The Conclusion

 

... but not the end.

 

 

Dear Maker,

Today marks the conclusion of our weekly A Maker’s Guide blog series. I have thoroughly enjoyed walking with you chapter by chapter in your journey. More than anything, I want you to know how proud I am of you! The endurance and discipline you have displayed led you through these uncharted hills and valleys with flying colors. Through it all, you have learned and grown by leaps and bounds. Even though there is and will always continue to be hard work and tough calls ahead, this road is also paved with great reward.

Leading this type life, one that chases after excellence, will always bring greater reward than a life of complacency. Never forget that as you chase your dream, you are bringing encouragement and provision to others as well. Some days more than others will leave you exhausted, it’s true. But the mission to pursue your dreams demands you fight for it! Never stop fighting for the joy found in pursuing your dreams dear maker.

I will continually check in on you and send updates your way through this blog. In the meantime, I highly recommend you connect with a mentor in your field, read every entrepreneur book you can get your hands on and never settle for status quo. Remember, you and your dreams deserve the best opportunities you can have. Go for big or go home!

 

Every word I have written to you I myself use every day. I write because I want you to succeed as well! We are all in this together. Each of us uncovering, pursuing and fighting for our dreams! No matter how big or how small you feel some days, know that hard work brings satisfaction unlike anything else. You have a great foundation dear maker...keep building upwards!

Every day is a new gift full of possibilities. Use what you have been given to the fullest. as you stay true to your calling--that which makes the most of your talents, gifts, passions & resources--you are making a difference in your world. Realize it or not, you are needed, dear maker. The world needs what you hold. The world needs impassioned doers and fighters who won't settle for any less but recognize there is much more to be had in this life.  

And in case you didn't already know... I am your biggest fan. 

Until next time.

XOXO

Amy

 

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Our Blue Ocean Strategy

 

Set out to conquor.

Every next phase of your journey and growth should be an extension of your original dream. Likewise, every new extension of your dream should compliment your prior mission. The mission you have been working towards and the successes you have experienced up to this point should be an obvious catalyst towards establishing your Blue Ocean Strategy.

Authors and professors Renee Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim co-wrote Blue Ocean Strategy. In this decade-long study, researchers focused their attention on the top 30 performing business within their industry to uncover what aspects have set them apart from the rest of the competition.

Through their results, we have learned that making your mission incontestable isn’t something that can happen early on. Incontestability, also named your Blue ocean strategy, can only be uncovered after dedicating years of focus on the market and competition.

Unmatched standing is born out of an intentional move to focus all of your choices towards what you are in business to do, the individuality of your mission.

Remember the discussion we had on finding your hedgehog? Your Blue Ocean Strategy is built on this very revelation. Within your mission, you have aspects of your business that set you apart from everyone else. These are the things in which you are and have always been known and therefore remembered for. This is where your Blue Ocean strategy derives.

The inclination and power to master a certain aspect of your trade is the wave that takes your mission to open incontestable waters.

 

Where are you strongest in your business?
What niche do you have within your market that no one else can contest?
What is it that you are known for everywhere you go?

Within these answers, you have the makings of something great.

 

As we watched the market shift and basically spit us out after years of sacrifice and growth, we felt a little lost and bewildered. I knew that folding wasn’t an option, after all, we hadn’t worked this hard and come this far for nothing. But I wasn’t sure where to take our business next.

I will never forget the night we sat down with our dear friends Mike and Debbi Rose of Mrs. Fields Cookies. It felt like providence’s provision as they coached us through the process of not just surviving, but making a mark on our market like we never dreamed.

Our Blue Ocean Strategy was found in what we loved & knew the most within our mission--our finishes. Throughout my career, the Amy Howard at Home finishes have always been the one thing that has carried my passion through all the growth and change. These finishes have always set us apart and above all other competitors in our industry. We were going to make history with our finishes!

Within the last few pages of A Maker’s Guide, I tell of our move from luxury furniture manufacturers to teachers and providers of the finishes. I hope you will have a chance to read about our journey, but for the rest of today, I want to focus on you. Do you have an idea of what your “blue ocean strategy” could be? Is it a compliment or continuation of your current mission? Where does it fit into what you are currently known for?

