Have you missed me? I haven't blogged since April. This is a big no-no, isn't it? Consistency is key; keep plugging away each day and you'll see results, right?
Jeff Bezos (of Amazon fame) said, "What's dangerous is not to evolve."
And I agree.
When I started Lightbox, I wanted to work with artists. And I still do. But artists don't want to work with me.
Now, before you go feeling sorry for me, or worse, think that I'm feeling sorry for myself, let me explain. And let me preface my explanation by telling you that I've been there before, so I fully understand the mindset I'm about to describe.
As an artist, you know that no one else can do what you do. The reason an artist is successful is that of their talent, their skill, their gift. Sometimes it's an inherent, God-given trait, or other times it's the result of years of education, practice, and dedication. Artists know that THE SKILL they have is the reason they get to even call themselves an artist.
But that mindset is exactly what's holding them back from creating a business that works for them, instead of a business that requires them to work. And by work, I mean sales, paperwork, inventory reconciliation, bookkeeping, marketing -- all the things we do that aren't necessarily what we WANT to do. We have to do the thing that we're good at, and because of that, some of those other things fall by the wayside.
When I worked with artists, I wanted to help them systemize their businesses so that they could make more money, hire help, gain some flexibility, and create a life they were proud of, not tired of.
But that's not what they wanted. And I don't have the heart to tell them they're wrong, because they're not. Not yet, anyway.
To evolve from a one-woman show to a small business requires that the one-woman decides she's tired of working so hard, of having to do countless small tasks to get to the part she actually likes, of having to say no to social engagements because she's the only one that can do her job. And it maybe takes the ego down just a hair when you have to swallow the bitter pill that's called "you can't do this alone," AKA "someone else could actually do this."
I remember believing with all my being that I was the only one who could make dog tags. Hand-stamping isn't dissimilar from handwriting, and no two styles are alike. If I wasn't the one to stamp, my customers would know, and they would be unhappy, and my business would fail.
It was a lonely place to be. During busy summer months, I'd get up early to go to the shop to stamp to get ahead on orders before the shop opened. I'd skip evenings out, brunches, workouts, and hikes to be at the shop to work. During the month of December, I'd turn down holiday parties and book my flight home for December 24, or the latest date I possibly could because I had to work. And I felt that it was my cross to bear because I was the only person who could do the work.
Eventually, I allowed the hammer to be pried from my cold, control-freak hands and I let someone else try to stamp. And she did GREAT. And I realized that maybe I didn't HAVE to do it all myself. And it was a tough pill to swallow because my ego was so big and so fragile at the same time. If someone else could do what I could do, did I even have value anymore?
So I took that extra time I had on my hands and started learning about business, and about systems, and trying to figure out ways to make the business run more efficiently.
And my favorite thing I found in that research is Shopify.
Now, the things I love about Shopify are too numerous to be listed in this already-too-long post, but what I've discovered recently is that it can help every business that has something to sell.
It's an all-in-one e-commerce website, point of sale system, payment processor, and inventory manager that lets you sell anywhere your customers are: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Amazon, eBay, your own website, your store, even from the trunk of your car. The sites are mobile-optimized and secure, too. And, it's easy to customize, navigate, and update.
So, I set up Hattie Rex on Shopify, and suddenly, my business was so systemized that it really didn't need me anymore. Our customers were getting order notifications, shipping notifications, and tracking information. We didn't have to manually process wholesale orders anymore. We didn't have to call customers to tell them their custom item was ready. We could sell on Instagram, and Facebook, and Amazon, and it gave us the edge to compete with the big dogs.
I'd go on vacation and return to zero emails that required my attention. At first it was a sad feeling -- Hattie doesn't need me anymore -- and my big, fragile ego was hurt again. But then I realized --- I'M FREE. So free, in fact, I haven't worked in the shop on a consistent basis for more than a year. It's a dream come true, really.
Except, I like to work. And I want to help people, especially artists and small business owners, get to that point of being able to take a vacation, or take a year off, without the business crashing and burning in their absence. And I really get excited about creating efficiency through systems.
So, in my experience, I've learned that, simplified, you need two things:
1. The ability to check your ego at the door: Not only can someone do what you're doing, but they should be doing what you're doing if you want to grow (or one day even sell) your business.
2. An operations system that lets you run your business from anywhere, without being tied to a desk, a notebook, a physical location, or paperwork. A system in which you can train your employees and know that it will be executed painlessly.
Which brings me around to my original point.
Lightbox is evolving.
I'm a big believer in saying yes to opportunities and seeing what shows up. And what has shown up involves small businesses that know they need a better sales system but don't have time to do it, or just don't want to do it.
These are businesses that are successful but have owners who know they need an upgrade. They also know that it takes time to research the different technologies, compare prices and features, pick the best program, learn how to set it up and implement it, launch it, train employees, and troubleshoot it, all while continuing to run their businesses.
And this is where Lightbox shines the light on that dark corner of business. Where we go into your basement, brush away the cobwebs, and say, "Oh shit, you have a dusty 3-ring binder and a moldy excel file back here. Let's clean that up."
It's not just a shiny new Shopify site (although you will LOVE your new Shopify site). It's a personal consultation about what your business needs. About what's holding you back from taking two weeks off, or wintering in Arizona, or opening a second location for your retail store. And then, a collaborative design process, complete with customization, app integration to suit your needs, and training for you and your employees so you aren't left in the dark once we go live.
Side effects include feeling guilty over not spending so much time at work and feeling like you forgot to do something because your system runs automatically.
So, if you or someone you know is suffering from systems inefficiency, or just needs a new website, let's chat.