My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #931: Taking it Slow

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 01-12-2013 01:03 PM 1660 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 930: Advertising Part 931 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 932: New Directions »

I want to start out today by thanking everyone who sent input regarding sales and advertising on places like Ebay, Etsy and Amazon. It really helps the rest of us to hear from other people’s experiences and hear what works best for then.

While I don’t feel that there is a ‘magic formula’ that dictates whether a venue is successful or not, certainly assessing the information that others offer from their experiences helps us make our own decisions as to what may be the most helpful to our own business.

Something that I am seeing as even more important than advertising your small business is how you treat your customers once they arrive on your site or make a purchase. While getting people to your site or store is the first step, once they are there and how you treat them is definitely going to dictate whether or not they will become a regular customer and return.

From the beginning, I have run my business from the standpoint that I wanted to treat my customers how I would like to be treated. While that sounds like a simple philosophy, there are many (many) places of business that have lost that way of thinking and no longer practice that philosophy.

There are many reasons that I see this occurring. While it is easy to offer good service when your business is small and you are dealing with customers on a one to one basis, as the business grows and the customer base and sales grow, it gets increasingly difficult to spend the amount of time on each and every sale. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. It takes a conscious effort and a great deal of thought to keep things running smoothly when things are going well. And while anyone who is in business for themselves will welcome growth, they need to take the necessary steps to prepare for it and keep things running smoothly and quality levels high as their business expands. It doesn’t just happen.

A year or so ago I wrote about my bank in Chicago being taken over by one of the “big banks.” I had been a customer of the smaller neighborhood bank for over ten years and I was very happy with their personal attention and customer service. Whenever I needed anything, I was able to talk to people whom I had personally met and had developed a business relationship with, and I felt as if as a customer, no matter how small, I mattered.

Now though, whenever I have a question or if anything is amiss, I have to call a main phone number and I am thrown into a web of choices, rerouting and menus. There is no way that I can even talk to a real person without being on the phone probably anywhere from five to ten minutes and going through several choice menus. When I finally do reach a customer service representative, it is only at times when they are able to help me, and many times they send me back into the ‘system’ to be helped by another department. It is quite frustrating.

In the mean time, the bank fees continue to rise, for services that we never realized that we had or used or needed. It is a good example of where getting ‘too big’ and business growth is not a good thing. It may be good for the company, but it leaves the customers out in the cold.

I suppose that the moral of this post is that we need to be aware of our growth as a business, and take the necessary precautions to ensure that no matter how much we expand, we still offer excellent services to our customers as well as excellent products. For that reason, I think that growing slowly is far preferable to being an ‘overnight success’, as it allows us to really adjust with the changes that growth brings and learn from our experiences. I know for myself that some days I feel a bit ‘frazzled’ because there are many things that need my attention and only so many hours in the day (and I am only one person!) I try my best to give personal service to everyone, but some days it takes a bit longer to get back to people than others. And it doesn’t leave a lot of time for the other parts of the business, like designing new patterns.

I am not complaining, mind you. I truly enjoy my interactions with my customers. There are just some days when I don’t feel that my own goals here have advanced as much as I would have liked. But then I look at the big picture and I don’t think I would do things any other way.

It is going to be an interesting year ahead for our company. As we watch our company grow, I am sure that there will be many new challenges that we have to face as a result of that growth. But going slow and taking our time to make the best decisions we can, as well as listening to others around us who have successful businesses and offer advice will be an important part of our own success. And that is where places such as this are invaluable.

Thank you all for your comments and input. I am sure that not only Keith and I appreciate your thoughts, but also the many others who have their own businesses who read here as well. Together we can all help each other grow.

Have a great Saturday.

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

7 comments so far

View Bernie's profile


422 posts in 2834 days

#1 posted 01-12-2013 01:40 PM

Although I’ve never owned a business or ever plan to have one, your blogs have been educational, thank you.

Obviously you have the customer in mind and that is good. I retired from a large trucking co a few years ago and it was amazingly customer focused. Roadway Express catered to the little customers rather then the large corporations. They also treated their workforce as internal customers and I was happy to work for them. This was accomplished by letting the individual local terminals as entities of their own. Sure, there were guidelines and corporate goals, but we had local control. I was a local driver with an assigned route. I served my customers and the customers saw me as the face of Roadway and the company encouraged me to make non money decisions based on my knowledge of the customer’s needs. Life was good.

Then Roadway went by way of most the giant corporations. They merged with Yellow and became YRC. The local feeling went away and I became a driver. The customers still had great respect for me, but the company turned me into just another driver. I could no longer make my delivery and pick up decisions based on traffic, customers’ break schedules or freight type (when loading you need to think of weight distribution, fragility or strength of the boxes, freezable items etc.). It got so bad I began to hate my job. The company was laying off the younger drivers and forcing long hours on us, so after taking my last 3 weeks vacation, I called them 2 hours before returning to work and told them I was done.

My point is large does not have to be a bad thing as long as management remembers their base – both external and internal customers.

-- Bernie: It never gets hot or cold in New Hampshire, just seasonal!

