My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #202: Reality Check

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 12-22-2010 02:19 PM 3986 reads 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 201: Procrastination Can Be Rewarding Part 202 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 203: Good Advice »

I am sitting here this morning and having a difficult time getting started writing. Not because I have little to say, but quite the opposite. The problem being that what is going through my mind aren’t all pleasant or positive thoughts, but actually a rather harsh and realistic look at things and my business in general.

I have posted in this series for over 200 consecutive days now, and when I began this blog, I decided that this journal of my business and how it affects my daily life would not only document the accomplishments and achievements that I reach, but also the stumbling blocks that I meet along the way to what hopefully will be a successful venture. I realize that I bring a lot of personal feelings and thoughts into the discussion, but there is no way that I can segregate my business side from my personal side. Perhaps that is some of the problem.

Since May when I began writing here, I have experienced a good deal of growth. I look back to where I was then and the place that I am now and I definitely see improvement. I am happy about that. I am not quite comfortable yet and not quite convinced that doing this will be able to sustain me, but there are still avenues that I haven’t explored yet so I am not ready to give up. There are days though, that I get somewhat tired of fighting the battles and wonder what the heck I am doing this to myself for. Fortunately, with the assistance of support from others and a little time, those moments don’t seem to linger and I am able to get back on a positive path and reset my focus back to positive thoughts and actions.

I have said before how valuable I feel the feedback that I receive here has been to me. Although I barely know most of you, I consider many of you my friends. Your daily support and suggestions have not only helped me personally, but have also forced me to look at things from many different perspectives – something that I am unable to accomplish on my own. Although I haven’t always agreed with every time someone has given me advice or suggestions, I can honestly say that whether I did so or not they still helped me see things from many perspectives and I have definitely benefited from your input.

I also try to give back to the forum here and help others where I can. I often feel it is an uneven exchange because when I give a nugget of advice or answer a question, I don’t always realize the value of the information to the recipient. Many times are am reminded of its worth after a suggestion of mine is implemented and it makes me realize that I do have things to contribute here. Many times if it isn’t said on the public forum it arrives in a personal message. Either way it is appreciated and does help to make me feel that I am of value here too.

With that said, I do want you all to be aware how much I value your daily input and thoughts that you offer. Your collective experience and wisdom has helped me make better decisions and approach my business in a way that I haven’t been able to previously. I do have a partner for the first time in my business and I find it is very helpful also to have someone to share the daily burdens and decision making with, but like myself, he is so close to things that sometimes it is difficult to emotionally separate from things and look them with complete objectivity.

I see the approaching end of the year as a time for evaluation. For me, it is an opportunity to sit back and take a firm and objective look at my business and crunch numbers and decide which direction to head in the future. I like bringing in a new year. To some it is just another day, month, year rolling along, but to me it symbolized fresh beginnings and (because I am an optimist) new hope.

Each year I spend the week after Christmas getting organized and making goals for my business. In the past when my life was quite a mess, I only did this half-halfheartedly. But this year I am in a good place in my life and I am definitely up for the task of doing what I need to do to make things succeed. I see many opportunities on my horizon and it will be my choice whether or not I will choose to pursue them. In doing so, it may mean that I will have to act and react differently than I have in the past, and I realize that some people will not understand or like that. But if I honestly look back at my past business performance common sense tells me that in order to better things, some things needs to change.

I have a history among not only my business colleagues but also many others in my life of being a ‘soft touch’. My patience is long and even when I am pushed to the limit, I tend to quietly go away. I don’t like confrontation, even if I know I am being wronged or short-changed. There are people and companies that try to take advantage of this and I am finally beginning to see how detrimental this is both professionally and personally. It is starting to dawn on me that operating in this manner will not only cripple my business, but surely be the death of it.

If I am to survive in this profession, I need to take a definitive stance. I am not saying that I will be heartless or unfair, but only that I will begin to approach situations and make decisions with my own interests first and foremost. After all, that is what any successful company does. Am I so foolish to think that they actually have my interests in mind? I am ashamed to say that for many years I have thought in that direction. But finally the fog is lifting and I am realizing that their own interests come first, not mine. I am no longer selling my wares at a friendly neighborhood craft fair for an extra couple of dollars. This is my livelihood and if it is going to support me I need to treat it as such. Otherwise I don’t stand a chance.

