As I already tweeted or facebooked (is that even a word?) we are downsizing , and we are doing it big time. I am not saying that I was not sad (okay, yes I cried a few tears if you must know) by the huge change and pressure to downsize. We are sub-letting space(s) and moving some employees to work from home. We can actually do that you know - without sounding like we losing the battle with the Economy. I am not saying I am thrilled, but to be honest thinking smaller, meaner and leaner sounds pretty good to me these days.
When we rented our space 4 years ago we were growing in leaps and bounds and had at any night up to 8 employees in the studio working. It was very cramped and it was exhausting to manage everyone's schedules. From morning till night we had people coming in and out of our home. It wasn't their fault, heck I hired them - it was just too much for me to handle.
The Dog Days Are Over....Almost (oh and yes, yes I do LOVE that song!)
The Economy still...uh sucks, and retail is um oh well it is challenging (I am trying my best to not be negative or have a potty mouth - so work with me) to say the least. The Economists (the ones that are not totally bipartisan) claim that we will start seeing some real job growth and recovery in the summer of 2011. I figure the worst is behind us and we can only get better, right? Like I mentioned in last post - it could be worse, and right now I soooo know that. I am thankful for all I have and I am still willing to pull up my pants by the boot straps (okay what does that even mean? Stir-Up pants? Suspenders? Booty straps maybe?).
Out With the Old In With the....Not Much New
Anyway - our lease is up and we are outta here. I have actually started to get excited about scaling down and getting rid of extra baggage. I already have a pile of decorations, frames and office decor on the table in the work room just ready to throw on Craig's List. I also have a butt load...ton of inventory/samples/errors/duplicate orders to get rid of. I am thinking 65% to 75% off retail to my Facebook Fans. We won't have the space to just keep tons and tons of inventory and samples, which again is good and smart (I think).
So, while pulling a part my office space I have been doing a lot of thinking. Just ripping nails out of walls and photographing all the samples we have in our warehouse has made me think a lot about the past, and mistakes I have made. While cleaning out our space I came across some interesting items, and by interesting I mean all my notes, invoices and orders from our eight years in business. Most importantly (or most depressing) we saved them from 2005, probably the most prosperous year for Jamie's Painting & Design and the worst year for me personally.
2005....It was the Best of Times, it was the Worst of Times
So after pouring through the entire year in sales for 2005 I am able to look back with (I hope) an un-biased and rational eye. The good, the bad and the oh so ugly literally jumped off the pages at me. The orders, the notes take me right back to that year. The way we stamped each order and signed off on the inking, the ribboning and the shipping - it was so time consuming. I can see the mistakes we made and I can see the right decisions we made. I can remember what it felt like, I can recall most of that year. It was my last year of not sharing (that is code for before I started this blog) of hiding in my "in-house studio/garage" and finally realizing I was/am a really bad manager. It was a simpler time back then, or so it seemed.
The Worst of Times in 2005:
- My Living Room had popcorn and bubblewrap in one corner
- We never entertained because of our employees/business/supplies that flowed into every room
- My un-remodeled Master Bath was un-usable due to boxes and boxes of tiles stored in it
- My life was my business, and my business was my life
- I started work (and my husband also) at 6:00 a.m. and usually till well past midnight 7 days a week
- We got an order for birth certificates for triplets from a channel, but one was still-born. We refused to charge them for the 3rd birth certificate. We got a heart-wrenching thank you letter from the customer.
- My daughter was put in the hospital the middle of December because she could not breathe.
- A few days before our drop dead date Warm Biscuit Bedding sent us a 100 page fax with more than 100 missing orders, due to a malfunction in their system (good for orders - bad that we were having a hard time filling all orders).
- At least 30 plates were shipped 2 day (on our dime) and overnight (again us) to make our guaranteed Christmas deadline
- I was a bitch to everyone
- No really I was not a nice person
The Best of Times in 2005:
- Our orders were huge, people ordered Name Tiles for their daughter ISABELLA....now they order an I
- Everyone paid their bills on time
- Most companies gave us credit cards and they were never over their limits....NEVER!
- My employees made a lot of money and were paid top dollar to paint/ink our tiles
- I never had to take off my slippers to go to work
- That was the year Roy Disney ordered a tile
- We grew the business by 50% from the year earlier
- Darin (husband in case you are new) worked with me a lot - which I totally enjoyed.
- We had our first TV appearance at the un-godly hour of 6:00 a.m.......for one of our ornaments on The CBS Early Show.
- I got to work with some fabulous women, and I so looked forward to when they came into the office/studio/garage.
The Past is in The Past
I am not one to really focus or obsess on the past. I have never been that person, and I do not plan on changing. When my friends were crying because our children stopped breast feeding, or started walking & talking - I was celebrating. I approached parenthood like a project, with me checking of an invisible box when my child reached a milestone. After each big event I gave a big "Hoo Ha!" and waited for the next. I embraced change, I encouraged growth and I detested trying to hold our children back, but instead focused on moving them forward.
My business, though not as monumental or important as raising my children I have tried to come at it with the same philosophy. It is hard for me to talk with young (wait for it, I am not being evil) entrepreneurs that only came into their business within the last 2 or 3 years. It is just that being an Entrepreneur during a Recession is not like being one during the Glory Days. Yes, some things are similar - most are not. Their growth is nothing like mine was and their losses are nothing like mine are/were. Though in their defense they are probably smarter, leaner and more timid when it comes to taking risks. Even as little as their companies grow, they see the best, they are so positive - they are me from five, four or even eight years ago, an even though I do not want to go back to 2005, I wish I could talk to that me. I wish I could give the me of January of 2005 a bit of advice. And not that I have given it much thought (oh but I have), my speech would go something like this;
"Look Jamie I know that the last three years have been amazing and your business has been all that you can think of (or talk about - and trust me, your friends & family have all heard just about enough about it), but times are changing. This year is going to be your toughest yet. You will find yourself hiring a large number of employees. Please remember, with managing people comes a great responsibility. You may (will) have to acknowledge that you are not a very good manager. While we are discussing your weaknesses, I happen to know that you do not separate business from personal life very well either. Don't shoot the messenger, but this year will bring you to your knees - literally, not metaphorically. You will be forced to accept that you can not separate business and home life and let's face it your business may (well will, but I am the wiser Jamie of 2011) over-run your home life. Sales will be good or dare I say it better than ever."
"Though I ask you at what cost? I advice you to stay calm, stay sane and realize that this growth you have experienced will not keep up forever. Look at the history of our country. Lastly Jamie - try not to be so tightly wound and anal. Try really hard not to be a.....uh a bitch. You will thank me later. Also, don't be in such a hurry to move the business out of the house. Times are not as bad as you think, and you can work better/smarter/more efficient if you are willing to look at other options. Lastly I would suggest you breathe, just breathe and enjoy your success - it will not last forever."
Back to the Future of 2011
Oh how I wish like Back to the Future the Older Marty McFly could have sat me down and gave me that speech....oh wait I guess it would have been the older wiser Jamie McFly. Anyways, if anything at least I have learned and grown from my very very hard lessons. I hope I did not hurt those that worked for me. I hope that they have forgiven me for the way I was. As I look to downsize I think quite a bit about all those employees that worked with me in my garage. I look around my now empty garage and wonder what they think of those years. I may never know, but I hope they know I am sorry and I wish I had handled that year better.