I was one of those people who started their business thinking “this is soooo simple”. All I need is a few business cards, a basic website, and customers will be calling me non stop. Well, not only was I wrong, but I learned that even the best of ideas need well thought out plans.
I started Divine Kreationz ten years ago, and it was created with the idea that it would never be more than a little “money making” hobby. Just something to do on the side. Once I got into the business and fell in love with what I was doing, it became so much more. Of course, you understand, in the first years it was nothing more than a single set of pee wee mums, four or five sales, and what seemed like a million freebies. To make a long story short it worked. By 2006 we opened an online supply store (the only one online at the time), signed a contract with a major pee wee league, and started signing fundraisers. It was awesome, and then it happened………..
90 emails a day, a phone ringing off the hook and a ton of orders and only a few people to fill them. The moral to this story is I wanted success so badly I FORGOT TO PLAN FOR IT! We were so busy trying to be successful that we forgot to think about what would happen when we became a success. Who’s going to answer all of the phone calls, respond to the emails and STILL get the work done?
This was most definitely me at all times!
There are a million “start your own business” classes, but not many people talk about the keys to running a successful one. I am almost sure I know why too, because you have absolutely no time when you’re running a business. No one mentions that there is no customer service line when you’re in business. You are customer service, returns, sales, shipping and anything else that needs to be done.
My business ran at chaos level for about two years, and then I took a step back. My business was running me. I come from an IT background, and everything in IT is based on procedures and processes. It never occurred to me that my business needed the same type of structure. It was time to re- evaluate my business and see where improvements could be made. These improvements weren’t just involving the business itself, but for me personally too. Being a business owner is a lot more personal than we usually realize at first.
So I decided to break things down into two categories. Things I am good at and things I need pay someone to do. Please understand that just because I could put it into the “pay someone to do it field” didn’t mean that, at the time, I could afford it. What it did do was allow me to take the time to create goals and to plan to move toward that. Most of us are really good at our craft but that doesn’t mean I am a guru at shipping, accounting or organization. Which is exactly the conclusion I came to, when I started putting some thought into this. Someone else needed to do those things for me, so that I could be better spent doing what makes the money.
I did, at this point, also take inventory of the things I was used to as well. The emails, the phone calls, all of that needed tweaking as well. If I was going to focus on the hard stuff then the easy needed to get easier. This is the point where I made a list of things I could do better. A list of all the things I know how to do pretty well but didn’t have enough time to do as well as I would have liked.
Emails – at anywhere from 50 to 90 emails a day on average, its hard to keep up. You also need to be there for your customers. When you operate a business online, email is your customers’ primary method of contact. Not to mention most people’s preference.
Here are some of the tools and ideas I used to get things under control.
1. Outlook – I know this seems like an odd tool to note but a lot of people are still using webmail like Gmail or Yahoo. These tools don’t allow for Rules which are my life saver.
- Rules – in outlook this feature allows me to split emails into folders without EVER having to touch my inbox. You can set rules from specific senders, create rules for vendors assign and assign emails to folders. click on the link below for “How to’s” on how to create rules from outlook.
- Out of Office Replies – when I am in the office or working and cannot answer, my auto replies do.
- Flags – Flags allow you to mark things for follow up(and to remind yourself when you need to follow up).
- Calendar – You can attach emails to dates, set even more descriptive reminders, and the list goes on and on.
This was, and is, one of my most valuable customer service tools. I know what you’re thinking though. Its too expensive. Well not anymore. You can do MS Office 365 with Outlook for as little as $12.50 a month. In my line of business, missing an email from a customer can easily loose me upwards of $150.00 so its more than worth it. It also provides you with 25GB of cloud space (space to store things online) and all the other office apps as well. For legal purposes I need to say I am not affiliated with Microsoft or Office 365. These are just tools that we find save our lives more often than not.
