Saturday, August 15, 2009

How to stay upright in a downright economy.

Rumor on the street from economist, experts, specialist's, and full of shits, is that we are headed into another bleak fall and winter. While I am experiencing a wonderfully semi-profitable indian summer, I suppose all good things must come to an end. Hard to swallow when it seems that just a few short months ago (12 months to be exact) we were all wrapped up in our rugged, raw, unprepared, materialistic, individualism. Good Times.

Having the most profitable, and unprecedented successful year I have ever had, 2008 was turning out to be a wonderfully, exciting and opportunistic year. Then October hit. My husband lost his job, I moved into a space that chafed my expenses into a diminishing, turbulent overdrive that even Dale Earnhart couldn't navigate through. Somehow overnight I went from a few hundred dollars a month in expenses to over several, SEVERAL thousands, including a house mortgage. Out of work for eight months my husband sent resume after resume into the abyss known as the unfaltering, non existent job market. I struggled to keep my dearly beloved company, that I so lovingly nurtured into success after five years, alive and kicking as it hung on by a wing and a prayer. Not to mention a roof over our heads. And did I mention, there was NO business walking through my doors!

Luckily the past seven months, while bleak, inconsistent and fading, has taught me a lot about business and most importantly about friendship. I no longer rush into decisions. I take everything into careful consideration. I no longer take ANYTHING for granite. I APPRECIATE helpful, understanding, kind people. I see more generosity, and benevolence than I have ever seen before. And I am doing everything I can to be helpful, understanding, and kind to those around me. Be thoughtful, selfless, and compassionate. We are all going through different variables of the same circumstances. Case in point:

A new rep of mine (who has been a true pinhead to me since day 1) recently filed for divorce. Unaware of HIS circumstances I was frantically calling him for over a week trying to get answers on a product I had numerous questions about. Now, him not getting back to me was nothing new. I found through experience that it generally took about 7-10 cell calls, 2-6 emails, 1-2 texts and 2-3 corporate calls to get a response. By the time I FINALLY got a hold of him I was belligerent. My client had been waiting on an answer and I couldn't do anything about it because this prudent ass wouldn't call me back. So I let him have it. Well he broke down on the phone, in a blubbering, sobbing mess. I couldn't even understand his words he was so upset. ( Might I add, this is not my area of expertise.) In unfamiliar, and downright uncomfortable territory all I could think was "oh shit, holy shit, SHIT!, is there a handbook for this sort of thing?" I quickly got off the phone. Not knowing what the hell happened, in a dazed, and pathetic state I moved on to the next item on my "to do" list. Seemed logical, reasonable and rational. Except for one thing. I couldn't stop thinking about him. For the next three days all I kept thinking was I should call him. Finally on Friday I did. As usual he didn't answer. But to my surprise he called me right back. I explained to him that I did not need anything work related. I simply wanted to call to check in on him, see how he was doing, (the best that can be expected I suppose) and to see if there was anything I could offer to console him. I told him I understood what he was going through, and had been thinking of him.

He was besides himself. Surrounded by numerous good ol' boy friends, and numerous lady friends, not one of them had called him. Except me. Now I don't know the reasoning behind the divorce nor do I care to know the details. Im already in uncharted waters as it is. BUT, I offered a small donation of kindness. We ended up talking for a good 15 minutes. I could hear the change in his voice as we continued to talk. He was smiling, delighted, and pleased that someone took the time out of their day to call HIM. Now this seemed, at the time, like a small and foolish thing to do.(After all, this IS NOT my area of expertise. I am not nurturing, warmhearted,doting or thoughtful) BUT, when I went home that night I felt incredibly good about the small deed I had just offered him. And while I was looking for nothing in return, he has now become a good friend, and answers my calls EVERY TIME.

So the question at hand:
How to stay upright in a downright economy?
Offer joy and happiness to a stranger. Be warm and caring. Offer help, be thoughtful and be sympathetic. Be understanding, and most of all be selfless. You will be amazed at how good it makes you feel, and you will be amazed at how a small act of kindness, generosity, and compassion can change someone's life!


