer to them regularly to keep my business on track and consistent. I learned a lot - and made fewer mistakes - by doing my "due diligence" beforehand. Do the legwork first.

2005 - Keep it all in one place. By far the best thing I did that year (and it has helped me every year since) was to start my "Design Reference" book. This lists all my designs, so that for my production and limited production items, I can re-make them without having to refigure everything from scratch. I often have requests for custom colors ? for example, someone might like a certain necklace design, but not the color combinations. So I will make the design and embellish it with whatever colored gems they prefer. To be able to do this quickly, especially during busy times, I refer to The Book. It lists out every detail, like what size jump rings a design needs (and how many of each size), which tools I used to shape the wire, and all steps involved in creating each design. Take the time to document your designs and design processes.

2006 / 2007 - Refuse to take "no" for an answer. A few years back, I'd approached three well-known galleries to see if they wanted to represent me. They all told me no, (nicely), and two had suggestions for what they'd like to see if I wanted to get back with them in the future. I knew I wanted my work in those galleries, and that making the changes / new designs they asked for would fit with my current design path, but it would take time. So I spent about two years really honing my collections, changing things up a bit, refining my design directions, and placing my work elsewhere. In late 2006 and also this summer, I went back to each of them. And now I am represented in all three. Rejection can be a positive experience if you use it as a learning tool.

2007 - Recognize when to get help. Many businesses reach a point at which future growth (and revenue potential) is forestalled because the one person running the business can't take on anything else. It's a natural evolution...but one that many entrepreneurs resist, because they are used to "doing it all" and don't want to give up control of any aspect of the business. But ultimately, that?s necessary for growth, assuming your business plan dictates continuing to grow. I've been outsourcing all along, as soon as my budget allowed for it - I outsource my web maintenance, my printing, accounting, photography - all things that ultimately serve Blue Piranha better by using professionals. And this year, I've taken on physical help as well. I have a friend come in, once a week, and do some of the mundane chores that I can't ever seem to get to (or just can't stand). She folds and punches my hang tags, cuts chain (my least favorite task ever) for my necklace pendants, organizes paperwork, and anything else I have time for her to do while she's here. This only started a month ago, but already it's made such a difference for me. Don't hold yourself back by insisting that you can do it all. At some time, you just physically can't. Learn what to relinquish, and when.

What's the BEST thing you can do for your business, right now? Implement it. Go ahead...and see how much more efficiently you operate. Or how much closer you get to realizing your goals!

All the BEST,

Original post date: 10/31/07

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