My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #844: House Cleaning

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 10-12-2012 12:00 PM 1474 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 843: Out of Focus Part 844 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 845: Appreciation »

House cleaning.

It isn’t everyone’s favorite thing to do (in fact – there are few people that I know of that enjoy doing it) but it is something that is necessary to keep our lives in order and make things run smoothly.

Some of you may be thinking that I am talking about tidying up your work spaces and vacuuming your rugs, but I am actually referring to getting all of your business dealings in order and organizing your records. Many small businesses (and larger ones too!) fall onto hard times and fail because of bad record keeping or disorganization. The plain and simple truth is that without keeping updated records, there is no way that you can actually know how well or poorly your business is preforming and it is impossible to make the best decisions regarding it.

I am a good example of how things can go wrong.

A couple of years ago, I was going through some difficult times. While I was still doing design work for the magazine and making some new projects for a couple of wholesalers to distribute and to put on my site, I really didn’t have my heart into my business and I did things rather sloppy.

Part of it was that I didn’t have the experience in dealing with other companies and the other part was that I wasn’t wholeheartedly committed to what I was doing because of other things going on in my life. There were many personal things happening that took most of my attention and some of these business dealings were more or less an afterthought and not set up properly.

While it seemed to be working for a while, as these business dealings did bring in some extra income, as I became more dedicated to my business and began to really look at what was happening with things, I began to see that perhaps I wasn’t getting all I should have been from these relationships. Without getting into details, I will say that things were slanted more in the wholesaler’s direction and even though I was doing most of the work as the designer, I seemed to be getting the least amount of return from the relationships.

Since there was nothing done in writing with these companies, it made things very tricky. After all, I had been operation on a certain level for quite some time and as far as the companies knew, I was perfectly happy with the arrangement. But when seeing how things actually were playing out, I could see that there was little wonder that I wasn’t really getting ahead, even though now I was working harder than ever.

It all makes for a very uncomfortable situation.

I know of a lot of people who are looking to sell their work that they create – whether it be scroll saw project, painting projects or other woodworking pieces – and they get themselves into trouble just the way I did. They don’t make the terms of their selling clear and put them in writing. This includes both wholesale ordering and also when people make specific items for customers on a special order basis.

We have all read horror stories about it. Verbal agreements are made and one side believes one thing and the other side thinks something completely different. Unfortunately, usually the differences in perception are only discovered after the work is done and there is already money and time invested in the project. And that is when the hard feelings come into play.

This is also true when working on a wholesale basis with a company. While a verbal agreement and a hand shake used to be enough, it seems that the best thing you can do for yourself and your business is to get everything up front in writing, no matter what company you are dealing with and no matter how much you trust them.

While this may seem awkward when you feel that you have a good, friendly relationship with the other party, I found that especially in these times of uncertainty when things can change quickly and companies are struggling to survive it is greatly important that you have a written contract with your terms and conditions of your business dealings. This not only protects you, but it also protects the company you are dealing with. Since everything is in writing, there are fewer misunderstandings and a better sense of securities on both sides.

But don’t stop there. You also need to be sure that the company you are dealing with is adhering to those written guidelines and honoring the contract that you both agreed upon. While this sounds like a given, you would be surprised how many alleged ‘professional’ companies disregard the guidelines that are set. Whether it is on purpose or just an oversight on their part, it is important that you honor your side of the agreement, and equally important that you make sure that they are sticking to theirs.

Yes – this takes time and involves some investigation on your part. While it would be nice to think that you can just sign a piece of paper and it will protect all of your rights and you won’t have to worry, sometimes that isn’t the case. There are companies and businesses out there that are unscrupulous and tend to play by their own rules, knowing that the time and money it would cost for you to take them to court (even if you are absolutely in the right) would not be worth your effort. They play by their own rules, and if you find that you got a bit lazy and don’t periodically check up on them, you may be surprised (unpleasantly) when you do find out how things are being handled.

I have learned this first hand from more than one company that I have dealt with. I have also learned a couple of very positive things too.

I found that good and honest companies don’t mind contracts. In fact that encourage them. The old saying ‘they have nothing to hide or worry about’ rings true in that case. They are very open to questions about how they do business and they have very clear guidelines as to how they conduct business both with vendors as yourself and also with sales. They don’t look at questions as something negative and they are very up front with their policies and even invite inquiries and want to clear the air with you so that everyone has a clear understanding of how things are. Most of them already offer written contracts before they will accept products from you, as they want to protect themselves as well as you and make sure that everything is on the table and fair.