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9228 posts in 2917 days

#2 posted 01-12-2013 01:55 PM

It is hard on the conscientious people most of all I think Bernie. People like yourself who don’t just look at your work as a “job”. Corporations lose that connection with their customers. It is only by a strong effort on the part of the management that those personal aspects are considered. And usually the management is far more concerned with making a profit than thinking of the ‘human’ factor of either their employees or their customers. I know it sounds cynical, but it is what it is.

Is there a point where we want to “stop” growing? I don’t know yet. There are days when I can’t get to answering emails or messages for a day or two and I wonder what will happen when we do reach a higher level of success. It is a difficult thing for someone like me to wrap my mind around.

I LIKE ‘knowing’ all my customers. But as our customer base grows and is in the thousands, it sometimes gets more and more difficult to know everyone personally.

I suppose you will all see what happens as we grow, as long as I keep up writing here. I am sure I will pull on advice from many of you who have been successful and have gone through this too. This is where we help each other.

Thank you for your story. That is just the kind of thing that I was referring to when I brought up my bank. I never want to see my own business in that situation and will do anything I can to avoid 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 Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 2853 days

#3 posted 01-12-2013 03:59 PM

Sheila I think of my customers as an extension of my
social circle. In fact over the years this has happened
several times. :) I find that some polite conversation
during the initial business transaction can build up a great
trust. My website does not get
a lot of traffic or sales for that matter. Most business is
from repeat customers that have bought on other formats
and now feel safe buying from a wee business in Scotland.
I do however acknowledge their order quickly. Several folk
have told me that they were a bit worried at first and with
my speedy communications and delivery they were glad that
they did buy from me. I also send some small gift with my orders
normally a packet of incense & a meditation CD. The response that
I get from the customers is amazing you would think it was a big
gift. On customer asked why I did not advertise the free gifts, I said
that does not give the same Wow Factor. Also once you have a
loyal customer they are the best sales force in the world.
I often get a customer that buys items for others in their group, so
I might even send a £25 product with say a £100 order. You get some
wonderful correspondence.
Like yourself I offer the back up service, advice, group info for people to
start their own groups. If I phone a customer in USA or Oz the customers
are normally so surprised that I go to that trouble. It only costs a few pennies
but does great customer care.
I love my job!

-- 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 Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9228 posts in 2917 days

#4 posted 01-12-2013 04:09 PM

That is why we have become such nice friends, Jamie. We do a lot of things the same and think the same. I love surprising customers with small extras. Many times the customers will order paper patterns and I offer to give them PDF files ‘in the mean time.’ I know when I order something that I want it soon, and I realize that some people still may want paper copies, but most accept these electronic files and are happy and surprised that I even ask. It is all about making people happy.

I often say that I wish I didn’t have to charge anything for my patterns. That really is true. I love all the things that go with the job. The friendships, the creativity and the sense of satisfaction that I get when someone likes my patterns. It really makes for a good life. I just hope I can keep that good balance so that everyone is happy.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jamie. :)


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

View Celticscroller's profile


1269 posts in 2070 days

#5 posted 01-12-2013 06:42 PM

Good morning Sheila. Great blog! A lot of companies when they expand and get bigger sometimes lose sight of what helped get them started and kept them going to become bigger, namely good customer service and treating staff well. For some companies greed takes over and their philosophy becomes bigger is better and the more profit I make the better. I believe that the companies who have succeeded are those who produce a good product, give excellent service and trust their staff to make decisions. Staff who are involved in the decision making of the business are happier doing their job and will invest in making the company a better business. I have no doubt Sheila that no matter how big your company becomes that you and Keith will continue to have a great product, excellent customer service and if you need to take on more people, your staff will have a ball working for you.
Enjoy your day. Another sunny and very frosty day here.

-- Anna, Richmond BC

View Druid's profile


1754 posts in 2792 days

#6 posted 01-12-2013 08:46 PM

Hi Sheila, I’ll just pop in 2 comments without getting into too much detail . . .
From the ”Customer’s” viewpoint, I have to mention that your service to your customer base is outstanding. The item that you sent to me back when we first started communicating was well appreciated, and I have told many woodworkers about your site and products ever since that time. Your customer ethics work well for you, just as Jamie’s work for him (have to meditate on that one Jamie). ;)
From the ”Employee’s” viewpoint . . . At a company where I used to work, a change in upper management led to a change from “customer satisfaction” to a “bottom line focus”. They implemented cost savings by replacing senior (experienced) staff with new hires at lower salaries/benefits so that they would appear more profitable. The remaining senior employees could no longer maintain their good customer relationships without risking being criticized. Employee morale went straight down, the customer satisfaction plummeted, and their competition has benefited greatly as a result. The management’s “savings” have been far outweighed by the loss of customers and business.
Your approach is by far the optimum one, and it will serve you well.

Have a great day.

-- John, British Columbia, Canada

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9228 posts in 2917 days

#7 posted 01-13-2013 12:22 PM

Thank you both for your thoughts. We really do try to do our best and help people. I just never want to lose that one to one contact with our customers and sometimes when it is busy, it gets a little overwhelming. I am sure that things will work out though. We just keep trying. :)

Have a great day, 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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