10 things I learned our first year in business.
I can't believe it. One year. I'm amazed we made it this far - and at the same time, I'm more surprised by how fast the time has gone. Living deadline to deadline is like stomping on the gas pedal of time. You are so focused on the tasks at hand time quietly excuses itself out the back door.
Well, this is my attempt to stop the clock a moment to reflect on the past year. We are always looking forward to growth and improvements, but I feel it's important to remember where you've been and how far you've come. Here are our 10 things we've learned over the last year.
A new business is like a newborn.
Serious. It keeps you up at night. It demands your attention. And it needs to be held non-stop. You worry if you're feeding it enough or if it needs to be changed. Here's the other thing about newborns: It's downright awesome. With so much hard and so much awesomeness it's impossible to give it words. Just: Hard. And awesome. But also hard.
Downtime is crucial.
When creating something from scratch, the only thing that's easy is diving in and applying yourself 232.3%*. You lose all sense of time. You won't remember what day it is and sometimes you may forget to brush your teeth (see: newborns). Downtime does have a place though. It's what keeps your ship upright. Sure, I throw in a lot of late nights to make sure I'm meeting deadlines, but I literally force myself to take some downtime.
Vacations are essential.
We closed for one week for vacation during our first year. I didn't want to, but I knew it was something that needed to be done. So I scheduled it in, made some posts, and stayed local. To be honest, the first few days were brutal. I had no idea what I should be doing, how to relax... and I felt lazy. (If I'm totally honest, I did sneak in to get some work done one night, but that's top secret info.) After a few days, I settled in and actually enjoyed an entire day at the lake. With my kids.
Boundaries are important.
I've been making a conscious effort to stay off technology and silence my notifications at night and on weekends. On occasion there is nothing wrong with discussing shirt options on Facebook or email at midnight, but when I first started it was every night. At some points, I was falling asleep with my phone in my hand. It didn't feel healthy and while I hate to make people wait - most things can hold off until morning.
Mistakes are inevitable.
Luckily I haven't had to deal with an irate customer yet, but I have screwed up. Mistakes are not something I'm proud of, but I am so thankful to the customers who have let us know. In fact, we encourage it. Letting us know does two things: It allows us to make things right so you are happy with your purchase AND it allows us to take a deeper look at what went wrong and how we can prevent it next time.
You will question your worth/value/ability/insert thing here.
Your capabilities will come into question constantly. You will wonder if you are good enough. If you are doing enough. If you are enough. You will fear the competition and the possible threats they present. It'll stir something up in you that you can't quite place. And the beauty is, once you recognize it is fear, you can lovingly escort it out the door and put your game face back on.
People will think you are the Rockefeller's.
Nope. Not true. I'm sporting a vehicle that has 215k miles on it. I may be walking to work soon. (Only half joking there!) We live paycheck to paycheck just like everyone else and I'm putting in 65+ hours each week for zero pay. Because this is what it takes to get things going. Sacrifice. I do have a secret though... our shop is located directly across from a Jeep dealership, so I have a daily dose of motivation to keep me working toward that Wrangler!
The goods show up from time to time.
Nothing can top the feeling of a project coming together. Or following a design from its creation up through the process and the final outcome surpasses everyone's expectations. Seeing your design around town or online. It's just awesome. And it's not the kind of awesome that says "Oooo look at what I did," it's the kind that says I took part in something to help bring that to life. This is especially true when I walk with someone through the design process when creating a gift for someone else. (For those who know me, know I feel the same way about creating commission paintings for someone. I feel like a bystander. I just help the process along.)
Growth is key.
You will learn a whole bunch and things will get a little easier. You will never fully relax, but the more clarity, direction, and experience you gain aids the momentum you are creating. Your growth as a person will help your business in the long run as long as you are applying what you've learned and can translate that to a new hire. (We aren't there yet, but I'm planning ahead!)
Customers can bring you to your knees.
The customers. Oh, the customers. We exist because of them and we hold so much gratitude for every single one. They are the reason we can give back to the community. The excitement on their faces when talking about a gift, or their upcoming project, or the ideas they have.... that is the icing on the cake, folks. But there's a whole other side of the customer coin... Their stories. I enjoy hearing our customers stories and the things they share. So many of them are doing so much GOOD out there. Whatever the cause, they strongly support and they give freely. I've heard people refer to this area as depressed (of course, we all have our struggles, but what town doesn't?), but our community is actually quite rich. We walk among some of the most caring and giving people I've ever met. It's humbling.
So here we are. One year later. What a ride. I can't wait to see what big things the future holds for our little business.