Thursday, March 27, 2008

Maybe, This Stuff Works...

Just about five years ago, I started down the path of playing with polymer clay, and not long after, learning everything I could about the business of being in craft. You might think that someone with an MBA, would not need to learn much. But I have never in my life presumed expertise. And, after working in so many industries in the past, I knew I would have to learn what made the business of craft tick.

What have I learned in the last five years? LOTS! Some things the hard way, some the traditional way. But I certainly know more now than I did then. I'll try to summarize a few of those lessons here,

1. Doing matters. In the end, without action, it is nothing. Talk truly is cheap. Acting takes guts and often funds. But without taking action of some sort, nothing happens. And even when things go wrong....there is always an opportunity to learn, or to gain experience. Nothing has ever been a complete waste of my time. A few things came close. But I never came close to making those mistakes again.

2. The most successful are those who are usually just plugging away. You seldom see them complaining about much. Not because they are successful, and have nothing to complain about. No. It seems to me, that more often it is because they see little is gained from the complaint.

Complaining about ignorant or irritating customers, wholesale or retail, seldom does much except allow you to spend more time in a time drain. Complaining about artists who rip off others seldom is a well-spring for creativity. Complaining about how lousy the market is does not help you find new customers.

The successful are not Pollyannas. If anything they are hyper-realists. They realize that the only thing that is going to get them closer to their goals, whatever they might be is themselves. And no amount of complaining ever moved anyone forward. Usually it keeps them firmly planted in place as the rest of the world moves forward.

3. Perfectionism can be a crutch. It can be a way to avoid trying. It can be an excuse for item number 1. Good enough really is good enough. Don't get me wrong, craftsmanship matters. But, there is a line. Cross that line and you will never have anything leave your studio, and you will never be able re-coupe your investment in time if you try to sell your work.

4. Craftsmanship develops best in volume. Make something over and over and over again, and you will learn it and understand it in ways that are not possible in the first, the fifth, or possibly even the 100th piece.

5. Pricing never ever gets easy. You just reach a point of peace. You know you are covering your costs. You know your work will sell at a price. You are not selling it faster than you can make it. An equilibrium of sorts is reached, but it never maintains itself indefinitely.

6. Packaging matters. The best work in the world is enhanced with good marketing support materials. Some sort of packaging that tells your story or presents the work to best advantage will nearly always help sell the work a bit better than without it.

7. Understanding your customer is essential. It will help you answer so many other questions about how to bring your product to market. What shows to do? Pricing. Packaging. Colors. Designs. Where to advertise or publicize.

8. Even in a good market some will fail. Likewise in a lousy market some will succeed. Our success is more often influenced by our own actions than by those of the general climate. Those things matter, but they are not the only factor.

9. The world keeps moving, and so should you. New designs. New markets. New ways of getting your work out into the market. The internet is going to play an integral role as we move forward. If you are reading this you probably already sense this, if not know it and live it. Stay still and you will be left behind.

10. Going it alone is lonely. I love time on my own. But I can't say I would ever have learned as much, or gone as far as I have so far without the company of others.....virtually or in person. That new person at the show that you have been doing for years may know just the web guru that you need. The craftsperson who seems to be able to set up his booth with his eyes closed, because he probably can....will probably have some good advice if you are willing to listen. Sharing your dreams with others may mean that when they see the opportunity that is perfect for you, you will find out. Be a friend and make a friend. Your business will benefit, and so will you.

The title? It seems as if I should be in a lull right now. The economy is faltering. I had a large order with a catalog company cancelled. And yet, I am working like crazy. Orders are coming in. Opportunities dropping in my lap.

Why? Luck, perhaps. But maybe because I am working to stay focused on these essentials. I don't know. But I do know that the more I do that is alignment with the things I profess here, the more success comes my way. I get it wrong, like anyone. But I allow myself the error, and move forward. I hope that you can do the same with your business, and that it brings you the same satisfaction and success. I am looking forward to the lessons that the next five years will bring.


tomoko said...

I cannot agree with you more!
Insightful post as always.
Thank you.

Judy said...

thanks Tomoko!

Seth Savarick said...

Amen Sister!!!!! you said so much right in that post! Thanks for you insights.


Judy said...

Thank you Seth!

Beth said...

Great post! I took your class at Synergy and also really enjoyed that. You have a very common sense way of approaching things.

Judy said...

Thanks Beth! I had fun teaching that class. And common sense is usually the best sense, isn't it?