My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #797: Business Decisions

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 08-22-2012 11:05 AM 1546 reads 0 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 796: Working . . . Part 797 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 798: We're Still Standing »

I did not have the best of sleeps. There was a lot on my mind that is unsettling and kept me awake much of the night thinking. It wasn’t all bad (in fact, one part was very positive) but the potential for things going either way was present and overshadowed the good possibilities.

I sit here each morning and write about my business with a positive attitude. Even when things don’t go as I would have liked, I try to look at the situation and find the positive side of things and focus on that. It keeps me on a good path and with a good attitude and I found that it helps me move forward, even when I have small setbacks.

Things have been going well lately. Perhaps a little ‘too well.’ Many of the Doom Sayers will chirp in my ear that I am ‘due’ for something negative to happen, as if we are only allocated so much happiness and peace and I have had my share. But I don’t really believe that for a minute. I believe we are our own destiny and while there are some thing in this life that are negative and can’t be avoided, most of them are a result of bad decisions that we ourselves make. I like that theory because it forces us to take responsibility for our own actions and as a result, it gives us a bit of control of our lives. Yes, it is a bit more work to live with this philosophy, but I believe that the payoff is of great value.

My grandmother used to quote Eleanor Roosevelt with the saying “There are no victims, only volunteers” at times like this to emphasize the control we have over certain situations that come up in our lives. And while my parents and grandparents were by no means perfect, this was one thing that has stuck with me much of my life and in many situations has forced me to look at my own decisions and taking responsibility for them. In a world where many find it easier to be a victim or blame others for their troubles, I think that this mindset served me well and was a useful tool in being responsible for myself. It also empowers me to change the things I don’t like.

So what is this new dilemma that I am facing?

For the moment, I don’t really feel at liberty to disclose all of the details. In general though, I can say that it involves one of our wholesalers and it appears that (once again) the rules are changing. I am not going to say which one, as we have several, but it seems that today we are up for negotiation of our terms with them at a time when we are already at the limit of keeping our relationship with them one of mutual benefit. Apparently, they don’t feel that the benefit is of equal value to them, or they wouldn’t be trying to change things. But from our point of view, we are giving just about all we can and anything additional would more than likely sour things on our side. I am not looking forward to hearing what they have in mind.

Not knowing all the facts and spending time and energy guessing how things will be is a very dysfunctional way to spend ones’ time. Unfortunately, both Keith and I spent the bulk of the evening doing just that. As a result, I think that it was not only an uneasy evening for myself, but one that was filled with anxiety for him too, as we played out too many ‘what ifs’ in our heads in order to try to come up with a plan of action. This behavior goes against everything that I try to teach and share and live, and I know that those of you who read frequently have heard me preach just that many times. But like most things, it is much easier to give advice from a safe and disconnected distance than to take your own advice when you are in the thick of it. Once again, we are only human.

Keith had read recently a quote that I kind of liked that applied to this type of situation. It went something like “The strongest person at the negotiating table is the one that is most willing to walk away.” I like that way of thinking. I think that it has much merit. I feel that especially artists (like me) who are not business people (I am not) are very vulnerable to making decisions while allowing too much emotion to enter into the equation. A sharp business person will pick this up on the radar, and many times use those emotions to strengthen his position and perhaps gain the advantage and use it to get more from the artist than they had intended to give. We have all seen that in action, as designers, artists and craftspeople are grossly under paid for their work and creativity. When sitting back from the situation, we find ourselves wondering “why the heck did they settle for that???” yet when we are in it ourselves, we tend to walk away with much less than we deserve, feeling ‘lucky’ that the person acquired our services in the first place.

This is the main reason that so many creative people fail in business. It certainly has happened to me in the past and has nearly derailed my company completely. My accountant used to tell me that I was ‘giving the cow away with the milk’ and that I was ‘tying dollar bills to the products I was selling’. While I knew he was right, I was too happy to have the job to worry about trivial things like profit margins and things like that. I just wanted people to like what I did and make enough money to buy more supplies so I could keep ‘working.’

