What I learned at Business Camp

I attended Tradeshow Bootcamp's first ever Business Camp in Los Angeles last month, and it was incredible. I've been so busy implementing everything I learned, that I'm just now sitting down to share my thoughts. I wish I could bottle up everything that was said, everything I learned, every hug I shared with awesome business ladies, and the general buzz of being in a room with 100 other business owners. I can't, so you must must must go to Business Camp next time.

In the meantime, I'll share my major takeaways. There was so much solid gold information shared, but this is the stuff that really jumped up and down for my attention as it applies to my specific business & boss lady role. And since it's been a month, you get to hear about how I'm implementing those takeaways! Win win win.

1. Don't let e-mail dictate how your day goes.

Beth Penn from BNeato Bar majorly schooled my brain about how I've been treating e-mail in my day-to-day. On her suggestion, I've been doing my best to only deal with e-mail once a day, for a set amount of time. I'm not letting e-mail be my to do list for the day, and I'm not letting e-mail derail what I'm in the middle of doing. It's pretty much the greatest change I could make. E-mail has been a source of stress and guilt for me for years, and it doesn't have to be. 

2. Keep the team connected and aware.

My staff can't read my mind. Seems obvious, but I've been leading my team like they can. The panel discussion on hiring was super insightful. I've already hired my team, but knowing what to do next has been a challenge for me. When I started the business, I never dreamed that I'd be leading a team. I'm still learning. 

We have an amazing team of part time staff, and they're all only in the shop 1-2 days per week. If I want us to be on the same page, we need to have staff meetings, more communication, 1-on-1 chats and a plan! I need to plan ahead to have tasks for everyone to do, every day. And since Business Camp, we've done just that! We had our first ever full staff meeting (with coffee and Top Pot donuts), and it was hugely helpful. It was so beautiful to see everyone together that I cried. (No shame.) We've also instituted a secret Facebook group for staying in better communication, and I've been keeping everyone busy by delegating more and more tasks to my very capable team. 

3. Move the needle every day. 

The hilarious and lovable Jen Gotch gave us this nugget of wisdom that has been my mantra this month. Move the needle. Every day. Don't just do the busy work. Do something that will grow your business. Every day. Delegate the small stuff. Do the big stuff. For me, this is the kind of needle moving stuff I've been working on: Send catalogs & handwritten notes to shops I admire. Design new products. Work toward new product lines. Research other forms of manufacturing. Buy a new printing press!!!! Make a social media strategy and stick to it. Write about what I'm learning and share it. Commit to the 2016 National Stationery Show. Make time for ideas. Make time for rest. (For me, resting is moving the needle for tomorrow. I do not default to rest.) 

4. Work on the things that need to change to make way for growth.

Growth is always the goal, but it can also be kind of a scary reality when it shows up. One of the big growth goals we have for this next year is to start working with a sales rep. I've heard Carina Murray from Crow & Canary speak about reps a few times, but new things stood out to me this time. The big one: Be ready to scale. You don't work with a rep to bring in an extra order or two. You work with a rep to grow! 

We've grown a ton this last few years, and we're finally reaching the end of what our treadle-operated, hand-fed platen press can do. It's been a hope/fear (a hope and a fear...do you have those too?) of mine this past year, and we're there. Our recent purchase of a 1970's Heidelberg Windmill will help us make the next jump of growth. (I'll share more about that in detail later this week.) Sarah from Shed Letterpress and Rachael from Pistachio Press told me all about the Windmill perks while at the Business Camp after party, and within a few weeks I had the opportunity to buy one. Growth, we're coming for you! 

5. You're the owner of a successful, growing business. Act like it!

Tara Gentile blew my mind with her talk about perception. My fears and doubts and worries color my judgement about the business. When I'm buying into those negative things, I make decisions for the business that don't make sense. Just because I'm still learning doesn't mean I'm not doing some things right. It's so easy to lose perspective and forget the wins we've had. My customers, staff, and fellow business owners have a perception of my business that is actually more in line with reality than how I tend to see it.

I remember when Constellation was just me with one rusty press in 100 square feet, and some days I act like that's who we still are. But we're not! We're a team of 6 people, 3 beautiful presses, in a storefront space, with products in 150+ stores in more than 4 countries, with a beautiful retail shop and a bright future! I say these things not to boast, but because I genuinely forget that they are true. I'm committing to celebrate our wins, and make decisions based on reality so that people's perception of us matches up with the decisions I make. 

I share all of this for a few reasons. First, if you're a product-based business lady (or business dude), I want you to go to Business Camp. Or if you can't go to Business Camp, go to a different event. But go! Invest in yourself. You're an irreplaceable part of your business. What you'll learn and the people you'll get to connect with will give you fuel for the fire. Second, it gives me great joy to share what I'm learning with all of you. Small business is not a magical, mythical, dream journey. It's hard, a hustle. Everything is always changing, and you're always changing to keep up. I want you to know that we're in it together. I've be given so much over the years by others who have shared what they are learning, and I want to be sharer too. Words have great power, and I'm always going to use mine for good, to help others.