We made it to ten whole years!
Having made it to a decade of running a high street shop, I feel blessed and lucky to still be here after everything 2020 has thrown at us. At the same time I know that I created my own luck by working exceptionally hard, as any business owner will understand. Here are seven things I've learned from having my beautiful shop.
1. It doesn't feel easier.
Having had Meticulous Ink for ten years you would think that feeling of 'I've got so much to do!' would have smoothed out a bit. I'm sorry to disappoint you, but it hasn't! There is literally always something to do, and more often than not it still feels like a super fresh and young venture. Much like the laundry is never ever complete - even if the basket is empty of dirty clothes, what about the ones you are wearing? Such is running a shop. There is always more to do, things to improve, tweaks to the website, cleaning the shop, rearranging the products, filling the shelves, purchasing new product, worrying about making money, organising staff, the list goes on and on. There is always more to learn and more to do. Once you figure out one aspect of the business something else sneaks up to surprise you. This could be seen negatively or positively - on the one hand the hard work goes on and on, on the other hand, it never gets boring, as there is always something new to do and learn.
2. Remember the OGs.
Now that we've been open for a decade I've gotten to know quite a few of our regular customers. They read our newsletters, follow on social media, or pop into the shop for a peruse every now and then. It can be easy to concentrate all your efforts on finding new customers and getting new followers, which of course is important. However, those that already know and love your store are already there within your reach, ready to purchase more lovely items in support of who you are. If you are designing or purchasing new product for your store remember the Original Gangsters in your customers and think about some things that could appeal to them.
3. Looking at the numbers is REALLY important.
I absolutely LOVE what I do. I love having a shop and choosing what goes on the shelves. I love designing new things and printing them on the presses, hoping that people will love them too. However, if you are doing all this hard work and are not making money to sustain yourself and your team, then it really is not a business. In the most basic and obvious sense, if you aren't taking in more money than you are spending something needs to change, as that is totally unsustainable. Check your figures, get to know your accountant and ask them questions, compare this month to last month, this year to last year, and plan ahead to ensure you have enough cash flow for quieter periods.
4. Selling things you like is fun!
Being a fully fledged stationery nerd I get VERY enthusiastic over discovering that a pen I like has different refill options, the specific shade of brown in a particular ink, or the way the dots are in a notebook. I also find it hard to contain my excitement at discovering such things. It makes it so easy to be able to talk about these items, as I genuinely want to share the thing I've discovered with another person that I can only assume with love the thing with as much enthusiasm as I do. It means I don't need to be "sales-y", and instead can talk about the things I really, reeeally like.
5. Take the L - say you are sorry.
I know it's hard to believe, but it won't always be a bed of roses.There are going to be times when you make a mistake or drop the ball, as it were. When those moments inevitably happen - hopefully on a rare occasion - take the loss. Accepting that you are the boss, and at the end of the chain of command means if something does go wrong you are responsible. Did a staff member do a whoops? Well, you hired them. Having the courage to take a breath, be kind, and apologise really makes a big difference to customers and staff alike. Often that acknowledgement can dissipate any negative feelings around an issue much faster, which makes it much easier to resolve a problem and find a solution in a positive way.
6. Staff before customers.
Creating a great atmosphere within your team makes such a big difference to your environment, and can also impact your sales. If your team are happy then it definitely shows and makes it easy to create a lovely atmosphere for your customers. Little things make a big difference - go for random pizza, get a bag of sweets for the team to share, and get the nice tea bags for the kitchen.
7. Remember to do your favourite thing.
There are so many things that need to get done when running a shop, and keeping on top of the enormous list of tasks is a task in itself. With so many things to do it can be easy to get swamped in the urgent jobs rather than the important jobs. As time goes on and you might need to grow, remember to keep doing the things that you really love to do within the business. It's likely those are the important things which inspired you to begin a business of your own in the first place. For me, that important thing is creating new designs and products for the shop. I love the process of imagining something lovely or fun, and planning how to make it come to life on our printing presses. Ensuring you are doing those things you love makes all the hard work worth while.
Some things are out of your control. Now, more than ever, this lesson is true. 'Normal' has been thrown out the window and change is the name of the game. Concentrate on the things you know and have control over, even small things like what you'll have for lunch today.
If you have a shop right now then I feel your stress as the current lockdown rules come back into play. Remember, you are doing great and keep going. This moment will pass. You can do this!