So, as we all know, social marketing is one of the most time consuming things to do as much as we should all be doing it. For me remembering every day to take time to post to my customers on several mediums was just plain difficult and took up time I didn’t really have. You have all heard me rave about Fanchimp but it truly takes out some of the guess work for folks who use social media as a tool. It allows for customized posts and helps with creating links from info you select as well. It does this all day for you without you having to touch Facebook or Twitter. I love it.
Here again is the legal part where I state that I have no affiliation whatsoever with this company, its just a tool I use and love.
2. Fanchimp – Most of you that have read my blog have heard me speak ions and ions about Fanchimp. I absolutely adore this product. It takes a lot of the hassle out of social networking today. We want to keep our customers informed and engaged, and this tool allows you to do so by building your own program you want to deliver via Twitter and Facebook. Any reader who bothers with social media at all knows how time consuming it is to have to try to spend 2-3 times a day engaging your viewers. Setting Fanchimp up to work for you successfully will take about an hour, one day a week to setup and organize.
Most of us are home based businesses. So you all know how tough it can be to continue loving what you do while your home life is all mixed up in it.
3. A dedicated work space – I know this sounds odd, but a lot of us work from home. We have craft spaces or kitchen spaces or just plain wherever we could find room to work spaces. I have worked in my own home for probably 70 percent of the time I have owned this company, and, honestly, I had no choice.
I know some of you don’t have a choice either, but if you can, try to make a space that is just for working. Work Corner, work closet, work room. Sometimes as business owners running full time its easy to forget how to love your craft. Mixed in between the kitchen, tonight’s dinner and the kids toys, we forget why we are doing what we are doing. Having a dedicated space can allow you time to bond with your craft. I know it sounds crazy but when I spend time alone with my craft it helps me process a lot of what is going on within the business. I have time to think things out and focus for just a moment on the craft I love, all by itself. I often feel rejuvenated, and it gives me a boost to just keep going.
4. You time – As small business owners, it takes a lot of work to stay afloat, to stay relevant and to keep your business in front of your customers. We have to remember at all times to take a moment and reinvest some of that energy into ourselves. As the makers, crafters, artisans or whatever you call yourself, refueling is needed. You can’t ignore it.
- Take an hour a day or a day a week to gather your thoughts and focus on what brought you here in the first place.
- Leave it all behind for a moment. This is instrumental in staying sane. You have to walk away sometimes. This is why even the smallest of dedicated spaces is important so you can close the door or just leave the area.
- Pamper yourself with anything that makes you feel special.
- Never forget how important the self is in self employed!
I know that looking at this up front, you are probably like “Yeah Right”, but this is something I know from experience. It’s hard to have everyone depend on your for everything. This is even more reason to take time to yourself. Find moments to meditate, to breathe, anything at all that allows you a moment to re-focus. This will make you more profitable as a business, as without you, there really isn’t a business at all, right? So take this as seriously as you take your taxes, as self perseveration is imperative to keeping your business successful.
All of these ideas can be a work in progress. Maybe only one of these things is an issue for you, or maybe it’s all of them. That is totally normal. Pick your battles one at a time, and try to take baby steps to bring things to order. A lot of these things are daily battles for DK. I still struggle to remember to eat properly during peak season and to walk away. First thought when you walk away is about everything you COULD be doing, but I’ve learned that comes at a cost. So now I still attend Yoga, take breaks and just step outside. I even managed to set Football Sunday’s aside for just reading emails. It makes a difference in who you are as a person and as a good healthy business owner.
In Part 2 of this issue, we will discuss all the things we don’t do well. We will cover some shipping tools, some awesome accounting ideas and the ever eluding organization. I am sure we all know how aggravating it can be to buy something 5 times just because you cant find it!
As always contact email us anytime. Join our Facebook group (click link up top or search Facebook for TGG) for small biz discussions. I look forward to hearing from you. We are always accepting new ideas for blogging!
Till next time crafters!
The Glitter Gazette