The Pivot

My Shop

I’ve decided I’m going to start talking about running my business. In my last post, I talked about my days as a corporate wonk. I used to give lots of advice, solve lots of business problems, and I worked really hard at delighting my customers and keeping my staff engaged. As a small business person, I sometimes have to remind myself of advice I’ve given, when I’m too in the weeds to see or reach out to a trusted mentor to point out what I’m missing. And maybe, just maybe some of my experiences, past and ongoing, will help or inspire you too. I’ll still talk about weddings and labels and fun stuff, but it’s all tied together.

So let me tell you about “The Pivot.”

After one year in the retail shop (with about 10 years worth of drama) I made the decision to close and forge ahead on the print business only. From a cost/benefit analysis perspective it was clear. I was spending half or more of my time staffing the shop, merchandising, looking for retail partners to sell in my shop, advertising, and talking to window shoppers. I was making 90% of my income from the custom print business, and that was suffering because I couldn’t focus. Turn-around times were longer than I would want. I found myself printing with the door locked after hours and hoping no one would see me in there so I could get the stuff done that paid the bills.

I wanted to continue my lease on a month-to-month or short term extension so I could try a different vision of the space, but the landlord wanted a long term commitment. It had to be all or nothing. When I was a partner at Haywire Letterpress, we didn’t have a retail shop, but I would be going farther “off the grid.”

But, the DATA! I used to remind clients that the data doesn’t lie. I had to listen to it and trust my gut.

But, it felt like failure. What would people think when they walked by the empty space? Would my clients still want to do business with me? Where would I meet with people? How would I attract new customers if they couldn’t see me?

January and February were tough. I had to rethink everything I was doing. My website had to shift from an invitation to visit to a sales funnel. I had to re-assure my clients. I had to keep delivering on promises. I had to respond to the inquiries of “What happened?” And I had to get over that feeling that I’d failed. I missed my downtown neighbors too, the other shop keepers that stopped by or who I visited in the course of business.

I’m glad I followed the data and my instincts. My clients stayed with me. My turn-around time for jobs is shorter because I can work when I need to work instead of having set hours and events. My time is more flexible because I don’t have to be in a physical space and keep set hours.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t ever have a retail space again. But I think that should have been step 5 or 10 instead of step #1. By decreasing my overhead, I was able to invest in stock and marketing. I’m doing more print business not less, I had a record breaking year for weddings and have expanded my offerings to include business printing like labels and tags. I’m also able to be a class mom at my kids’ school, and serve on committees that support local businesses and causes. My time has more value. All my money used to go to rent and overhead. Now, after I pay the business I pay me!

So, do you need to pivot? What’s stopping you?

FWIW, I don’t have comments turned on because of SPAM, but if you want to start a conversation, just email me or contact me through FB.