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Do what you know

Today I hired another assistant. New to the company, but I have known and worked along side her for four years. Now I know that those who follow the blog are aware of my love of all things "assistance". My company needs management but more than anything "I" need management. I am a force to be reckoned with. Like a turbulent tornado swallowed in paper paraphernalia, phone calls, sales calls, emails, minute details and posty notes. I race around claiming to juggle it all. But in actuality THEY juggle it all. I attempt a half assed version, throwing a half written, torn up, crumpled posty note at them with a laundry list of VERY important details, and miraculously they come out on the other side with a snazzy excel spreadsheet. Who knew there was a program with such nice lines, and columns? Does it come in color?

Somehow,someway, my girls take this holocaust of disorganization and come to me with a methodical ordered demeanor and supervise me. They are the gatekeepers. Im the front runner, chasing down the jobs, pursuing new jobs, making advances to get the job, producing smiles on the daunting client projects, conjuring up the best solutions and making promises that I KNOW my girls can keep. And at the end of the day I hope on a wing and a prayer that all those posty notes made some kind of sense and somehow ended up in one of those fancy spreadsheets with nice lines and columns. Yes Im sure the consistent lack of consistency with unhinged, loopy ways drives them nuts, with a side of bananas. BUT they always say to hire help that makes up for your inadequacies. I definitely fall short in the adequate, efficient, and organized column. Thus the reason I hire girls who are adequate, efficient, and organized for me.

So this post is for those who still think they cannot afford an assistant. You can not afford NOT TO. Without my girls, I would be a disheveled, inefficient windstorm with a barrage of pandemonium circling around me like pigpin from peanuts. Even with them by my side there is still a level of disorder (that I create, and it is totally all in my head) that surrounds me in overwhelming T-storms. But they come to me with a methodical ordered demeanor and supervise me. They are the gatekeepers. And somehow, someway they manage to manage me, crumbled, torn scribbled posty notes and all.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A good business woman= A TRUE BITCH

SO yesterday was one of those, um (finding the right timing and tact) challenging days. Lucky for me, I have been in business for a whopping 2 minutes and don't know shit because of it. (apparently I did just fall off the bunny truck yesterday) Lets realign here and back up to the point. YES THERE'S A POINT!!

My day started out fairly normal. But at noon I had to leave the office for an appointment. When I returned at noon, I had two men on a ladder in the rafters fixing a broken air conditioner,(that for a third time flooded the pink bathroom) a malfunctioning phone system, no internet, and a credit card machine that couldn't do transactions with no phone lines. F.U.N.!! So good to be BOSS LADY! As luck would have it, I walked in the door at that very moment. To top off my frustrations we have been working on two very large client projects with reps that are thickheaded blockheads that make life difficult rather than making things easier. You do make commission on this

We placed an order through a vendor of ours that carries lamps. We placed this order two weeks ago. We have called, emailed, and faxed this order to them. To no avail we have not been able to get an acknowledgment that the order was in fact placed. Finally, today we discover the order was never acknowledged because it was never placed. Never mind the fact that we have been calling them about the order. So-I-was-pissed! I am trying to place an order for a product of which this company sells. Easy peesy right? Well apparently when you have been in business for a whopping 2 minutes it takes a wee bit longer to get things processed.

I contacted my rep immediately. (NO SURPRISE he didn't answer his phone!) I explained that this is unacceptable. I refuse to run in circles to order a product that I can get elsewhere. I also refuse to PAY my staff to run around re-faxing, re-emailing and calling six times over with no answer. I advised my rep to provide a SOLUTION to my woes immediately, or I would place my order through another vendor. Apparently, the union was instructed to strike because he called me back immediately. Not to FIX the problem, but rather to tell me that he did not appreciate my CONDESCENDING tone, and that his lines are of utmost QUALITY and they do not operate a leaky vessel. He also informed me that I should learn a thing or two about business because I seemingly know nothing other than being a BITCH.

