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 (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"