But that didn’t pay bills or put food on the table, and I have learned since (after almost losing everything) that I am a business too. (What a huge realization that was!) Just like the other company, I am in this to make a profit and a living. I don’t have a huge inheritance sitting in the bank that I can live on while I am doing this on a whim. This is my living. As it is now, the only reason that I have been able to keep going in these difficult times is because both Keith and I like living simply. We don’t need a big house or fancy stuff and while we have our indulgences from time to time, we live within our means and are very comfortable. Most people we know wouldn’t be happy in our lifestyles. We realize that we are among the very small percentage of designers that actually are making it, and while many people say they envy us, I don’t believe many of them would want to trade places with us and have our lives. But that is OK, because we all make the choices that are best for ourselves, and we in no way think that what we do is for everyone. I think that is what makes the world go around. Different people want different things.

So back to the situation at hand. . .

Today will be a defining day for our company. Whether these negotiations go in favor of us or not, it will be only a small part of the big picture. Not too long ago, I would have made the decisions that I need to make with my heart and in doing so, would not be here writing about it today in the capacity of a business owner. The business would have been long gone.

Having Keith as a partner has been so valuable on so many levels. Besides the fact that as a designer, I find he is excellent, the other things he has brought to the business have filled in the gaps where I have been weak. His practicality and financial sense far exceeds mine. While I try to look at things with a business head, and am doing a bit better at it – it seems that sometimes the emotional side of me gets the best of me. While I used to find it slightly annoying to have someone suggesting what to do, I finally figured out that my own plan wasn’t working and after trying things from a practical approach instead of from that of an artist, things started turning around much quicker.

One time not so long ago, a person accused Keith of ‘riding on my coat tails.’ When reading that, I became very angry at that person because they didn’t even have a clue as to how much of my success I owe to him. Not only for the obvious reasons of his immense talent, but also for all the many, many things he does that contribute to the good of this company. I say it many times but I don’t ever think I can express enough how fortunate I am to have him as a partner, in life as well as in business. Even though it is my name on the business, it is definitely a partnership between us and while Keith prefers to stay in the background as far as the publicity is concerned, I doubt there would be a business without him. I would have gone under long ago.

I apologize for the length of today’s entry. As I said, there is lots on my mind today. Without sharing the details of what is going to take place today, I can only say that I am confident that whatever the outcome is, both Keith and I think it will ultimately be for the better of the company. Even if it doesn’t appear to be so initially. Knowing that in our hearts will empower us to make the right decisions that will help our business grow. So that is a good thing.

As far as my ornaments, I hope to finish up on them today. We have our aunties visiting from the United States this week, as Keith’s brother is getting married on Saturday and they are here for the wedding and a visit. They came to our place yesterday and we had a nice visit here with the kitties, followed by a wonderful lobster dinner at Keith’s parents house.

Now I ask you – Lobster dinner or finish ornaments?

There really was no decision to be made. :P

I know for myself, I will feel better when things are settled. I have already told myself that what will happen, will happen and no matter what the outcome, there are many positive things in my life ahead. And that is where I will focus.

I wish you all a great day today.

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

15 comments so far

View littlecope's profile


3071 posts in 3531 days

#1 posted 08-22-2012 11:55 AM

I’ll wish you Good Luck with your negotiations Sheila, but it’s not about Luck, is it…
Stick to your Guns my Friend!!
I won’t post them here, but two videos came to mind while I read this: Kenny Rogers’ “Know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold them” and Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”... :)
I hope you and Keith have a Great Day too!!

-- Mike in Concord, NH---Unpleasant tasks are simply worthy challenges to improve skills.

View jerrells's profile


918 posts in 2913 days

#2 posted 08-22-2012 12:05 PM

Negotiations – at the very best – should/must be WIN/WIN. Most times someone is trying to get the best part of the deal. If is is FAIR that both parties WIN. Seems odd in todays business world but it is the way it should be. Best of luck on this one.

-- Just learning the craft my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ practiced.

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4189 days

#3 posted 08-22-2012 12:42 PM

(hats off to the great partnership you have … and you should take that into the negotiations and expect the same relationship with the other people at the table.)

two questions:
1. what are your intentions re: the business?
2. what are your bottom lines, the black and white? Where are the “absolutely limits”?