Depending on what phase of your journey you are in, you may or may not have those answers as of yet. No matter the answer, your blue ocean strategy will be born in your mastery. That is which you have found yourself dedication those 10,000+ hours towards will reveal where you can be set apart into incontestability! Write this phase of your journey into your long-term plans, dear maker. This mastery is the area in which you need to focus the majority of your attention.


Allow yourself the opportunity to make the most of your talents, your mission, and your future. For more information on Blue Ocean Strategy, click here

Until next time.

XOXO

Amy

 

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Roll with the punches Pt. 2

 

The tides of change always come.

Every 2 to 10 years your competitive platform will experience a bell curve. As you grow and learn to navigate within these changes, you will become more and more familiar with the tides and what they demand. Such as, whether they can be ridden out or call for major change. This dear maker, is simply the way the market works. It would be much simpler if everything would just stay the same, right? You would think so, but in reality, change is much better for you than status quo.

When we are faced with change, we are forced to look at the areas of ourselves and our work practices that can be grown and therefore bettered. I’ve learned that forced change has given me the most valuable opportunities to build on the momentum I have worked so hard to achieve.

Every business idea, new or standing must be a solution to a problem. Our dreams can change just as frequently as the market, if we allow them to. Your dream is based on a fundamental mission--a conviction if you will. There are no limitations on how to dream, or ways in which you are allowed to set that mission into motion. Basically, you are the visionary, writer and executor of your mission and dreams. Dreams develop and change as we develop and change personally and professionally. The market shifts are sometimes just the force we need to propel us to put feet to our ideas!

 

Prepare for the seasons.

When you are at the top of your bell curve, sales are generally high. Although this seems like a sweet spot to be in, this is actually the time when you need to be looking ahead at impending change and inevitable downward slope. You remember what they say...what goes up, must come down!

A downward slope doesn’t mean you have failed dear maker, never think of it in such black and white failure or success terms. Any plateauing or sloping is an opportunity to reassess and move upward towards growth again. Think about the low stage of your market shift as the necessary winter to your impending spring and summer!

When faced with the question of growth, always start with researching your market. In any case of change, there is always a call to re-submit yourself to understanding what has changed and as such, what the market is demand.

 

Questions to ask yourself:

Where is the newest or impending need and what does that mean for you?

Where do you fit in?

Where can you step in and of need meeting service?

 

Grace for the future.


If I had one piece of advice I could give you on market shifts and bell curves it would be this: deal with everything head on. The biggest mistake I have seen is when business owners aren’t willing to take the necessary--sometimes extremely hard strides in surviving change. From the largest of companies to the smallest, change is always accompanied with hard decisions such as budget and team cuts. But think of the alternative, defeat is even harder to face dear maker. In fact, the grace in which you handle any decision is what makes any decision healthy and able to thrive.

Until next time.

XOXO

Amy

 

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Roll with the Punches Pt. 1

 

After nearly twenty years of chasing, attaining & refining my dream...everything began to change. 

 

For over 2 decades, we enjoyed what seemed to be every possible facet of our dream fleshed out. Furniture design ended up just being the start of the wildest adventure of our lives. We traveled the globe, taught fellow makers how to experience the most of their own work, and experienced a satisfaction far beyond what we ever thought possible. We had really found what we were made to do. Well...at least we thought we had.

In the blazing summer of 2011, I walked into the furniture market just as I had every year before. As I looked around the arena, however, I soon saw that nothing was in fact, the same...everything had drastically changed.  That year was the year the bottom of the hand-crafted furniture market--my market mind you--fell out. Over 90% of the luxury furniture we were so proud to say was made right here in the US, was now being manufactured overseas, and for a fraction of the cost.

At every corner I looked, I saw last year’s Amy Howard Home designs--MY DESIGNS--cheaply replicated, but marketed as an affordable alternative. I thought my heart might stop right then and there. I had spent years drawing out, cutting, feeling, formulating and hand-painting these designs. They were a part of my heart, they were a part of me, and now they were “theirs”.

Keeping Up

We couldn’t compete. As grossly misrepresented as I felt my creativity had been, the buyers didn’t care. I saw disposable knock-offs, the buyers saw a delicious bottom line. Just like that, everything was changing. Until this moment, I had always been able to roll with the changes within the market tide, but this time, it was different. Not only was it personal, it was incontestable. Even if my loyal clientele had wanted to buy my original designs, they couldn’t. Thier market had changed too. Jobs were being lost, incomes were being cut and in a moment we all realized the season we loved so dearly was coming to an end.

