My time away this month has has a much bigger impact than I expected and in ways I never even thought of. Yes I took care of some personal things, yes I now have these things off my plate for the rest of the year, but the time did so much more.
Typically when I take time off, I really don't. Either I am with my other half, and he needs to work some too, and that gives me an excuse to work a bit each day, or I am by myself and I schedule out a few hours each day to work on special projects I bring with me on purpose. This time was different. I didn't have the ability to work every day and it made me take a step back from it all.
Like all retail businesses, the November-December months are usually the most crazy time of the year for me. I came off of these two months worn out and stressed. Knowing I would take time in February, I hit it hard, right after Christmas. I took no days off and worked my equivalent of double shifts for most of the month. This wore me down, dad down, and pretty much sucked the fun out of everything. One day Carlos sat me down and told me to chill out, that I am a freak when it comes to work, that I just put my head down and push through it, and that almost no one he knows can sustain that level the way I do, and he knows some pretty stubborn people.
Honestly, I ignored him. I had a goal. Double shifts every day, no days off till I had to leave and it would ALL be done. Everything. Every lip balm, every soap, everything probably until after summer shows wiped me out again. And then it happened. I ran out of space in my drying racks for soaps. It all came to a screeching halt. I could make no more soap, there was no place to put it for at least a week until the fist batches were cured enough to store in boxes. I did finish the lip balms and the lotion bars, and most of my supply ordering, and the web sites looked great thanks to Jen, but this was the start of my looking at things differently.
Once I was away I had to rely on Dad and Jen to keep the day-to-day going. Dad started working on soaps he can make by himself now, like Avocado Almond, and Oatmeal, Milk & Honey. Jen kept the orders going out, returning phone calls, book keeping, and other administrative things in line. This is the first time I stepped back and trusted to have things done when I got back. I didn't email every day, I didn't micromanage, I just let it all go. And it was all just fine. In fact, Jen did such a great job on shipping orders, it's her primary duty now.
I learned that 99.99% of my customers are awesome. They understand this is a super small, one woman operation who now just happens to get some awesome help from her dad (who one day will retire and not be replaced) and now has a super smart, flexible, loyal admin assistant. The .01% that didn't get it, who tried to bully their way into meeting to pick up an order, who called no less than 6 times demanding I get back to them ASAP because they needed a gift right now (the phone message clearly stated I wouldn't be returning calls), well, if they never order again, they won't be missed. I used to think every customer was right all the time, that every customer was gold. I am sorry, but there is no such thing as a soap emergency. Jen does not have to give up dinner with her family to meet you for your soap order because you forgot you need some while on vacation, I do not need to take time out of my personal business to call you back ASAP when both my web site and phone message says I am gone for a few weeks. Their lack of planning does not need to constitute an emergency on my end. I want to be nice to everyone, I usually go out of my way to do all I can. But sometimes there is just a great big "Hell No" and this month taught me exactly where that line is for me.
It also let me take a look at the forest, not just the trees. I get bogged down every day, dealing with this and that. But where is the path I want to be on. What do I want to accomplish and do. How do I want to get there? I got to take a long look at these things. I am putting some measures in place so I can look at my product line, see what sells best, and see what I should and shouldn't be making and bringing to shows. I am looking at what shows I do and how many I should keep. Half my shows added up only bring me 20% of my sales. What do I do about that? I am a fanatical hobbyist knitter and my wool wash is starting to take off, how can I expand that product, make it special, and advertise it to a niche market?
So I stressed about time off, about being behind. And I am, I have a lot to do. Much to catch up on, and much to accomplish. But I also have taken two steps forward, on a path I can more clearly see now. Pretty soon I will be running down that path. 2015 is going to be a great year!
I am taking a little break this month to take care of some personal concerns. This means I won't be in the workshop from February 4-22.
However, I have minions! So you won't see that much of a difference :)
Dad will be in the workshop making sure everything stays on track. He may even find a little time to make some Oatmeal, Milk, & Honey soap if I am lucky ;)
My new illustrious personal assistant, Jen, will be shipping orders (every Tuesday and Thursday), returning any phone calls, and probably labeling hundreds of lip balms in between.
I will be answering emails during this time so feel free to drop me a note, question, or concern. I may have to pass you off to Jen but I will do my best to take care of you myself.