How do you push through the toughest times?
Happy Tuesday Friends! Today’s question is one that I think as business owners we are all too familiar with - pushing through the tough times. We all have them as humans, so it is inevitable you will have them as s business owner. For me, I honestly rely on my faith to get me through the toughest times. I know that is not the answer everyone wants to hear as it is not tangible, but it is true. I started my business in prayer, asking God if this was where I needed to be. From day 1 I have felt very led by God in this business. Honestly, I grew up a Christian, but I don’t think I ever really knew what being a Christian REALLY meant until I stared this business. I have told a few people at times, but I really believe that Thimblepress® is my testimony of faith in God as my Redeemer. I feel I have been able to grasp a tree of life. Not THE tree, but A tree of life. I have felt God more present in my life over the past six years than I have any other time in my life. So when the tough times hit, because trust me they do, I lift it all up to Him. Of course I still worry and get anxious, I am only Human, but I feel like because of my faith all of that is on a much smaller level than if I didn’t have Him. As a Christian, I believe that God wants us to lift our burdens onto Him. He doesn’t want us to ache and worry. Now this is all not to say that I can’t just live willy-nilly, but I know that I am walking in the path He set for me, He will catch me when I trip and fall. If I fall, he will brace the impact and make it as painful.
Now, for all of you who want some physical strategic steps I do have those, but I wanted to share where I really leave my troubles before I got into my strategic steps. For my industry, tough times would equal slow sales. When we have slow times, what I like to do is review what all has been selling and try to see what has created those to sell but not others. I try to track those customer journeys and understand what made them click. There are also so many things you can implement such as:
• % discount off sales
• secret sales to only your email list
• free product add-on with purchase
• free shipping
• write letters to your customers and send them in the mail
• Add a free coupon for customers who sign up to your email list
• Give a coupon to customers who fill out a survey for product feedback on your website
• Write blog posts about the stories behind your product.
• Feature one of your customers and where they live on your blog and social media
• Create a Facebook live video showcasing your products
• Understand your website analytics and data
• Create an abandoned cart automation on your website to give incentive to customers to come back to their cart
• Create an affiliate program for influencers who want to share about your product. If they are taking the time to share your wonderful creations, give them something in return!
• Get social and do some live videos from your studio and chat with your customers
• Look at what products you have not posted in a while. You may think you are posting them all the time, but are you really being strategic? Plan our your social and images, so you can really spend your time engaging with you customers and community.
• Think about how your products are solving someone’s problem. If you haven’t already realized, we are not creating for ourselves, we are creating for our community of customers. This is about Them not us. Give them ways to utilize your products that you may not have thought of!
Ok… those are just a few!
I think what is most important is to be out in front of your customers. Sometimes when we are stressed, we want to hide and pretend the problem will fix itself. Instead, amp up your social engagement, be PRESENT for your customers, let them know how much you REALLY DO care.
I remind myself to be thankful for having the opportunity to pursue my dreams and with that means some good days and some bad ones. Sure, setbacks can be tough but I try my best not to dwell on them or they fester too much. Oh and Ice Cream! Lot’s and lots of Ice Cream!
We always say any problems are good problems because it means we’re actually doing this. And solving things and learning things on our own is a pretty awesome feeling. We always look for exact answers to our questions and problems and realize, again and again, there are none. We have to learn through trial and error. And error! But I tried to order one of those creepy Amazon things for our parents this Christmas, and they were sold out until January. So if AMAZON has errors, it certainly made us feel a bit better about ours.
CONNECT WITH E. FRANCES
Usually when times are tough (hello all of 2016) I work as hard and feverishly as I can. I am a worker bee by nature, so I will through myself into fixing a problem. Sometimes when things are hard I will consult with other small business owners to get insight and perspective. Usually, though, when money is tight, I look for a new opportunity to collaborate with a different brand in order to generate some new energy. Last year was a really tough one, and because my entire team worked like crazy to turn the year around, we ended up having a solid year of growth.
CONNECT WITH STACIE
Whiskey, friends, & time. Usually when things seem awful and it’s the end of the world, taking a step back helps. We like to remind ourselves that we’re putting work into the business constantly and that effort may not pay dividends right away, but it always comes back as a positive ROI (check out that super official business term).
CONNECT WITH JANE & ANDY
Remember the bigger picture. Our toughest time was the week before we went to print with our first issue. My biggest fears came to fruition not even a year into business. Some of it was hurtful, some of it was completely out of my control and some was due to a lack of knowledge.Despite all of that, having the support of my husband and remembering the bigger picture of what I was creating helped us push through. Also, in discomfort, there is always opportunity. Allow yourself to get upset, then open your eyes. You have to open your eyes to the problems, and the solutions. They are all there in front of you.
CONNECT WITH KATIE
My husband Justin is so great at encouraging me through tough times, to help me see the big picture. It generally revolves around trying to remember my most recent success and the previous tough time. I rarely have trouble with ideas or quality of my paintings, but money is a constant source of strain. Cashflow for artists can really be feast or famine some seasons, so it’s always important to become more resourceful with each pass and always remember that sometimes challenges are what push artists to do their greatest work!
CONNECT WITH GINGER
Having people to lean on makes the biggest difference in those tough times. I’m lucky enough to get to work alongside my husband, who is a constant source of support to me. My kids are also an integral part of my business - I’ve purposely included them on as many tasks as possible when they can - so they feel like the business is a part of our family. I started them working with me when they were tiny and the tasks they can do have increased with each year, whether it’s helping with packaging, taking runs to the recycling dumpster or helping to tape boxes… I think it’s good to include them. That helps when I’m feeling exhausted or stressed… they aren’t insulated from it, so they get it. I’m also a part of an amazing Mastermind group full of other amazing women who understand the struggles we all feel with running a business. We work together to generate ideas for one another, come up with solutions to problems and give each other a little extra love when we need it. Have a support group is invaluable!