We had a choice dear maker, you always have a choice. We could either fold or survive. But survival meant giving all our dreams back over to possibility, chance, and the ever unknown entrepreneurial journey.  Could we do it all over again? We decided there was no other choice but to move forward. This was still our dream. Even if it was going to look totally different.  

Dear Maker, this isn’t just my story, this is all of our stories. Without warning, without reason,  and without preparation, the market will change. Sometimes it just requires you to tweak a few things, but sometimes it requires you to change everything.  If you know the root of your dream to be worth weathering season upon season of change, you can survive anything that comes your way.

 

Going back home

During a fateful dinner meeting with some of the most influential entrepreneurial friends we know, we all came to the conclusion it was time for us to go back to our roots. It was our only choice. It was the only the that, after all of this time and experience under our belts, made sense. The heart of Amy Howard Home had always been to provide our clients with a luxurious home furnishing and decor product they couldn’t otherwise find alone. The future of our business was going to look completely different, but our heart, our core foundation, and our reason for existing would be the same.

We took every ounce of passion, knowledge, experience we had collected over the years, and bottled it up...literally. What better way to serve a client on a budget than to teach them the skills and supply them with the product they needed to do it all on their own? So the Amy Howard at Home© line of artisan lifestyle products was born! What better way to share our passion with others than with the gift that keeps on giving...knowledge.


Next week we will dive deeper into the nuts, bolts, and details of what this magnanimous change looked like for us. In the meantime, read all about this journey in your copy of A Maker’s Guide!

Until next time.

XOXO

Amy

 

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Take Risks

 

On the road to growth, you will find there are countless ways you are being stretched. Sometimes you are ready to be stretched and you didn’t even know it.

 

In A Maker’s Guide, I tell the story of my first big leap into growth. After years of watching my business grow from a big idea to a bonafide brand actually being noticed, I knew there would come a time to either ride out the success or grow. In order to grow however, I would have to broaden my reach. After a few years of staying in the same place, I realized the time to take a risk had come. It was time to dream again!

Use the tools you have right now.

 

I researched the largest and most well-known distribution platform in my arena. If I was going to take a risk, I mind as well shoot for the stars. To make a long story short, within a few days, I found myself sitting with the buyer of the most influential luxury furniture distributor coming to a partnership agreement! Unbelievable, am I right dear maker? The moral of this story lies in my bold unwavering willingness to try. Had I not dreamed big, I would have never seen success. Had I not stepped out, I would have never known all that could have been.

What is your dream right now dear maker? What is your next big moment? Never sell yourself short. Always start at the top of your list first. You never know what opportunities are awaiting your boldness.

 

Believe it or not.

 

What “sold” my case that day was not what you might think. We often have this unattainable idea that success only comes when we are our best, flawless, most well-connected everything. It’s not so dear maker. As I sat down with someone who didn’t know me or my brand from any other mom and pop shop in the world, I knew my only true chance laid in my passion. I believed in what my company stood for, produced and could do so much that I sold my vision like my life depended on it. Why? Because it did.

Growth in this journey means survival. Either you grow or you fade. It will only be a matter of time before you face that decision yourself, dear maker. If you are a fire to be reckoned with, people will come just to watch you burn. That day, the projection of my future changed because my passion was made of one thing: uncompromising determination. Honestly, I wasn’t really going to take no for an answer anyway.

 

Believe. Just Believe.

 

For eighteen years that one yes took my business into a realm of success, fortune, and influence I hadn’t even known to aim for. I just knew that I believed in my mission so much that seeing it succeed actually became a conviction... and I trust my convictions dear maker. Believe in what you have worked for, sacrificed for and set out to do.  

Anytime I am about to make a big decision, I get nervous. For me though, I go back to the beginning to gain the confidence I need to push through. I remember that wonderful moment when I knew what I was here to do--what my mission had actually been all along.

Dear maker, know that fear will always be a part of your journey. It keeps you ready, agile and on your toes. The belief you have in your mission however, must always be stronger! Anchor yourself to your moment. Hold tight to what you know. Don’t fear what you don’t know yet, rather look at all risks as opportunities full of potential.

