As a new business, I’m always seeking advice from those who have more experience at running a business than I have. The problem with this of course is that there’s no one way to run a business, and businesses vary hugely not only in what they do and how they do it, but also in what drives them. So unsurprisingly, the business world is rife with conflicting advice. Uncertainty about one particular conflicting view caused me to sit on the fence for a while, and that’s what I want to chat to you about today.
I was told quite early on, that if I want to turn my hobby into a business, I needed to be ‘professional’. I needed to put aside my emotions when I ran the business. It was no longer about what I liked or what I wanted to do. It was all about serving the customer well, and meeting customers’ needs. This made perfect sense to me. The advice sounded both familiar and sound.
So I started working on that basis, and tried to take a slightly more detached approach. I loved most of my designs, but I also designed a few items, which, even though they worked well on paper, didn’t appeal to me personally. I thought this was okay, because I was serving others, not myself. I didn’t have to love everything I designed. But read on for the real story.
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m an avid podcast listener and networker. So while I was heeding the advice of acting ‘professionally’, I was also repeatedly being told that since I was running a small business, my passion and enthusiasm for Halo’s products and purpose would come across in what I said, whether I realised it or not. It would even come across while writing, whether it was a blog post, a social media post or anything else.
Put these two pieces of advice together, and you can see how I have a conflict on my hands. If I behave in a totally businesslike manner, and take the emotion out of what I’m doing, I’m left with some designs that I might feel indifferent towards. And of course this is going to come through in how I talk about them or write about them. Nonetheless, I tried to follow both pieces of advice. Because I couldn’t choose, I sat on the fence.
This was still in the early days of Halo. I had no history, and no information to know which approach was right. Now, with the passage of time and some sales data under my belt, I can actually see what works and what doesn’t. And guess what? Every single one of the items you see on my bestsellers page is a piece that I absolutely love. I loved designing them, I’m lost for hours in making them, shining them and making sure that everything about each piece is exactly as I want it to be. And this must be coming across in some way when I talk about them.
My number one bestseller, and one I simply love making
So I have my answer. No longer will I be designing items simply because they complete a collection, fit a mould or ‘need’ to be designed. In fact I’ve now removed any items that I felt indifferent towards or didn’t particularly enjoy designing or making. This means I can talk clearly and with genuine enthusiasm about every product that’s there, whether I’m talking about how difficult it is to make, how I love shining it, or describing the processes I use.
Designing even the simplest piece of jewellery is ultimately a creative process. It’s a process where the heart needs to be engaged to add meaning and aesthetic appeal to the piece, as much as the head needs to be engaged to ensure that the piece hangs correctly, isn’t too heavy or whatever the physics of that particular piece might be.
Having only ever worked with numbers, data and project plans in large organisations, I had always found it easy to be professional without needing to be too involved emotionally. But now I know that just because my heart is engaged in what I do, it doesn’t mean that my head isn’t. Nor does it mean that if my head is engaged, my heart shouldn’t be. That, in essence, is the difference between a creative business and any other.
I now know that professionalism and passion aren’t mutually exclusive. Professionalism isn’t about taking the heart and soul out of what I’m doing. It’s about everything that goes around that heart and soul; like good workmanship; sound operational processes; keeping my word; not selling a piece I’m not happy with. I no longer need to sit on the fence wondering which piece of advice is more appropriate. I now know that I can simply knock the fence down and embrace both.
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