Knowing these will help in the discussions. The solutions should fit with both of these answers.

Good luck!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View harry1's profile


524 posts in 2314 days

#4 posted 08-22-2012 01:18 PM

Debbie, a very common problem with artisans and technical people is that they invariably undersell themselves. I include myself here because I set-up a TV/ audio repair business in 1968 and it did very well, however, one day as I was about to lift a TV out of the car to return to the customer a colleague/friend was coming out of the house opposite and came over to talk to me. During the conversation I noticed that he was squinting sideways reading the docket on the TV. The conversation then went something like this,”Harry, how can you stay in business with such low charges, you made the original call, spent time attempting the repair on the spot, decided it was a job for the workshop so boxed it up, carried it to your car, drove it to your workshop, unloaded it, spent time repairing it then loading it back into your car and here you are delivering it for that amount, (the actual charge has long since been forgotten and of course it didn’t all happen on the same day)
The point of the storey is that when I discussed it with my wife, we realised that what my friend had said made perfect sense and our prices went up immediately and our business carried on growing and within a few years we went from a home business into a shop which we bought and started to employ staff.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is that when you produce a product or service that you know is GOOD, people will recognise this and pay a fair price and it’s been my experience that when one door closes another one opens.

-- Harry, Western Australia

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2949 days

#5 posted 08-22-2012 01:59 PM

As always, you all are the BEST of support. It certainly helps to know that my creative friends and colleagues understand what we are going through.

Ms Debbie – As with most businesses, we need to make enough money to live on. We aren’t talking mansions and pools here, just living in a decent, clean home. You have read my posts long enough to realize that this isn’t a part time job or a lark for either of us. Keith quit his ‘regular job’ at the fish processing plant to become a partner here and I seriously couldn’t function or continue on my own. That means this is our sole income.

We have discussed ‘absolute limits’ and we have clearly defined them. Now that means when the time comes for the discussion, we do have a bottom line as to what we will tolerate. The company we are dealing with are making profits. They need to be or they would be out of business. But we need to make profits also or we will be out of business also. Sometimes I think they don’t look past their own interests (in fact, I am sure they don’t). In these tough times for business, you would thing that the larger companies who depend on designers would make sure that the designers are taken care of. Otherwise where does that leave them? I suppose that is why we are having the feeling of being ‘disposable’ right now. Hopefully we aren’t and they value our work enough to make working with them worth our time. We shall see . . .


And thank you for sharing your story, Harry. I think the only way to survive is to have the awakening that you had. Sometimes looking at things closely really opens our eyes as to what we have to do. :)

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

View Roger's profile


20929 posts in 2833 days

#6 posted 08-22-2012 02:23 PM

My vote’s for lobster… Remember, ya gotta take care o no. 1. Your creative juices will flow better with a lil seafood in ya.. :)

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3065 days

#7 posted 08-22-2012 02:26 PM

Dig in, Sheila. Don’t give way. Any doubts, just read what you’ve written here.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 2885 days

#8 posted 08-22-2012 03:09 PM

Sheila go with your head.

Your heart created all these wonderful designs

They might want to get greedy, well walk away.

I doubt that they can afford to throw away the

business that you generate.

Or you could do what I do.

When someone tries to cut me down on price, I

put the price UP. The more they argue the higher

the price will go up.

I had one customer that said I had to big of a cut.

He was buying for £22.50 and reselling for £57.50

He did not even handle the goods, only sold them

on his web site, I even posted direct to his customers.

Well he now only gets 35% of his retail price.

He squealed like a piglet. I then ignored his orders, emails

and phone calls for a week. Now he knows that he pushed

me to far. I stood to lose £1k a month at a time when we

were trying to get our house bought. It was hard.

He is now on great terms with me and treats me with a

lot more respect. Keith gives wise council I think you both

make a great team.


-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View doordude's profile


1085 posts in 3012 days

#9 posted 08-22-2012 05:16 PM

Sheila,great story and insight to what you’re going thru. i liked the quotes you gave;and here’s one for you,
when one door closes,another opens. stand firm with your dealer.
good luck to you both today.