Take strength dear maker. Never stop moving and growing. As you continually step out, know that a closed door, flopped ideas and struggle do not equate to failure. Learning curves are always with us. They gift us with  the opportunity to become stronger, savvier and wiser! To learn from what didn't work

 

 

Thought for the road:

What bold moves can you take right now--right where you are? Whatever it is, know that I am cheering you on. Go for it dear maker. Opportunity awaits!!

Until next time.

XOXO

Amy

 

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Assess and Re-Assess Pt. 2

 

Hello Makers!

So glad we get to pick back up where we left off last week. As I look at my career I can see how one common thread is found woven into all the best experiences of my career: Focus. This simple, yet easy to overlook aspect of your journey has the power to make or break any endeavor. Whether you are looking to grow or just stay afloat for a season, the intentionality birthed from your focus will carry you to your goal. All of them. Everytime.  

Policies

I’ll say it a million times over: Policies are the evidence of the health of your leadership! In order to implement healthy policies however, you must first know what works for your team and what doesn’t. Take the time to sit down and evaluate your operation. Not just each year but, every week, every month and every quarter. Each new season brings a new cycle of change into your operational needs. For the weekly evaluations, simply take a step back and really focus on what is happening in your team and in your office or store. Be honest about the necessary changes you see sprouting up. By evaluating where your operation stands on a consistent basis, you are able to catch potential triggers before they become big problems.

If within your evaluations you find that something has really proven to work and has kept on working, write it into a company policy. Nothing is ever official until  it has been written down into a company policy. Eventually, you will find that the foundation of your company has been refined from the trial, evaluation and written policy process you have continually practiced.  

 

Stress Test Protection

While we each of us understands there is no way to know what the future holds and we certainly can’t expect to be able to control it, we have every opportunity to plan for an array of possible outcomes. That old wonderful saying: live as though you only have today, but plan like you have forever is as true for your business as it is the rest of your life. Living as though you only have today means you are living in the here and now. Whatever is in front of you today holds the greatest priority. But as much as that is true, always stay mindful and prepared for every possibility and unexpected the future might hold.  

In the face of adversity, in the throws of plenty--where does the health of your business, employees and operation stand? Having a solid plan for the future not only gives you a leg up in the face of adversity but a heading when you are on the cusp of powerful growth. Your finances, team members, and policies all speak volumes about the true health of what you have built. The minute you can look at plenty or loss alike and can say, “I know we can weather this”, you have done your job well. To a degree, the business of your dreams must aim to become self-sustaining. This is a practice in perfecting, but your team and your dream are worth long planned long-term prosperity!

 

Stop doing, Just focus

The mission of your dreams is always top-priority. But what happens when you begin to feel like you're losing yourself in a sea of business to-dos? Priority means it receives your focus and your best, but it doesn’t mean it gets every ounce of you. If you are doing your job right, opportunities will abound in front of you--continually. But this doesn’t mean you continually give yourself over to every single breeze that blows your way. Filter, dear maker, filter! The edit and focus rule applies to every part of your life, business and you guessed it, your personal life. What you set out to accomplish deserves attention, focus and your best, but so does your health and sanity. Filter out the nonsense---the distracting junk. Delegate where you can and dismiss what is not healthy or helpful. Your business needs to grow, but it needs you to be healthy even more. Be consistent in your work to rest ratio. You can still be consistent within your planning and goal reaching without depleting your sanity bank. There is only so much of you to go around.

If you find that you have allowed anything into your life and or business that doesn't align or assist your dream, edit it out dear maker! When stumbling blocks and distractions are allowed to become part of your life, you are basically feeding a parasite. The “unhelpful” always costs more than it gives back. As you examine your routines, the health of your business, policies and lifestyle ask yourself this question: Is this helping the mission of my dream? If not, you guessed it... sayonara! Division of health and attention will eventually lead to a weakened foundation, which will eventually lead to a crumbling foundation.


Dear maker, I can’t tell you how proud I am of your journey thus far. Look at where you are! Look at where you have come from. Look at where you are headed! This is a wonderful journey you are on and when taken to all it’s potential, your life is forever changed. You dear maker, are well on your way to doing just that!

Until next time.

XOXO

Amy

 

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Assess and Re-assess Pt. 1

 

Grow, and just keep on growing...

The road you have been treading thus far has entailed many ups, numerous unexpected surprises, and tough trials already. The road ahead will be no less amazing and no less unexpected. The good and the hard to swallow are all written in the DNA of your endeavors. The day you allowed yourself to dream again, is the day you opened a part of yourself up that I hope you can never close again. The course of your future has been forever changed and will continue to forever change and then change all over again.

