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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Keep it Loose and Keep it Tight ....finding the proper balance in an out of balance world.



Small business owners seem to wear a lot of hats, often all at the same time  It is certainly true for me!  The fourth quarter of every year seems to provide extra challenges for me ...and for most business owners who are also wives, mothers, caretakers, etc.  Family commitments rise during the fall months (school functions, sporting events, extra socializing  and visits from family).  Business commitments also tend to increase.  After all, it is shopping season and you need to "get while the gettins' good"!   I have an added component tossed into the mix....the big industry trade shows happen in January.  Those shows require considerable prep work in the months prior to the actual event, so the holiday season usually finds me tense and distracted too much of the time.

It is during this period that it is easy for me to feel out of control...I pedal faster, then a little faster, and even faster still.  I conduct a Priority Triage so as to take stock and reassess my commitments.  Family priorities trump business priorities almost every single time.  Good for family, but bad for business.  I work hard, in the words of Amos Lee, to "keep it loose and keep it tight" in an effort achieve a successful balance.  It is not always an easy task and I am constantly reassessing---personally and professionally.

What is the Crafty Retailer to do?

Review and refine and then refine some more.


I recently took some time to re-examine something that has become a "this is the way I have always done it" aspect of my life.  Bead store owners all over the United States are gearing up for the Tucson trade show.  It is the biggest trade show in the industry and I have attended, either as a buyer or a vendor, for years.  I went when I did not have the money to go and I went when I did not want to leave my kids.  I went when I was sick as a dog and I went when I was seriously understaffed at work.  I went because it was good for business.    The Tucson show was always the "line in the sand" that I drew between family and work.   My husband and kids could shuffle along in the absence of the head Cook/Chauffeur/Laundress for a week or two and the business needed for me to attend the trade show.  Period.

Traveling to trade shows as a store owner is part work/part play.  Traveling as a vendor is primarily work --- physically and emotionally.  It is also exhilarating --- getting to meet your customers face to face, seeing what the competition is up to, hoping for positive feedback.  I would not miss it!

....Except I made the decision not to go as a vendor this year.  The price is too high.

Not the booth fee, not the hotel fees, not the plane ticket....not any of that stuff.  Mind you....I am aware of those fees and never mind paying them.  We are in a down economy so it is even more important then ever to attend trade shows and industry events.

.......and yet, I am not going.  The price is simply too high.  The price?  Almost two weeks.  Yup....12 days away from my family. 



I am a homebody.  I love my business, but I love my other world, too.  I love my husband, my kids, my animals, my life.  My "baby  girl" is 17... a few blinks away from adulthood.  My eldest graduated from college in December and will soon be moving across the country to follow his dream.  My middle son is a minute away from shadowing his brother's footsteps.  I recently buried two of the pets of my children's youth.  12 days away from home?  I cannot do it this year.  The price is simply too high.
 
I am at peace with the decision but there is a part of me that is still somewhat shocked that I made it.   I always exhibit at Tucson.  While I feel all warm and fuzzy family-wise,  I am cognizant that choices have consequences.  So...I decided to hedge my bets, as it were!

I am delighted to have been asked to teach the Nuno Felt Scarf Workshop at Swarovski's Create Your Style Event on February 3.  I made the decision to do a bit more teaching this year, so the workshop will further my business plans and it should be a heck of a lot of fun.  Register here.    I am also conducting a free Felted Soap demonstration on Friday that could put me in front of potential customers.

Moreover, I will have the opportunity to actually walk the trade show...something that I haven't been able to do in many years since I was the one behind the booth.  Finally, I am planning to invite my customers to a  free Craft Social (details to follow in a future post, but the necklace pictured below will provide a bit of a hint).   Yup,  it seems that I will have an opportunity to do some finely tuned marketing and promotion after all.    Best of all....I will be away from my family for less than 5 full days.

Will there be any fallout?  I am holding my breath....and will let you know in March.  My competition will be out in full force....better staffed and better financed.  It will be interesting  to compare the numbers to years past to determine whether there was a substantive difference to the bottom line.  I will keep you posted!


