Of Lines, Ladybirds and Circles
Updated: Sep 15, 2021
This might sound like the strangest of blog titles for anything to do with jewellery or business, and it certainly isn’t going to do my Google ranking any favours. But never mind, I think it’s appropriate. I was thinking about the path my jewellery business might follow, as it goes from nothing to fledgling to wherever it ends up. I started drawing the path, and it reminded me of an insect. The only insects I can tolerate are ladybirds and butterflies, so I decided to go with the ladybird idea, and ended up with the diagram below. Rather childish, I know, but I didn’t want it to look too corporate.
When I first started Halo, I was at the left side of the straight line. From then on, until pretty much now, I had a linear path to follow. There were a zillion things I needed to do to get the business off the ground. I’ve listed some of them on the long horizontal line. For example, I couldn’t do anything until I had designed a product range. I couldn’t photograph products for my website unless the products were made. I couldn’t put the products on my website until my website existed. And I couldn’t ask anyone to buy from my website until the website had a shop. See what I mean?
In essence I had a long, fairly sequential to-do list that needed to be completed. Some of the tasks such as setting up bank accounts or registering the business would be one-offs. Others, such as photographing items and adding them to the shop would be tasks that would need to be repeated periodically. Regardless, I would still need them to be done before I could say I had a business up and running.
Once those were done, I reached the ladybird. That’s just about where I am today. As you can see, each leg of the ladybird represents an area of the business. And I believe that every business, no matter how big or small, needs systems and processes for it to be sustainable. Without processes and systems, a business will find it difficult to grow, impossible to hire staff and prone to making mistakes.
Imagine for a minute that I do only custom-made jewellery. You might argue that since each item is a one-off, there will be no standard process. But whatever the item, I would have to understand what the customer wanted, mutually agree a doable design, make the item, deliver it and flag it as completed when I receive payment. That’s an order management process that I would need to follow for every customer, regardless of what I was making for them. I would flesh that out a bit, and put that under Operational processes.
So right now, Halo is at the stage where I’m building these processes. I realised over the run up to Christmas that I needed to follow a bunch of steps for each order. That way, I wouldn’t have to think ‘what are all the things I need to do?’ every time I got a new order.
Now I have a 12 step process stuck on my wall, which I follow every time an order comes along. It helps me avoid silly mistakes like packaging up three orders at once, and then not being able to tell what’s in each package. As I wrote the process, I realised that making the jewellery was just one element of processing an order. Clearly it was a critical element, but it was only one element nonetheless.
Each leg of my ladybird will have its own processes, whether they are money related, operational, creative or anything else. They won’t be anything fancy, and may be just a spreadsheet or even some notes in a notebook. But they’ll give me a good foundation to build on.
So let’s say I’ve finished my start-up activities along the straight line, and I’ve set up processes for each of the ladybird’s legs. I’m all done, right? But that’s what’s so fantastic about business. No business is ever ‘done’. There’s always scope for improvement, innovation, diversification and reinvention; just look at IBM, which has so masterfully reinvented itself.
At this stage, I should only focus on improvement, and this is where the green circles on the ladybird’s legs come into the picture. They represent the incremental changes in each area that will stop the business from stagnating.
I need to monitor what’s happening in each area, analyse the results, and make changes where needed. These monitor--> analyse--> improve activities are circular in nature; they need to be repeated over and over again, and should be done for each of the ladybird’s legs. What I've described today is basically how I see my business unfolding; I’m going from creating a business, to building a business, to running it. I’m going from linear processes to circular ones.
Let me hasten to add that you probably won’t find what I’ve written in any business textbooks. Nor am I suggesting that others should build their businesses this way. What I've written is simply an unacademic, pragmatic approach towards what shape my business lifecycle might take. I have no formal business training, and I doubt if any MBA textbooks would talk childishly about ladybirds. Besides, my own business is in its infancy so I haven’t earned the right to be an authority. Only time and success can give me that authority. I wish I could look into the future to see if that actually ever happens.
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