Thinking ahead is something that we do on a daily basis. several times a day. From the time we wake up, most of us begin to organize our days in our minds without much conscious thinking. For many people, the planning begins early, with that first cup of coffee. From choosing breakfast to deciding what we will have for supper and everything in between, we plan the short term activities that fill up our day.
Then there are the long term plans. (When will I do my taxes? When will I begin the kitchen remodeling project? What week can I plan to take off of work next summer for that vacation I want?) These longer term decisions seem to require more thought and effort on our part and are more carefully considered. Many times these decisions have long term effects on our lives and are only made after serious deliberation, and with respect.
In having my own small business, I come across situations such as this on a daily basis. There is much planning that I have to do not only for today and tomorrow, but also for several months (and even years) down the line. I find that being short-sighted and thinking only of the immediate future isn’t always the best thing to do. In fact, it can be quite detrimental, as while the short term effects may seem to have a positive impact on things, more so than not it lasts only breifly and soon we are left scrambling for new ideas and plans to keep our business thriving.
The longer that I am in business, the more I see the importance of thinking ahead. While making decisions that provide ‘instant gratification’ are tempting, as in life, they aren’t always the ones that are the best for the longevity of the business. Just as (some) children learn this as they mature and grow into responsible adults, I am learning this is true as a business person. At times it takes a deliberate effort to walk away from instant gratification and follow the often more difficult path that requires time and patience.
”Patience, Grashopper. Patience.”
Yesterday some things happened with the business that would have in the past been a huge blow to me. For some reason though, I was able to deal with it as just part of the business and move on without missing a beat or any ill feelings. It was just part of business.
I was aware of my upcoming deadline for one of my main wholesalers for quite a while now. I knew that it would be at the end of January and that if I had intended to submit anything new for the spring catalog, I had better get working on it.
But circumstances have not allowed me to spend the time that was necessary for me to be able to present them with many new things. Between the three part calendar project, the website stuff and the holidays, there just haven’t been enough hours in the day. And then there was the opportunity to design the painting items for the consideration of the Artist’s Club. That deadline is also quickly approaching and I have had these autumn ideas for almost a year now and this was the opportunity for me to present them. I didn’t want to wait another year.
With all these opportunities in front of me, it was quite obvious to me that I wouldn’t have time to do everything. Something had to give. I had to make some difficult choices as to where my time would best be invested and had to consider not only how it would benefit the business initially, but also in the long term. In addition, I had to make the decisions knowing that nothing in any direction was guaranteed. Just because I chose a certain direction didn’t necessarily mean that path would bring success. For a large part, I needed to rely on my own experience and intuition as to what would be most beneficial for the business in the long term. And that wasn’t easy.
To make a long story short, I chose to work on the calendar for the magazine, and also on some Valentine projects for my site and now, as you know, on the painting patterns to submit to Artist’s Club. While the wholesaler is still considered very important, they had several patterns that were in a holding pattern and they were going to use for their catalogs when they saw fit. I felt that for now that would have to be enough, as the Valentine projects certainly wouldn’t be of use to them in spring, although the other holiday items were something that they seemed to offer year round. Besides, Keith had been busy designing some new wildlife projects that were really nice and they would certainly fill the bill as far as representing us in the new catalog. We made the submissions with what we had.
We heard back yesterday that only about half of what we submitted was going to be used. While it is their prerogative to choose what they please, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of dismay regarding certain patterns that were rejected. My heart ornaments and pendants were among the items that they passed on, as well as Keith’s new hunting plaque. These were probably the two that surprised me the most, as the hearts would not only be a Valentine’s pattern, but the hearts would also be appropriate for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, or several other occasions and applications.
As far as the hunting plaque is concerned, it seems that hunting and wildlife themes sell extremely well no matter what time of year, and I honestly think that this one will be a good seller, as the design is attractive and well done. Perhaps I am too close to see it with realistic eyes. I do know that the two plaques that Keith introduced just a couple of weeks ago have been selling extremely well on the site. So I can’t be that far off.