We have some great vendors for our products. We have several distributors for both our patterns as well as Keith’s pens that are a pleasure to work with. It recently occurred to me that in most of the cases, the companies that we have had little or no trouble with are those that work with clear written guidelines and are up front and open about their business practices.

On the other hand, the companies that we have had difficulties with seem to have been the ones where we have no contract. While there may be emails or other written documents stating what each side would want or what policies were, it seems that these were not taken seriously or adhered to in the way that they should have been. Perhaps the informality of the documents were interpreted as something casual and not regarded seriously.

So my advice to you today is to “Clean your house.” Take a good look at all of your business contacts and make sure that you are all on the same page and following the same guidelines when selling your items. Even if you didn’t do this in the past, it is a good idea to draw up a contract which spells out your practices and make copies for each party and both sign them. It protects both yourself and them from misunderstandings and insures a meeting of the minds. And that means peace of mind for all involved.

A final word of advice, is to keep communication open with these companies and check on things periodically to make sure that the terms you agreed on are being followed. Just because someone signs something, doesn’t mean that they are going to adhere to it – especially if they feel that you are not going to expect them to or make certain that they do. While many companies and businesses are honest, there are always those who are not. Why would you want to take the chance?

Taking the time to do this is I believe very important to any business – no matter what the size. It is very easy for vendors and distributors to ‘forget’ certain things and not adhere to specific guidelines that you may have set. After all, many businesses deal with several companies and each would certainly have their own criteria. It is your responsibility to be sure that your wishes and agreements are being followed. If it takes some time, it is certainly time that is well-spent.

(photo courtesy of
A little house cleaning goes far in giving you peace of mind.

Have a wonderful Friday!

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

11 comments so far

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6862 posts in 4095 days

#1 posted 10-12-2012 12:38 PM

Hi Sheila;

There is much wisdom here, which I know has come from hard learned and expensive lessons. All certainly good advice for those just starting out, or even those are already in business but have chosen to ignore, or are unaware of these details.

Unfortunately, just having a contract isn’t a cure all. I’ve found that if a person/company is dishonest, it doesn’t matter what is written down. They will have no problem breaking any part of any agreement. Also, a simple, short contract will not provide much in the way of protection, as they offer so many “gray areas”, which can be exploited. It is very difficut to anticipate every eventuality, without seeming like you are nit picking.

I find one of the most dependable way of protecting yourself is doing due diligence. Ask for, and check references. And not just one. Try to find out who else is doing business with them in a similar capacity. A company that is difficult to work with is typicaly that way with everyone they deal with. If they have a fast turnover of people they work with, there will be a reason for it, which could be a result of how they are to work with.

There is no fool proof way to do business, that will ensure you always get what you feel you deserve. Just do the best you can and learn from the mistakes you make and the abuse you will be subjected to.

I am a principal in a business that requires a great deal of faith in businesses we work with on a daily basis. A dishonest partner could result in the loss of a great deal of money for us. My partner is often saying I don’t seemed concerned about this. Truth is, I’m not. I did everything I could at the beginning stages to make certain I was getting involved with someone I’m comfortable with, and then I have to let it go. Otherwise, i would spend too much time and energy worrying about what could happen. Is it foolproof…no. But it is what it is.

Have a good day.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View Celticscroller's profile


1269 posts in 2188 days

#2 posted 10-12-2012 05:12 PM

Good morning Sheila. Great advice! I wish I had that kind of advice when I had my custom sewing business several years ago. I learnt the hard way – but sometimes those are the lessons we will not forget and we can gain from the experience. You are a great inspiration to anyone in business and I’m very impressed with your willingness to share your experiences to help others.
Have a great day Sheila. Fall has finally arrived on the Westcoast. Fog, drizzle and cool temps! We can’t complain though!

-- Anna, Richmond BC

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9237 posts in 3035 days

#3 posted 10-12-2012 07:06 PM

Lee – I always look forward to your insights, as I respect your business sense and integrity. Thank you so much for our post. You are right in that a contract doesn’t cure everything. Enforcing a contract is something that is part of the plan, too. While you may not ever think it would come to that, it is certainly something that needs to be considered. You can be right as rain and if you don’t have the money or means to pursue your rights in court, it isn’t much help at all. The best advice is this – if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck . . . chances are you are dealing with a duck. You need to try to use your instincts and know who you are getting involved in business with before you take the jump. If they have a reputation of being someone who is unfair or dishonest, then chances are that your turn will come and they will also take advantage of you.