CONNECT WITH TONYA
CONNECT WITH CATHERINE
I’m not going to say this business is even close to easy because it isn’t. It sounds like fun but it’s secretly grueling and terrifying all at once. I mean, that's being in business for yourself in general. I've wanted to jump ship more than a dozen times. I just keep asking myself if I would be happy doing (or, let’s face it be as good at) anything else. The answer comes up “no” every time so I’ve learned to accept the roller coaster this will always be and ride the waves with a higher level of grace each year.
CONNECT WITH KIM
Being a business owner will always give you highs and lows, When I end up in that valley, I have to remind myself of my core purpose and mission. Surrounding myself with supportive, like-minded business owners is important, but also making sure that I have people in my life who aren’t in the industry is important when you need that break. As a Christian I also rely on prayer and my faith.
CONNECT WITH JENNIFER
Oh, like right now? As I type this, I am going through the most challenging chapter of my adult life as I try to handle a complicated situation taking care of my mother from far away. I am an only child, she is a single parent and has no close family or friends. This has worn on me greatly, and I am struggling to stay afloat. In addition, the world is very f*cking scary right now. It’s hard to stay calm, happy and peaceful without plugging your ears to the world and just going LA LA LA LA IF I DON’T LISTEN IT’S NOT HAPPENING. But you can’t do that! Especially now more than ever, we have to stay awake, stay angry and speak out against injustice. AGH AND MAKE HAPPY BIRTHDAY CARDS ARE YOU KIDDING ME THE WORLD IS BURNING!?!?So, um, you know. Exercise, eat right, go for walks, take long baths, pet a dog. Fight the patriarchy. You know, just try your damnedest.
CONNECT WITH LIZ
Stop, drop, and nap. When something isn't working- I stop. I've got to be in a good mood if I want better work and better results to come. A nap or at least a few minutes sitting in the garden is usually a good place to start. The tough days are fleeting, and wouldn't keep me from doing what I love.
CONNECT WITH CAREY
It’s never easy to feel like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, but i just try to remember that every business has ebbs and flows, ups and downs. it also helps to watch shows like The Profit and Project Runway Fashion Startup. They always have great reminders of the hurdles small businesses go thru and the successes that can ultimately result from pushing through the hard times.
CONNECT WITH ROBYN
I don’t let it get to me too much. Even when I was in an accident and alone in a 3rd world hospital, my mind kept saying, you need to make it. When my father was 400 miles away and had a stroke, I just kept praying and having faith. I focus on the facts. It’s hard sometimes because we are emotional beings, but you have to think of the positive and focus on facts. As for business and in personal life, I believe in saving for tough times. I think having a safety net helps you when financial tough times happen, so it’s never too late to start saving for one.
CONNECT WITH NANCY
Various ways. I cry about it - I let myself feel however I need to feel in the moment. Shutting down feelings doesn’t help anything and hurts us in the long run. I try to get it all out and process it as needed. When I feel ready, I will either journal, reflect or talk through my thoughts with my tribe of people. Their loving but objective opinion helps me to get out of my head and allows me to move to the next phase or to figure out what to do about my experience. Also, if something is causing me some anguish, I try to walk away from it.
CONNECT WITH REINA
Over the past six years, we’ve definitely had ups and downs. I started this business before boutique party supplies really became their own category, so we’ve been faced with all sorts of competition everywhere from Etsy to even the largest big box stores. It’s impossible to compete with them, so I ask myself what can we do that’s better or different from them? In the end, it makes our business stronger.
CONNECT WITH JESSIE
CONNECT WITH STEVE & JILL
CONNECT WITH TIFFANY
CONNECT WITH MANDY
Sometime I just cry for a few days and let it pass. Tough times ALWAYS pass and when it’s happening, I try to remind myself that it will get better. I go through cycles where I just want to give up and live a simpler life, but it always seems to pass and I find a new passion for my business. So I guess my answer is…. cry!
CONNECT WITH LESLEY
CONNECT WITH CHRISTINA
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There have been days that I use to feel burnt out and overworked. Those were the days, in hindsight, that I focused too much on turning a profit, working very long hours and sacrificing time with my family. Since founding The Sketchbook Series, it has breathed new life into me and helped me see that it’s okay to change paths or transition to something else in life. For anyone struggling with that, I feel your pain and just know that you have to keep searching for the thing that brings you joy and happiness. My framework has changed since I started helping other creative’s find their voices. I’m so passionate about seeing others succeed and to help them nurture their creativity. Also, when I think about the impact we can make – that’s when I become crystal clear about what I need to do. These are exciting times and knowing how our talents can positively affect change in the world is something that pushes me forward every day. Knowing that I have a pretty great team behind me to support the mission is very powerful.
CONNECT WITH MARY
There truly is strength in numbers. Whether our team is facing an organizational challenge or one of us has a personal crisis, we’ve found that drawing on the support of our community has been invaluable. That support may be emotional or it may be physical, but either way, sharing your burden with others allows you to pull from their strength and lightens your load. There is no medal to be won for fighting alone, and admitting you are struggling is not a sign of weakness. Let in those who care about you most, and together you can push through.
CONNECT WITH ERIN
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