First Birthday Ruminations
Updated: Jul 7
Yes, that’s right! Halo turned one a couple of months ago, and a professional photo-shoot was a present from Halo to itself. And this is my favourite image from the photo-shoot. Isn't it lovely? I think the photographer has done a super job.
The photo-shoot was in Norwich, which is about a two hour drive from where I live. On the way back, the radio started behaving strangely, so I had to switch it off. After entertaining myself with some godawful singing for a while, I fell silent. Inevitably my thoughts turned to my experiences in Halo's first year, and my ruminations led to this post. Don't worry, it's not a ra-ra-ra post full of pats on my own back. In fact, if anything, it has some rather sobering thoughts.
It’s hard work!
I knew this, but I didn’t know quite how much! There are the fun bits – the designing, the making, the order processing, the thrill of getting an order or a great review and so on and so forth. But even these take work. Designs don’t just happen. They have to be drawn, measured, prototyped and tested. The making takes time, especially if it’s a new item.
Even something simple such as processing an order has about a dozen little steps. Being a bit obsessive about details, I end up tying the bow about three times before I'm finally satisfied. An ex-boss taught me that although the strategy is what defines the details, it's the details that create the whole. So, to me, silly little details like tying the bow well become important.
And then there are the not so fun bits – the pricing, the photography, the endless ‘need’ to be seen on social media. So all in all, there’s a lot to do and never enough time to do it.
I’m very lucky. Outside of my jewellery studio, I have a family I can count on to chat to, squabble with and discuss the twists and turns in whatever Netflix series we may be watching. I’m also lucky that I’m an introvert, so being alone is my thing. Designing, making, website maintenance, blogging, photography - these are all solo tasks, and they suit me to a T. But not everyone is like me.
I was at a networking event where we were discussing what it was like working on our own, and one of the attendees owned up to coming to networking events not to network from a business perspective, but just so that he could speak to someone. I can’t imagine what being an extroverted solo-preneur must be like. Imagine getting your ideas, your energy and your greatest buzz by being with others, and yet your work is such that it mostly has to be done in isolation. Poor man - I wonder how he's getting on.
If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
I’d often been told this, but hadn’t thought too hard about it. And I think there are two surprises here. The first is how much you can get if you do ask. I’ve got business advice, magazine coverage, collaborations, a radio interview and all sorts of things I hadn’t ever thought I’d be able to get, simply because I asked. The second surprise is myself – I can’t believe I had the audacity to ask in the first place.
Initially I was horribly nervous, thinking I would be rejected time and time again. And then I thought about it and realised what I should have long ago - that fear of rejection is a human trait; it’s not special to me. Find me a person who said “I got rejected today, and I just loved it!”
Now that I know it’s not me who fears it, nor is it this terrible thing that only happens to me, in the future all I need to do is to make sure that the approaches I make are the right ones. I’m not heading off to big names like Forbes or The Times anytime soon, but I'd go as far as saying that if every offer I make is being accepted, I'm aiming too low.
It’s a lot like gardening.
“What on earth does that mean?” I hear you ask. We all know it’s easier to mow the lawn twice a month than it is to mow it once in three months - and it's better for the lawn too. And in that sense, running a business is no different. It’s much better to take small steps every day than to take a huge leap once in a while.
I know I have to keep going at it, even when I fail or see no results. Why? Because the most important thing in moving a business forward is getting sufficient and accurate data about what works and what doesn't. And every failure, every success, every no response is a piece of data.
For example, I know how many people have read each of my emails. This gives me a load of information about which subject titles work, which parts of my email list are most engaged and so on. But how would I know this if I didn't send any emails out? I can only get enough data if I take enough steps. But my goodness it takes a lot of discipline to take those small steps regularly.
It doesn’t get easier.
Halo did well in its first year. It made a small profit, and the donation that Halo made to Maher, its chosen charity, will help 15 disadvantaged girls with their education. I was ecstatic! I’d also done a number of things which didn’t contribute directly to the bottom line, but which I thought would stand me in good stead. So I expected myself to enter the second year with confidence and optimism.
In reality I’ve been plagued by doubts. What if things change? With lockdown easing, I’ve already seen a drop in visitors to my website. What if the first year was just a fluke? What if this year's donation has to be less than last year’s? What if? What if? What if?
And that’s the ultimate reality of it. If you do well, you wonder if the coming year will be as good. If you don’t do well, you wonder about the future anyway. I've spoken to businesses that have been running for fifteen years or more, and they still have similar thoughts every single year.
But here’s the thing. The past is gone. All I can do is learn from it. The future isn’t here yet – yes, I can and absolutely must plan. But no amount of foresight would have made me plan for Covid-19. Until I can change the past or control the future, all I have to work with is the present. And while I may change a few things here and there, my principles will remain the same; hard work, good product, great service and wholehearted commitment. Roll on Year Two! I’m ready for you.
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