I had another good cutting session yesterday. Everything went smoothly and according to plan. I finished cutting the first group of kits out (the hats) and looking at the two full boxes of 1200 pieces, I felt a great feeling of satisfaction.
I am not generally a ‘numbers girl.’ Attaching numbers to things only tend to de-personalize them (is that even a word?) But as always, I am open to looking at things from new perspectives and when doing this amount of work, it isn’t only kind of interesting to look at the numbers, but from a business point of view, it is essential.
Being a designer and creative person, I usually don’t like numbers. I used to look at them as annoyances that kill the joy of creating. We all know that art and practicality are usually at opposites sides of the spectrum, and because of this, many creative and artistic people who have attempted to make a go at starting a business have failed. Myself included.
But after a long time of struggling and kidding myself into thinking that I was making a living, only to be faced with the reality that I was losing money, I realized that it was time to come out of the dark take an honest look at what was really going on with my business.
It wasn’t pretty, yet not unexpected.
But the numbers don’t lie, and soon I began to see the reason that I was working all the time and still not making even a minimal living. I knew things had to change.
I finally started to reevaluate how I was doing things, and as difficult as it was, I began to look at the work I was doing honestly and without emotion and from a business perspective. While this seems like it should be an easy thing to do, it was (at least in the beginning) quite difficult. I needed to learn to take a hard stance as to what kinds of work would be good for my business, and what kind of work would not. The only way which I could do this accurately and fairly was to use numbers in the evaluation process. After all, numbers don’t lie.
While this approach was foreign to me, I realized that if I did not embrace it, the future of my business was quite dim and soon I would have no business at all. I was so used to ‘giving away the cow with the milk’ as my accountant used to tell me, that it was a difficult transition for me to start thinking in terms of making an actual profit on the work I did. While it may seem obvious to many that this was the way a business is run, to me it was something that I hadn’t considered before, as I was just happy that people liked my work. I see it all the time among my friends and here in forums. Our creativity takes over our logical side of our brain and we are willing to sacrifice ourselves and our talent for kudos rather than put an actual (fair) price on our work. I have seen many businesses fail because of the and the toll it takes on the designers and creators is tremendous.
So it came to be that I was at a fork in the path. One road was to continue on as I had been, doing what I love and accepting praise and good wishes from others who wanted to see me continue to create. While this path was pleasant and fun, I quickly realized that following it would bring me down a road a destination of bankruptcy.
The other choice in paths was not quite as enjoyable. Taking it meant that I had to look at things realistically. There was no room for emotion or feelings. There would be stretches of time when travelling would be difficult, if not completely distasteful, but the destination that I would reach in following this path would be something that I wouldn’t be able to find going down the other road – success!
Neither path was clearly marked. In fact, usually I would have the urge to follow my emotions when choosing as I had done for so many years in the past. But soon I began to find that by taking some wrong turns and making some bad choices that I was getting better at recognizing which of the paths I was on. It was at that time that I began to figure out that numbers were not the cold and unfeeling things that I thought they were. They were the key to my success and happiness and ultimate goal of being successful at doing something I love.
It has taken time, but I have learned to embrace numbers with a different attitude. By looking at figures and numbers in your business, it doesn’t inhibit you from following your dreams – it allows you to do so. By apply figures to what jobs and work you choose to do, you are not only eliminating the jobs that are detrimental to your business, but you are inviting the type of work that is prosperous and helps your business grow. This is something that hoping and guessing can’t accomplish.
Just as when we choose to look at a glass as half full as opposed to half empty, we can also look at the basic numbers of our business as tools which will help our business continue and grow instead of seeing them as something negative that doesn’t allow us to do the jobs that perhaps we want to do. This is amazingly freeing and I feel that it helps me concentrate on the task at hand, guilt-free and knowing that I am advancing my business in the right direction. It helps me recognize that the path I have chosen is the right one and that I am moving toward perpetuating my business rather than escorting it to its own demise. After years of avoiding and shunning numbers, I am finding that they are a necessary tool in running my business. And it allows me to do what I do with a clear head and peaceful mind.
For once, I have the luxury of time on my side. Since the pieces and kits aren’t due in the warehouse for distribution until mid-May, there is no immediate urgency in finishing the order right at this moment. I think that I will take a day or two and switch gears and work on some of the other things that are before me that need my attention.
I need to finish up the cheese tray and get it off to the magazine. I also need to stain and photograph the seashell candle tray and get it posted on my site. And since Keith and I both have new patterns to post on the site, it is time we do a site update and send out a new mailing to our customers. I want to put a new free pattern up there too if possible, as I think I am due for that.
So there is plenty of other things to keep me busy. In between, I can work on the other pieces for the other two kits. I have cut 1200 of the 3200 pieces necessary and I have very much enjoyed doing so. I think that the reason that I am not going crazy or stressed out about it or sick of doing them is because I am approaching this job in an organized manner and I know that when I do work, I am working for the good of my business. I wouldn’t be able to do so if I didn’t have a clear picture in front of me, and I have to thank the numbers for that. Who would have thought that they would be looked upon as my friends?
I wish you all a wonderful Monday.
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"