I have learned from being in this business a long time to take these kinds of decisions in stride. While initially I feel somewhat hurt when things are rejected, I have learned from experience that one person’s opinion isn’t always the defining factor. While it is difficult not to take it personally, you really can’t do so, as everyone is entitled to either like or dislike something for whatever reason. Just because one doesn’t find something attractive, doesn’t mean that others will feel the same.
That is where having a partner and also experience helps.
In the past, some of the things that I have designed that have been rejected by either the magazine or the wholesalers, have often found a second life in another venue and have absolutely thrived. It took me a while to figure this out, but once I did, it helped me deal with rejection in a very constructive way. There was one project in particular that the magazine didn’t want and I was quite sad about it. I was so down about it I was going to shelve it, but I had a deadline for the wholesaler and threw it in with the batch of submissions. Not only did the wholesaler pick it up, but it turned out to be a very strong seller and is still selling to this day. My editor at the time and I even kind of joked about how he rejected it and how well it did. It was a great learning experience for me.
Looking at ‘rejection’ in a positive way is something that comes with experiences such as this. It shows you first hand that if the piece wasn’t meant to be in one place, perhaps it was meant to be in another. There are many paths that can lead you to success. Sometimes you take a wrong turn along the way and it takes you longer to get there, but if you think ahead and keep trying, eventually you will reach your destination.
And how does that tie into planning?
I believe it is very important in the day to day decisions you make regarding your business. The more successful your business is, the more you will see the importance of diversifying and making long term goals. You can’t only look at the quick payoffs, but the things that won’t pay off perhaps until several months down the road. While it may seem like you are working for little return today on a particular project, if you are laying a foundation for your future, you should still consider the time well-spent. I realize that is a luxury for a struggling business, who may need quick returns in order to sustain itself, but once you have a foothold in things I do believe it is best to start setting your sites farther into the future. You will be happy with these choices down the line when they begin bringing in returns and your thinking is several months ahead.
Because of this mentality, yesterday’s news didn’t devastate me. While I will be honest and say my initial reaction was that I wasn’t happy, I got over it very quickly and thought about where we would present these patterns and how they will benefit the company. We are growing every day and the more people come to our site, the more they will see that we have things to offer that they are not able to get elsewhere. Hopefully that will keep them coming back and in the long run it will help our company grow even further. I managed to turn something that would be perceived as a negative into a very positive thing for us and our company. And that feels good.
Today I will be finishing up on the little boots for Artist’s Club. I am very happy with how they are coming out and each one is cuter than the last. Here is a sample of one of the boots I completed yesterday:
I only have two to complete today and then I have one more idea for fall submissions to them which I want to work on. Their deadline is at the middle of the month and I will be happy if even one of the three projects that I am offering is accepted. Anything over that will be ‘gravy’.
I realize that I got a bit lengthy today, but this is something that I think is important. So many people perceive that everything that I do always gets accepted wherever I send it. That is so not the case. Rejection is a big part of the designing business. Like many other jobs, usually several possibilities are considered and only a few are selected or implemented. It is the nature of the business. Many people are unable to overcome when their ideas and projects are passed on, and they take it personally. Unfortunately, those are the ones that don’t last, as many of them have a great deal of talent and are able to offer a lot, but they are unable to handle the rejection from time to time.
I have learned that the only way I am able to survive in this designing business is to be resilient and not take these rejections to heart. Just because one or two people don’t like my ideas, it doesn’t mean that no one will. I have learned to follow my own instincts, design from my heart and have the confidence in myself as a designer. The rest will fall into place.
“As the traveler who has lost his way, throws his reins on his horse’s neck, and trusts to the instinct of the animal to find his road, so must we do with the divine animal who carries us through this world” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
It takes courage to think ahead in this way. You have to be willing to risk failure and take a chance that things will work out in the future. The return isn’t always instant, and in many ways, you need to walk blindly on your path until you finally are able to see the light. Most importantly, you need to believe in yourself, and know that you will succeed, however long it takes. If you are able to do this, your chances for success are great.
Have a wonderful day.
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"