Again, may I remind you I called asking for a SOLUTION. Somehow that question resulted in a discussion about, CONDESCENDING behavior, QUALITY, and A LEAKING VESSEL. Gosh, that really solves my problems with getting my order placed. I find it funny that Im the one that needs business manners 101 when he himself doesn't know how to understand and interpret a message. So here is my business tip for today!

I have been running my own business for 5 years. I have been in the business of design for 12 years. When a man is outwardly demanding, aggressive, assertive, and to all intents and purposes superior in behavior, they are considered the impeccable business man. Good at what they do. When a woman is demanding, aggressive, and assertive she is to all intents and purposes considered a BITCH. I am very good at what I do. I am surrounded by an impeccable, sharp-witted, shrewd and supportive staff, OF WOMEN. Every week, and I mean EVERY week we run up against some good ol' boy, conservative, yahoo hick that tells us otherwise.

When I first started in this business it scared the hell out of me. THEY scared the hell out of me. But when you open your own business you have to remember that you wouldn't be doing it if you were not GOOD at what you do. Remember to have thick skin, be clever, perceptive and most of all be shrewd. It takes great strength and courage to open up your own business. It also takes a lot of savvy minded individuals to make it successful. I have been called every damn thing in the book. Unfortunately, the good adjectives generally come from other WOMEN! I don't care if you sling mud at me. I KNOW without a shadow of a doubt that I am good at what I do. I KNOW that my staff is good at what they do. And if that amounts or equals to being a BITCH, then I will say it loud and wear it proud!! Because that is being GOOD at what you do!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

To advertise, or not to advertise.

I have had every Tom, Dick and Harry in my store. (see previous post) And yes the economy is, for lack of a better word, floundering in it's best effort to get upright, despite being out all night with the Bush daughters mixing alcohol till 3 am. (bad idea, NEVER ever mix) But every sales pitch I hear from my advertisers, "you have to stay in the game, stay in front of your audience" And while there is some truth to this, keep in mind that their sales pitch gains them a chubby little commission.

I have been advertising for three years. I have used numerous angles. I have tried substantial ads, skinny ads, and square ads. I have tried direct mail, newspaper and pamphlets. SO what has yielded the most gains? None of it. BUT what I have seen with my consumers is the presence, the "planting of the seed". When they walk in the door they have "seen" me somewhere. I often laugh because they will blurt out some magazine I have never heard of and they will argue to the death that they saw me in there.

My biggest advertising gains are the people I meet at shows, galas, engagements or meetings. (AND through other trades that I work with). Not the ones that are already customers or clients but the "potentials". Often times, business owners will say it is all about word of mouth. Yes that is VERY important. But when a "potential" meets you, the personal level of connection that could not be captured through that substantial ad, skinny ad, or square ad is cemented in stone. You have now grouted their thought process with super glue. They may not need you right now, but if you have done your job, they will REMEMBER you. They may have looked at that ad a hundred times, but now there is a face and a personality attached to it. So when they need you, they will call.

I don't want to float my own boat here, (it is a great boat with shiny instruments, a fancy name and a big horn. Whoop Whoop!!) but I see every opportunity as a business opportunity. I eat, sleep and breathe business. How can I be better, how can I leave the best impression, what can I do to make my services better, what products can I carry that are the best? This exclamation point attitude has been my saving grace in these harsh times. I have cancelled most of my advertising, to my ad reps disappointment, but I have found a GREAT sense of camaraderie and partnership with everyone I meet. They are all hopeful and HELPFUL. Everyone is helping everyone out. We are all in the same boat (although I think mine is THE best boat... and well decorated!)

SO my tip for today is: reevaluate where to best spend your dollars. Is your advertising working? If not look to something else. If you are considering advertising, reconsider. It has been helpful to me in the past. But we are in different times and different circumstances. This is a NEW economy. Take that money and invest in your business in other ways. Get creative, and invest in those around you! They, the community, and friends are the "potentials" that yield the biggest gains in business, and lasting friendships. (band together barbies! these are harsh times and we don't want our roots showing!)