Launching my own product line was a huge step. For one, I finally did it! It had been my dream for as long as I could remember, and I finally put everything else aside, invested the time and money and went for it. However, its challenged me in ways I never expected, and I’ve learned more than I bargained for… it’s been an adventure! What’s funny is that, looking back to 2007 when I launched it, I just dove in – not knowing what the hell I was doing, but not caring that I didn’t know, either… I just went for it!
A few weeks ago, while attending the Summit of Awesome in Portland, I took a great workshop led by Bridget Benton (who happens to have her Masters in *Creativity*, how great is that?), who explained the various different ways we creatives work. Based on FourSight’s Breakthrough Thinking Profile, I can now see that the part of me that dove head first into making my freelance business happen, then a few years later launched my product line (and can even be traced back to the Willo, who at 20 years old, packed all her belongings into a little car & drove out West!), is what they call being a strong “Implementer”. However, each of the four profile groups all have pros and cons, and in the workshop we discussed how the downside of working on your own in the Implementer realm, can be that you don’t quite think things through, nor have all the facts and resources necessary to take it to the next level, once you’ve got your shiny new product(s) out there. But, as I detailed out in my Time for a Change post yesterday, I was just thrilled I had made it happen, and I was ready to dive in & learn!
Now, referencing back to the Thinking Profiles, I am also a huge “Ideator.” Anyone who knows me at all knows this. I have lists and lists and LISTS of ideas. I have big visions, I’m optimistic and enthusiastic, and given the time & resources I feel like I could never be bored! (In fact, I’m always dumbfounded hearing anyone state that they are bored or have nothing to do. Really? Here, help me do some of my ideas!) However, in the past few years running WilloToons, and still taking on some Web design and Custom Illustration work for cashflow, I sadly haven’t seen a lot of my new ideas through to fruition (classic downside of the Ideator), because I’ve been so busy keeping all my plates spinning! Funny little conundrum I have with being both an Ideator and an Implementor, huh? This might be a big clue into how I run myself ragged, ya think?!
Anyway, this brings me to the biggest lesson I’ve learned out of ALL of this:
To build any great company, it takes a great TEAM.
Now this may sound simple, but let me break it down a little…
Often as a small business owner, you dive into it, as I did, with a big vision and a passion. You have a big idea, and (depending on how much of an Implementer you are on your own), you make it happen! Now, I’m even coming from the craft/artist side of it, where there’s been a rampant resurgence and respect to the notion of DIY (and the Arts and Crafts Movement)… and Here! Here! I have always been independent; haven’t worked for any company that has more than probably 30 some employees, and I grew up in a family where both my parents owned their own businesses. I wanted my own thing and I went out & made it happen! Alas, at some point, we can’t do it all ourselves.
Now, while I did hear about this whole “ask for help” and “concentrate on your strengths” thing early on, I didn’t fully listen. I couldn’t hear it. I wanted to dive in & figure it out! I’m smart, I’m independent, I’m DIY. I can do this! And I did – as you all know, and it wasn’t half bad – which is awesome. But I just can’t help see now how it could have been done better/smarter/faster/etc. (I know, I’m my own worst critic.) What’s funny is that talking to other small business owners, I hear them making this same mistake! Not that they won’t eventually get where they want to go – as I surely will, myself – but it’s amazing how you just realize that sometimes we have to do it wrong ourselves before we get it.
The thing is, I also understand why it’s really hard to find people to help you “do the rest,” in whatever that might mean for you. It can be hard to ask for help. It can be daunting to believe that other people will have the time… especially when you’re most likely knee deep in it, juggling 2000 different things running your small business, and maybe even strapped financially to boot; how could anyone else just have a bunch of free time to donate for you and your crazy ideas?
I’m actually going to tell you the big secret here, are you ready?
Believe in your ideas, get yourself out of the way and ASK. You’ll be surprised.
If you’re a small business owner or crafter reading this, please go back and read that last sentence again, and take this post to heart. If I can help anyone through learning from my experience, it’s this lesson! 🙂
Now, coming back to WilloToons, I have to say that while I was knee deep in taking the business planning class, hustlin’, launching my new organic line, traveling, speaking and selling at several events around the country – AND maintaining a steady stream of web/design/illustration client projects (oh right, and maintaining some semblance of health, combined with my rock ‘n roll lifestyle), I feel very fortunate that I had help. See, this whole idea of sticking to your strengths and asking for support wasn’t entirely lost on me… I’ve actually had a LOT! I’ve had mentors and coaches, I took classes & workshops, I hired bookkeepers and consultants, and I’ve even had interns, and hired help since Sept, 2008, when I brought on Jen as my Merchandise Manager (or as I often call her, Lifesaver). However, there’s still been WAY more to do, and coming to terms with this (as detailed in my Time for a Change post yesterday), I realized that if I actually stepped back, re-evaluated what I’ve learned about what it takes to take this business to the next level, then I would need to REALLY concentrate on my strengths and be SURE to delegate the rest. I’d need funding, maybe even an official co-founder/business partner, and I’d need to start building the TEAM that it would take to go bigger.
Concentrate on your strengths, and accept your weaknesses
So what are your key strengths? Or determine where you think you may fall in the four FourSight Thinking Profile areas to see what kind of business/creative person you are, if you don’t know already. It might actually be that you’re a super savvy business person, who loves doing research and crunching numbers, and you just wish you could think of an awesome product to launch and utilize all those skills. (Uh, call me! :p)
The bottom line is, we all have our strengths and we all have our weaknesses, and the sooner we can come to terms with them, and ACCEPT them–making no apologies or feeling embarrassed or less-than because we’re not Superhuman–the sooner your business can reach new levels of success. This might mean financial growth, or it could even mean that you actually get to sleep more than 5 hours/night, take time to eat healthier meals or spend quality time with your family on a regular basis, because you’re not trying to break your back to do it ALL. Whatever the benefit, it’s the KEY to being a healthy, balanced business owner.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of the above. What are your strengths? Has this post helped you realize the parts of your business, or job, where you can ask for support, thereby freeing you up to work more effectively? What are your fears in asking for help? Let’s talk it out. 🙂