So what brought on this reality check you may ask? As usual, it isn’t one specific event, but an accumulation of things one by one added to the pile. Eventually, the elephant was staring me right in the eyes and I feel he can no longer be avoided. I can’t (and will not) sit here in good consciousness and wonder why things aren’t going along as I want them to when I am still doing things that are not in my best interest. If I do continue on the path I have been traveling, you can be pretty sure that my company wouldn’t make it to the year 2012.

I am going to wind up on a positive note though. Change – although uncomfortable – can be a good thing. Most of us don’t like change I believe, yet we wonder why we are stuck in the same place year after year. My business is “OK” right now, but I want it better. How can I logically expect it to change for the better if I don’t make some changes myself? After all, I AM my business.

I realize that there will be some waves and rifts in this process, and I am prepared for that. I am sure I will ruffle some feathers when the same people that were able to walk all over me and take advantage will no longer be able to do so. I have seen evidence of this in this past year as I was in the process of rebuilding. It seems they were used to the softer, sappier me and when I began making (perfectly reasonable) demands they were some times out of sorts because they couldn’t get away with what they were used to with me.

I expect they will get over it. If not then we all have other options. If I can’t make a living at this, I have no business doing it. It really is that plain and simple.

On a final note, to those of you who were wanted to be updated regarding what has been done about the skating pond scene issue, of the two ads that I sent the magazine, they are going to run the one that only shows the skating pond scene and no other products that I offer.

“And that’s all I am going to say about that.”

I wish you all a truly wonderful day!

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

10 comments so far

View YoungestSon's profile


93 posts in 3025 days

#1 posted 12-22-2010 03:37 PM

I hope your day also is wonderful. Changing can be difficult but also can lead to things that exceed your expectations. I hope your changes end up exceedingly well.

-- Don - Rochester, NY

View Maveric777's profile


2693 posts in 3046 days

#2 posted 12-22-2010 03:43 PM

Sounds like you definitely woke up with a heavy heart this morning Sheila. It is good that you plan on reevaluating your goals and direction. I think we all must consider doing this from time to time. In fact I think I may follow your lead and give it a go myself the first of this year.

I also can’t help but think of a very simple book that was recommended to me by a friend a while back. At first glance it looks like a child’s book, but after reading it I found it to give me an incredible different look on how I handle my life. I break it out from time to time as a reminder (a really quick read… really quick). if you get a chance check it out. I assure you… You will be glad you did. Especially now….

Who Moved My Cheese

-- Dan ~ Texarkana, Tx.

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9222 posts in 2889 days

#3 posted 12-22-2010 03:59 PM

Thanks so much to both of you.

@Maveric – I suppose my heart is heavy in some respects. I think I am quite disappointed in some things. But reality is like that sometimes, isn’t it? We see stuff from what I call they “pink cloud’ perspective and sometimes it isn’t the best way to look at things. There are times when “pink cloud thinking” is good for us and gets us over the humps but living on the pink cloud full time isn’t really a good thing.

Just making the decision to change things makes me cheerful already!—> :D

I am going to definitely check out the book you recommended.

I’m a tough cookie though and planning is like therapy and fuels my will to succeed. I couldn’t do it alone.

Thanks again!