Anna – thank you for your kind words. We have the same type of conditions here on the east coast, but I like it! :)

Take care, Sheila

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

View Steven Davis's profile

Steven Davis

118 posts in 3030 days

#4 posted 10-12-2012 07:15 PM

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst… and run small experiments to get a sense of how trustworthy folks are… and still watch them.

The balance is that there is a cost for verification, contracts, and monitoring.

All my best.


-- Steven Davis - see me at

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9237 posts in 3035 days

#5 posted 10-12-2012 08:03 PM

Very wise words, Steve! :)


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

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3230 days

#6 posted 10-12-2012 08:48 PM

house cleaning in this case ment to be ready for a a sale or take over if you are a company
for the good or the bad of this
you have to ask yourself is it worth the work to be ready for a take over ...... rwaly many
would say no ….. if they can´t see what I own or it seems to be a secret what the company earn
then most wuold make a drive by with out looking at it as an interresting investment

the truth is if an invester want to buy ….... you get the best out of it if you know what you are worth
as a company …..... many companyowners forget that its not always impossible to say no to
what seems to be a good deal in the first place beside …. one day the health can force them to sell
if they don´t have children that can take over …. after all the company you have used a lifetime
to build is also your child you have to take care of and want it to survive when you can´t
take care of it anymore

so housecleaing is time well spend in many ways even though it can be tedius work to update
the databases every day/week/month ….. most do it anyway just without the right structure
so they only have to push on the print bottom to get all the information out on a print

I stopped as scheduled today after the month is over at the after school club thing
and the children had baked and served it with some lemonade and coffee here in the afternoon
for me and the rest of the crew :-)
the children was a little sad over that I wuoldn´t be there to help them with different projects
but they have convinced the adults to buy a gift for me ….. how sweet of them :-)
they gave me two coffee muggs with the text …...... GIVE ME A BREAKE and WAKE UP
since I drink so much coffeee and have worked hard for them so the little wooden house
will stand ten more years :-) ( reality not even half finished )

do I need to tell I told the children I will look in from time to time to visit them in the woodworking shop
and will bring new project ideas for them with me when I find new ones
that bunch of monkey´s can charm you to any promise ….. lol

have a great weekend

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9237 posts in 3035 days

#7 posted 10-13-2012 12:53 AM

Hi, Dennis!
What a wonderful thing you experienced when the children gave you a going away party. It certainly shows the fondness and respect that they feel to you and have come to know from your time you spent working near them. I am sure it is a bittersweet moment for you.

I think it will be wonderful for you to stop in from time to time and check up on them. I bet it will make them very happy.

You are a kind man and a good friend to so many. I wish you much joy and happiness in the future. Thanks so much for sharing your story here. It really makes me smile.

(((HUGS))) Sheila

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

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3230 days

#8 posted 10-13-2012 08:35 PM

yes a little bittersweet moment :-)
but with a very good memmery of having learned 5-6 children to handle a saw
and cut straight with them beside now I know 8-10 can use a rasp so it sings :-)
I gess they soon have catch the idea of leting the tool do the work for them
and not try to push the thrugh in a rush as if they compeat each other


View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9237 posts in 3035 days

#9 posted 10-13-2012 08:42 PM

Teaching them is something that they will keep with them all their lives. I am sure they will always have good memories of you. :)


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

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3230 days

#10 posted 10-13-2012 08:51 PM

thanks Sheila … one more good memmery of the time
they got one lifelong skill … knowing how it is to have succes with what you do :-)

have a great evening

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9237 posts in 3035 days

#11 posted 10-13-2012 08:55 PM

You know, Dennis – I still remember a neighbor that lived by my grandma’s house in Chicago. Her name was Mrs. Kuba and during one summer she taught me to embroider while sitting on her porch. I was about 8 years old then, and I can still picture sitting with her on the porch of her home. She gave me old tea towels to practice on and had iron on designs. All these years later, I still remember her kindness and patience. I am sure that is how those children feel about you. :)


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

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