“The only time you should look back is to see how far you've come.”
I’m already excited to start tackling my list of goals for 2020, some are small and some are pretty ambitious. But most of them stem from experiences and lessons learned from this past year. So, in honor of this year coming to a close, I want to share 7 lessons I learned in 2019 that I’ll be taking with me into 2020!
This is a lesson I seem to keep learning (or not learning, as it repeats itself!) I’ve been lucky to have talented business partners I like and hard-working employees I trust. Unfortunately, the kind of work, love, and passion that a new business needs to thrive can only come from the founder.
When I decided to move to Seattle to start the next chapter in my relationship, I still had my business based in Dallas. I was confident that between traveling and doing everything online, I’d be able to make it work. And for a while, it did! But when a team member left suddenly, the quality of our customer service declined - something I am absolutely NOT ok with. So I took the leap and moved the company here to maintain the level of quality it needs to succeed. What I learned is that unless you've got the money to pay for a good manager, you've got to be all in else there will be holes and issues that aren't detectable hundreds of miles away.
2. Public Speaking isn’t so bad after all
I used to get extra nervous about public speaking, my palms would get sweaty and my mind would stop working. I wasn’t sure if this was for me until one of my mentors told me that I should think about public speaking as though I’m serving my audience - that it shouldn’t be about me and my self-image. I took this advice and it turned things around for me! So much so that I’ve started to enjoy myself, and I definitely want to do more of them going forward
My speech at the Girl Cave event broke down barriers for me in so many ways. One-on-one small mentoring sessions have never been an issue for me and my volunteer work with Attitudes & Attire has given to me as much as to the women I’m there to mentor. I’ve been honored and flattered by folks who’ve reached out to me for help and guidance or even just to review their business plans. So, for 2020, not only will I try to sign up for more public speaking events, I am going to start my own mentoring group for aspiring entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs who want to apply practical techniques in their business to GSD. What’s GSD? More on that soon!
3. Pop-Ups Hits and Misses
We did so well at our first pop up last year I couldn’t wait to sign us up for every one we could find. We learned pretty quickly that not all events are alike. It’s hard to know ahead of time what you’re walking into - if those attending are your target audience, if the weather is agreeable, if you brought the right products. You don’t know the kind of space that will be reserved for you...or if spaces are even reserved at all! We learned to always be prepared and adjust accordingly, and we learned a lot from our fellow vendors. Our sales space became more creative, interactive and aesthetically pleasing to attract passing customers. But if there aren’t many people attending an event, there’s not a lot to be done! But one thing we know for sure, if you can’t find the event anywhere on Social Media, the coordinator is most likely not marketing. That’s a big red flag that your pop up probably won’t be profitable, and we had some we didn’t break even. Also, be sure to ask about their refund policies. If they don’t offer refunds, then you may not want to work with them. What we did gain from this though, was brand awareness. Although we didn’t make a ton of money from these pop-ups, there have been residual sales from them and people in those areas have become familiar with our brand. We’re taking these lessons learned into 2020 and into the Seattle market!
Evil might be a strong word, but it definitely has been a challenging beast to tame. Trying to communicate our brand for our social following seems so easy in theory. Our visuals got an upgrade and we debuted so many new designs that we had a ton of new creative content to post and share. But the more curating and tweaking we made to our feed, the less engagement and more unfollows we had! Looking over the analytics from this year, I realized that “over-curated” wasn’t what people connected to. So this year, we’re going to loosen the reigns a bit, and focus on being more organic, engaging and raw. Hopefully people following along will enjoy seeing more behind the scenes content!
5. Size doesn’t really matter
The goal of any business is to grow and thrive (and make a profit!) This year, our team grew to 6 awesome women with different skills that really contributed to defining the brand allowed us to explore different avenues in business. Our photographer took our visuals to a new level, our social media posts got an upgrade, and we participated in a ton of pop-ups. It was a really busy year, but in the end, for us and for where the business is right now, it wasn’t sustainable. Flash and fun are great, but right now we’re focusing on quality products and great customer service.
6. Pick a lane
As the team changed and grew this year, I learned a lot about how to assign tasks based on individual skills and preferences. With a team of part-time women from all over (sometimes 4 time zones…) and a giant “to do” pile, it matters how tasks are managed. My management style is still evolving, but I like to focus on employees’ strengths through empowerment. We’ve done some shuffling of tasks as preferences and abilities become more obvious, and a lot of times my team will coordinate on their own to get things done. When the goal is a quality finished product, I want to leave space for them to be creative, learn on their own, and have accountability for their work. Once we figured out who belongs in what lanes, we became a more efficient team that knows how we can lean on each other’s strengths. Going into 2020, I’m going to challenge myself and my team up our game and master our crafts.
7. Work and play with purpose
I love working on the go. Having wifi on airplanes means I have more productive time, and the internet everywhere means I can work anywhere. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should. I wrote a whole blog about trying to work while on a vacation with my girlfriends, and it was just too much. Between the time difference and all the fun activities, I wasn’t able to find any really good time to be productive and I couldn’t disengage my mind from deadlines and assignments. Unplugging is a challenge for me, but for the sake of my friendships and sanity, vacation time needs to remain sacred. So this means to leave work at work and take some much-needed downtime when it’s time.
Despite these setbacks, I feel like we’ve come a long way for our 2nd year in business. I started out with zero knowledge of e-commerce retail, no knowledge of the printing business and only dabbled in Adobe product suites. I - we, the team, had to learn as we grow. Sure, there were setbacks...but more importantly, it was full of lessons. And while I’m sure I’ll make mistakes moving forward, they won’t be the same ones! So here's to looking forward in 2020 - to future setbacks and success!