Summertime Venting… a post from July 2007 that I never published

Posted in business-a-go-go, Main at 9:39 pm by carrie

okay, so it’s hot. I’m grumpy. It’s summertime now. Which in the retail world translates into slower sales and the store being a browsing destination for “getting ideas” and not quite the shopping destination. (I understand why though… we have lower inventory than usual because there isn’t a big holiday around the corner). I think Moms are starting to get overwhelmed with the kids home from school and they come here to get some much needed adult “me” time, and have an adult conversation. I have never considered myself an adult so I apologize that I may not have been that grown-up conversation you were looking for ;) But I am a good listener!

When it rains it pours and I’ve been getting bombarded by all angles and I’m slowly going insane. Poor Nathan has been so patient with me the past few days as I ditch dinner to come work on paperwork at the shop. He’s also been awesome on our nightly post office runs. I’m starting to hate being at the store. Every time that phone rings I think to myself… “What do they want… now”. That’s not a good thing.

When I feel this way, I pick up my copy of Be Our Guest, Perfecting the Art of Customer Service, by the Disney Institute. Disneyland is my retreat when I’m a big grouch, and I instantly turn that frown upside down (groan) when we get there. Disney has customer service down. I want to be like that and make people smile and leave here happy (or at least, happier)! So, please bear with me, I’m learning ;)

I guess part of my problem is that there is too much to do and I’m already dedicating my days off on top of running the store, to run the behind the scenes of the store. It’s like I work my 11-7 or 8 each day, work on things at home on Sunday, run around doing errands most of Monday and I still don’t get everything done. It’s enough to make you want to run, screaming. I thought the “startup” days of not being organized would go away, but alas, I’m still learning how to juggle this… and I’ve lost friends in the process (Which is SO hard)

*side note/tangent* Small tip… learn how to separate business from friendship/favors… otherwise, it WILL bite you, and it’s usually super petty. Another tip… get everything in writing, even if it takes you weeks longer to put together. Have it all on a form in triplicate and go over it with the person you are going to work with more than you feel is necessary. You may think something is obvious, but sometimes, scratch that, most of the times… it’s NOT obvious to both parties involved. That’s one sure fire way to lose a friend or colleague. And I have to admit, I can be hyper sensitive and when a not-so-friendly comment is made regarding how I’m running my business, I get defensive. That’s my fault, the store is an extension of me and I need to start a mantra… “I am not the store, the store is not me” until it sticks.

Sometimes, I’m scattered. Sometimes, I don’t get things done right away. Sometimes, I’m not the best communicator. I’m an artist struggling to be a bookkeeper, class scheduler, publicist, janitor, shipping and receiving manager, supplies manager, buyer, merchandiser, accountant, blogger, plumber, repairman, window cleaner, landscaper, etc and so on (whine whine whine). When someone calls and says… “May I speak with the person in charge of….”, I just cut them off and say, “That’s me!”. Now throw Christmas into the equation and I may be passed out on the floor… just ring the bell on the counter when you need me :)

I share this because some of you enjoy hearing such things. To know that running a store has its ups and downs and that you can’t be an android with a wonderful demeanor every moment. This job takes acting sometimes… even if the laundry ate your favorite sweater, you have to be here… smiling (I guess that goes with every job you would have, but here… if you are unhappy, the customer will go to another store where that person behind the counter IS happy… in all honesty, I would go somewhere else, too!). And for goodness sake, numero uno, most importantly, don’t do what I did… Have money (or a loan) set aside to hire people! I’m not quite there yet and I really wish I was. I could be out there promoting the heck out of the store, instead I’m standing behind the counter. And I do enjoy the oohs and ahhhs and pats on the back from some of the customers, and I do like to have the confidence in knowing that 90% of the time I’m the smiling face of Violets are Blue… BUT… being here… all the time… is a tad much. My wholesale line is calling me! I wish I could answer that call ;) All in due time.

So… if you own or have owned a store… what do you do to keep your sanity through the summer? I’m trying to be creative, make jewelry while I’m here, occupy my time selling on ebay… but… all I want to be doing is sipping iced tea while floating in the pool (anyone have a pool I can borrow?)

If you have any other questions about running a store, please ask! I haven’t seen much out there besides the “you go girl!” inspirational books on how to open a store… or very form-y formal books on business. There is SO much more to it, I could go on and on and on…

On the other hand, if I’m being a downer, tell me… I’ll leave this to my private blog ;) I vent a small fraction of the time (I would like to think that, please correct me if I’m wrong) and all the other posts are (hopefully) love letters to the store… because in all honesty, I do… LOVE it :)

A New Facebook Page

Posted in business-a-go-go, Main at 9:10 pm by carrie

I spent some time with a brick and mortar boutique owner the other day. She was frustrated with some things going on in the store and wasn’t sure how to address them, other than going to a therapist. I listened to her articulate her problems and feelings and oh boy, did it all sound familiar. A flood of memories came back to me as I attempted to give her advice. And I honestly thought it was good advice, too. It all sounded so easy 6 years after closing my own store. That buffer of time had also allowed me to remove so much of that emotion that used to overwhelm and paralyze me, too.

I read my old blog posts and cringe with embarrassment. I’ve never been the best at writing, but those passages made it wildly obvious that I didn’t know what I was doing with writing or running a store.

I started this blog in 2006 to talk about owning a store, to share my merchandising pictures and for general marketing purposes. It quickly turned into a venue to vent and clearly convey to the world that I was lost, but trying to have sense of humor about it (and to show them that I liked using winky faces liberally). If you’d like to read those passages, click on the business-a-go-go category on the right.

Opening, managing and running a store is an art. An exhausting, rewarding, ever-changing art. I’ve worked retail for years and put my wares into craft fairs and swap meets, but never owned a physical store. There’s the paperwork, the initial setup, the buying, the merchandising, the self evaluations, the unpacking, the bill paying, the form filling, the law abiding, the shoplifting, the overwhelming amounts of cardboard, the surprises, more surprises, the cleaning… but the emotional. Nobody tells you about the emotional. Only the owners know about this. And in 2006, I finally got to know what it was like to be a brick and mortar owner, with those dreaded huge emotions.

I’m not sure if the emotions come from realizing that your work is never done, or you could always do more or do better or work harder… or is it the ruminating on how you interacted with a customer that day or a vendor that was flip. Or maybe it’s only the sensitive store owners that go through this. I’m really not sure… but I’d like to explore it.

All I know now is that I have a story to tell, advice to give and if you or someone you know is going through “Brick and Mortar Emotions”, I invite you to join my brand new Facebook Page, “Retail Therapy” and share your story, ask questions or give advice to anyone else who needs it.

Hope to see you there!