JUST PUTTIN' IT OUT THERE............So what about you?  What happens when personal and business priorities collide in your crafty world?  Inquisitive minds want to know!



In other news....Two new "Finallys" to announce:




finally got the Aussie wholesale shopping cart functional and I finally finished my latest fiber necklace.   It has four very large Swarovski crystal stones embedded in the felt (The drop at the bottom has a 40mm stone!).  The necklace was much more fun....the website damn near killed me.   Thank goodness for free customer support at Volusion.  Please let me know if you encounter any snafus with the computer and we will resolve them as quickly as possible.    Users are required to register in order to access pricing to better protect our customers.  Check it out!

4 comments:

  1. Hi Pat,

    I had to make a similar choice this last holiday season. I am a jewelry designer, jewelry boutique owner and a gemstone store owner. For the past five years I have closed my jewelry boutique and moved to our largest area mall. This is a huge undertaking as far as family time as well as financially. I needed be there during all mall hours as well as design. I had a few ladies work at the mall for me but it was very important for the clients to meet me and for me to meet my clients. Over the years many of these clients have become friends and/or loyal clients. Being at the mall brought me new clients, larger amounts of sales as well as a great advertising tool for the boutique.

    This year was different. My youngest daughter turned 13 in September. It stopped me in my tracks. When I started designing she was just finishing preschool and beginning kindergarten and now she was going to be in middle school. My oldest daughter turned 16 and I realized I only have two more years before she goes off to college. Where did the years go?

    With a little apprehension I chose not to go to the mall and stay at my jewelry boutique and gemstone store. By doing this I could finally have a normal holiday season with my family and to top it off we decided as a family to go to Cancun for two weeks. I thought it would be a wonderful way to get my family and business life in balance. We spent Christmas as well as New Year's in Mexico just the four of us. No texting or phone. How peaceful. The trip turned out to be just what I had hoped for. Our family became even closer and we had so many adventures to laugh about as a family. We had so much fun that we have decided to make it our new Christmas tradition.

    I am so glad I made this decision even though I will not have the sales of past years. I was able to have more time with my family and after everything is said and done there is no amount of sales to match that.

    For the first time I can't wait to see my accountant. I think I might be at about the same place as last year, just without all the work and more playtime.

    I,too, will be going to Tucson and was waiting to see you. However, I am happy to see that you are doing what is best for you and not the business. Please send me any information about the classes you will be teaching I would love to attend. I am just starting to felt and I love it. I was hoping to bring it into my store this year. Will you have roving samples to look at? I would like to make a purchase online when I return from Tucson.

    I truly love your blog and you have been an inspiration to me, thank you. Believe in what you feel in your heart and follow it. That is what I did and I would not change my decision.

    Hope to see you in Tucson,
    Susan

    P.S. I haven't received a questionaire about the Flying Solo group. I noticed in your blog you said you emailed it to me. I did not receive it and don't want to miss it. Thank you again.

    Here is my email address: susanallen@susangallen.com It won't take it in the "Comment as" part of your blog. I am not sure why. I just want to make sure I get you the correct information.

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  2. What a wonderful story, Susan! Sometimes the most agonizing part of making a decision seems to be honing in on our priorities. Once those are clear in our heart and our head, the path seems so clear!

    OOPS on the questionnaire....it is on the way, along with more info on the schedule in Tucson. I would love to meet you and am confident that we will figure out a way to do it!

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  3. I am going to Tuscon too this year but just a quick trip. I will be arriving Feb. 5 and leaving on the 8th.
    I love reading your blog and it is nice to see a personal side of my vendors. I think by showing a personal side in these economic times buyerss are more likely to be loyal customers.
    Keep me posted if you are having a get together in Tuscon. I would love to see you again.
    Lora
    The Bead Biz
    Helena Alabama

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  4. Lora:
    I will contact you about getting together. Save Friday afternoon if you can!

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