For those of you who don't know I'm also a professional business consultant and qualified teacher and trainer and so from time to time I might offer some insight or tips about setting up and/or running a small business. I'll always prefix the title of such blog posts with Business Blogs so that you know to avoid these if you have no interest or to look out for them if you do. They will probably be longer than my usual blogs and might get technical or boring for some people so skip them through if they're not for you.
I wanted to talk about transitioning a business from one state to another today. This is because my business, Crafty Little Things has been in a state of transition for some months now and they have possibly been some of the most frustrating yet important and exciting months in its short life.
When you set up a business, any business whether it's a hand made craft business, window cleaning, an accountancy practice or a care company you have to have a business plan. Even if you don't need a plan to get you some start up funding you really need an idea of what you are doing, how you are going to do it, why you are doing it and who you are doing it for. You need an idea of your market and of your competition.
This is, believe it or not, all part of marketing planning (see graphic for all of the wondrous stages). A lot of people think of marketing as advertising and promotions and whilst that is a part of marketing perhaps one of the more important functions of marketing is to analyse the external and internal market and to strategise; set goals, develop vision and values, establish budgets and to identify oppportunities and threats. All of this will inform what you do and how you do it. A business plan may be as far as your business idea ever gets as it may show that your business is not going to be viable. But a business plan like the marketing planning process should be an organic document. It shouldn't be written once and then left in a cupboard it should have room for growth, change and response to market pressures. These days change can be very rapid and what was 'of the moment' the week you started your new venture may be old hat before you get into your second month. Sustainable businesses are able to shift with those changes and adapt fluidly to them.
So business should evolve and change and adapt as it becomes more successful and not just should it start to struggle. Some big names have disappeared from the high street just because they waited until they had a problem to do something about it rather than anticipating the problem and adapting to avoid it. Marketing planning, at least effective marketing planning could have saved them.
So Crafty Little Things had changed since it began, I'd changed since it began and what it was planned to be was not where it was going, it was heading in a direction all of its own. It was ready for the marketing planning process to be carried out again and a new plan, a new strategy to take it forward. I needed to review its offering and performance and digest the previous two years and have a good think about things. Besides everything else towards the end of the transition I became a Stampin' Up! demonstrator so wanted to incorporate that into Crafty Little Things website rather than run everything separate but I had to have a clear distinction between the two at the same time. So the changes that were already underway needed some more last minute tweaking.
I identified three key areas for attention:
1. Rebranding - The brand was drab and reflective of my frame of mind when I set it up in a rush. It needed to reflect my mind now, cobweb free and focused.
2. Professionalising - Systems which should have been in place and in use to aid efficiency were just not there. When it started it didn't need them but now it was struggling without them. (Lesson learned - it DID need them at the beginning, all businesses do and I knew that so kick myself now for cutting corners).
3. Space - Crafty Little Things needed a headquarters, a base where the administration could happen away from the creativity, the two functions were separate, they used up different head space and needed clear physical demarcation.
This led to a revamp of:
1. The website including building an online store
2. The social media sites
3. The work space
4. All administrative systems and documentation (ouch!)
So being me I had to have a go at doing this all.by.myself. I hadn't designed a complex website before but I wanted to learn and so I embarked on my mission and it was a steep learning curve. It sill is.
Example of me making life harder for myself: I used to have an Etsy shop and the plan was to link the Etsy shop to the website, simple right? Well yes, but then why bother with Etsy at all? They charge fees now and added to Paypal fees it cut into shallow profits and meant higher prices for customers and so I decided to revamp my online store by creating one myself... this has taken WAAAAAY longer than I anticipated but it's almost there and I'm so grateful that it has taken this long because it's better for it. Just like my website will be better for it and my social media sites will be better for it... because something that is important to realise is that transition takes time!
It just does no matter what the transition is, personal, business, physical it all takes time and can be very tough. When you're keeping something going and changing it at the same time and balancing other responsibilities, making change happen is never easy. It can't be rushed, it can't be compromised it has to be done properly when it comes to business. It's a process that just has to be gone through and if you're going through a process you may as well do the best you can while consciously in that state of flux.
That's my key message for anyone to take away from this. Never feel under pressure to rush something through to completion only to have to take it all to pieces and rebuild it again in a few weeks. That is going to slow you down not speed you up.
"If something is worth doing it's worth doing properly" as the saying goes and so if you are feeling that your business needs some tlc, give it to it and strategise in that you may be out of operation for a short while but in the whole scheme of things the changes you are making are going to see you through for a long time to come. The systems I have put in place have taken painstaking hours of work late into the night but they will sustain the business for years. The tweaks and adjustments have been frustrating but they will be worth it when I don't need to spend time trying to tweak and adjust on the go. The cost... well let's not mention the cost other than to say if I'd not done a lot of the work myself they would have been significantly higher and my knowledge would not have been enhanced.
It's taken time but I believe that Crafty Little Things will flourish once the changes are all complete and it sucks that I've had to keep putting back 'opening day' but I'm glad I have and the parts of CLT which are open for business are doing so well, I couldn't be more pleased and I just know that every miserable day I spent adjusting that deadline feeling slightly deflated will also be worth it.
As ever thanks for dropping by.
afty Little Things making money, gettilnd