View Keith Fenton's profile

Keith Fenton

328 posts in 2949 days

#10 posted 08-22-2012 08:01 PM

Well, the deed is done! We had our negotiations, both made our arguments. Sheila and I basically stood firm and said that we have to continue with our current arrangement because their proposed changes were far too detrimental to us. I feel that we were open to working with them for a solution to their problem but what they presented as a problem, wasn’t the real issue.

They have several specific programs (or deals) that they use with designers. They basically said that we have to pick one of their programs and that was it… No special terms in any way. So we decided to stay with the one we originally signed up with (which up until now worked for them and for us). Not to mention that we are selling to them at the prices that THEY SET just a few months ago and nothing has changed since then. But now they are not happy with that program and claim that they are left waiting too long for the order to be shipped to them and that shipping from Canada takes too long. When we asked if there were any way for them to order sooner, they said it wasn’t possible. I don’t think that we were asking for much on their part.

So they wanted us to pick a solution that allowed them to do more of the production and we would only ship paper patterns to them. We didn’t see how that helps them with slow shipping since they still have to wait for the patterns in the mail. This made us feel that what they were really looking for was a way to get a bigger piece of the pie because either of these other arrangements allowed them to sell derivative works of our design without a percentage of the sales going to us.

-- Scroll saw patterns @

View Arlin Eastman's profile

Arlin Eastman

4234 posts in 2590 days

#11 posted 08-22-2012 08:10 PM


You are a wonderful person and I also love how you like to teach the thing you love to do.
Keep up the great work and I hope I can follow you more in the future.


-- It is always the right time, to do the right thing.

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 2885 days

#12 posted 08-22-2012 08:23 PM

Keith sounds as if they are bullies


-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View Arlin Eastman's profile

Arlin Eastman

4234 posts in 2590 days

#13 posted 08-22-2012 08:30 PM

You said “This made us feel that what they were really looking for was a way to get a bigger piece of the pie because either of these other arrangements allowed them to sell derivative works of our design without a percentage of the sales going to us.”

The United Artists of Actors had to put up with that years ago, now they get a piece of the pie also. Hold out and stick it out, or they will stick it to you for sure and up their profits not yours.

PhD Business

-- It is always the right time, to do the right thing.

View BertFlores58's profile


1698 posts in 2951 days

#14 posted 08-23-2012 12:40 AM

Hi Sheila,
When you wrote BLOG: “KNOWLEDGE IS POWER” 344 days ago, here is your first 2 paragraph:
QTE ” It is just beginning to get light out and I can already tell it is going to be a good day. I don’t mean just the weather, but I feel that something good or positive will happen. I don’t know why, but some days I just have this feeling and more so than not, I am right and something unexpected and positive finds its way to me.

I wonder sometimes if this is what people would call a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy?’ it seems however, that most references to self-fulfilling prophecies tend to focus on negative circumstances and outcomes. There are very few times I hear of them being positive. I wonder if that is just because the attitude of people in general, or part of the actual definition of the term. Or is it because of the general apathy that so many people feel lately? I suppose I would have to look some day when I have the time.”

With reference to this qte, nearly a year ago… I can see the big difference in your success as compared to your first 2 paragraph on this blog. But there is only one good quality and very strong in you… YOUR SELF… who DO all those dreams, prophecy, ambitions and future becomes a reality… God bless and enjoy the lobster while you do the your scribbling.

-- Bert

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2949 days

#15 posted 08-23-2012 10:17 AM

Thank you all for your friendship and support on this. It was a stressful day, but we got through it and figured everything out and in the end, we did stand our ground and got what we wanted. (read the next blog please for details)

Bert – it is funny reading what I wrote over a year ago. It actually sounds like I knew what I was saying! LOL It is funny how in the heat of the moment we forget our basic principles and our focus is so clouded. Emotions are able to do that to us. But in looking back at what I had said back then, I still feel that is the right way to think about things. We ARE our own destiny. How we view something has a great impact on the outcome of things, I think. In all this mess, that thought seemed to have escaped me.

Thank you for reminding me of one of my most basic philosophies. Your timing was perfect and it really did a lot to help me feel good about our decisions and actions.

Take care, Sheila

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

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