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View rivergirl's profile


3201 posts in 2807 days

#4 posted 12-22-2010 04:31 PM

Sheila- I hate that Cheesbook. LOL Corporate America’s little panacea book. As for your rethinking and retooling, I believe that you are on a good track to success. You have redesigned your website, you are very creative, and you are able to make patterns and instructional videos that others can and benefit from. I don’t know a whole lot about survival in the retail world, my experience in self employment was service oriented, but I do know that stick-to-itiveness is critical, and maintaining the energy to keep reinventing oneself is essential to long term success. I remember the first time I had to raise my fees- I was a nervous wreck about telling my clients, but it had to be done and in short order in order to stay alive. I informed my staff that I was raising fees (and it was about a 15 percent increase with little phase in time) and I was not sure if any of us would still have a job after the notices went out. But I don’t believe I lost a single client over that rate increase. In fact most told me I should have done it long ago. I kept working for 17 more years after that. :) So sometimes we must have out back against the wall before we gather the courage to make the decisions and implement the changes that must be made. I personally think that your buisness will survive and thrive. But remember it takes at least fiive years to build a buisness that will sustain rather than drain the family budget. Also- I am not sure if you are on or not, but on etsy, my friend sells a line of sewing patterns that she designs. That may be another avenue for you to explore? CHIN UP MY FRIEND, and hopefully the economy will improve in 2012. :)

-- Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."

View Randy63's profile


252 posts in 2861 days

#5 posted 12-22-2010 08:20 PM

I haven’t commented before but felt I should today. I’ve read your blog several times recently and also watched the videos you recently posted. All are terrific! I have no doubt the work you do is exceptional and am glad to see you’ve made a decision to take a decisive stand and protect your business. I believe it is very difficult to make a living from woodworking but it can be done. Although by reading your blogs I think you might be overlooking your real talent and that’s your talent of writing. You write with feeling and passion and your draw the reader into your world. To me that’s a real talent that also could be a very profitable one.
Just my thoughts for what they’re worth.
Happy Holidays!

-- Randy, Oakdale, Ca.

View beatlefan's profile


56 posts in 3067 days

#6 posted 12-22-2010 09:56 PM

Hi Sheila,
Sorry things are a bit out of tune for you right now—but if it were not for the valley we would never appreciate the beauty of the mountain—hang in there scrollgirl—you’re talented and smart-a great combination-also have a Merry Christmas—-

-- Tony --

View Cozmo35's profile


2200 posts in 3005 days

#7 posted 12-22-2010 10:05 PM

Shelia, I have read the book Dan refered to and I liked it. It makes you think if nothing else. Also, I just cam out of a funk that made me pose the question to my self why I keep wood working. I can tell you it will only be for a while and you’ll be back on track. Hold fast to what you do and see for yourself.

-- If you don't work, you don't eat!.....Garland, TX

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3084 days

#8 posted 12-22-2010 10:24 PM

hello Sheila :-)
I have to second Randy about your talent of writting but you know that already :-)

one thing to say is a few old words that is still in use all over the world

the best defence is often an agressive atack and is used all the time by the bigger company´s
and so does the singleperson owned company do if they want to survive everytime the deal
with other company´s

one thing a busyness like yours havn´t is a ping-pong thinking tank that can help with inputs
and come up with new ideas so I think this website is more than happy to help you and
to be used as such thinking-tank :-)

take care

View RonPeters's profile


713 posts in 2849 days

#9 posted 12-23-2010 12:59 AM

The thought that keeps running through my head is that ‘if you don’t stand up for yourself, no one else will.’

You have to be a mama bear with cubs (your business) when it comes to someone taking advantage of you. They are stealing from you your hard work and effort – your intellectual property is valuable, but not if you let them get away with it. You basically let them have it for nothing when you don’t stand up.

I don’t think of it as confrontation…rather it’s the ‘competition’ to the finish line. It’s a game and you are as good or better at competing than they are. You have to have a goal.

The goal of any business is to make money, for if it fails at that, once the money runs out the game is over. All those wonderful feel-good mushy ideals mean nothing when the business is broke. Protect your cubs!

-- “Once more unto the breach, dear friends...” Henry V - Act III, Scene I

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18249 posts in 3645 days

#10 posted 12-23-2010 12:04 PM

This current episode in your business reminds me of what one of the people who encouraged me to go into business when my employer was going bankrupt told me when they were taking advantage of me, “This is business.” All of the subs they used in the mid 80’s are long gone. All bankrupt, but one. He quit doing their work when he found out he was $200,000 low on a contract he got for about $600,000. It took about 15 years for him to figure it out.

My policy has always been say “NO” when it is obvious I will go bankrupt faster doing what they want than laying the shade drinking beer all day.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

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