Today we embark on the last leg of our journey together. This segment entitled, “The Road Ahead”, is full of little nuggets of wisdom from the best parts of me to the best parts of you. As your entrepreneurial companion, I want to leave you with as much insight from my own experiences as I can. These nuggets are for now and for the days to come.

Every step forward has been a step towards growth and therefore change. Yes, growth brings change. If you haven't learned this already, you will soon enough. The journey you are on with your dream demands you be ever-willing to grow, change, move, trust and stretch even the parts of you that you feel have already been too far stretched.

 

 

Never become too comfortable or too complacent dear maker. A lack of awareness of your needs will lead you right back to idleness or worse cause a stunt in growth.

 

The 60/40 rule.

As your business evolves, so will the demands of your team. You have and always will be the visionary of the big picture propelling your mission. The days as a facilitator will soon enough pass you by if they already haven’t. One rule I have learned in segmenting my energy and time out in a healthy way is  to schedule my work week around the 60/40 ratio.

I spend 60 percent of my day, and therefore my week, building my business and no more than 40 percent running it. This keeps me from working my way back into well...working, rather than running a business. After all that sacrifice and dedication, if you only work yourself to death instead of heading up a growing mission, you’ve only created yourself another job!

 

Team Members

Evolve. Just remember that word when taking each member’s role and responsibilities into consideration. Every new turn and every new phase will bring your team to a new level of responsibility, trust, and commitment. In my own experience, yearly assessments are a vital strength building tool. This communication exercise is a safe zone for you and your team to ask hard questions, examine satisfaction and truly listen to one another.

Every time anything within their job descriptions evolve--often at yearly assessment time--be certain to write every new part of the puzzle into their official job description. Review the entirety of the job and each demand, old and new, before they leave. Remind them that their role on your team is not limited to their listed tasks, but rather a parameter to grow within as a vital part your team! One tried and true way to grow in any environment is to abide in the willingness to go the extra mile without grumbling or expectations.

Next week we will pick back up and talk about how to grow your policies and protections. For now, I want to look at these current areas in your current team and work hours. What areas do you find need the most attention and is that a good thing or a cry for a better policy? Aim to strengthen your team and policies to be self-sustaining. Nothing is more rewarding than to see your hard work begin to work hard for you!

 

Grab a copy of A Makers Guide to read the full account of how I learned to navigate this exciting phase!

 

Until next time.

XOXO

Amy

 

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Collaborating Pt. 2

 

Extend your reach.

I have found that with most small business owners, the subject of partnering with a distribution platform can be a touchy subject. Often times when you have built something from the ground up, you feel it is too near and dear to your heart to let go. My advice in this area is to never look at anything you do to grow your business as letting go. Allowing your dream to reach farther than you ever thought possible is an act of love and trust, but never letting go.

Distribution does not have to be categorized as anything negative.

I hear words like “selling out” or “losing touch with your roots” all as fear tactics to keep your dream from being all it can be and go as far as it can go. Anytime you aren't willing to give your dream a leg up and an extra hand, you are giving into fear tactics!

Living out your dream always calls you to go outside your comfort zone. Why not partner with someone who can complement and support your mission? You aim to make something great while they aim to move something great into the market. You are the perfect team. There is nothing wrong with utilizing another company's reach to broaden your client base. The mission of a distribution company is to make such channels available to you. In part, their mission is to support your mission.

Teaming up with someone who is successful in their own process means nothing has changed. You haven't compromised, but rather you are allowing your hard work to stretch across countries and continents. The one store and one vision you started with has now grown by leaps and bounds. It's time dear maker. 

Shall we dance?

Your distribution team can be as close to you as any long standing member of your team can be. Possibly even closer. A good distribution company will come alongside you and take up your dream. Distribution is there to cheer you on, take up the baton and fight to keep your hard work in the running.

The people who will help you distribute are the bridge to your customer base you wouldn't otherwise reach. They are the lifeline to your target audience. Think of them as part of your team. They are making up where you lack and providing what you cannot provide.

The Reality is that every product you make must have some sort of distributor. The platforms you need from a distributor can be broken down into eight beneficial categories: information, promotion, contact, client matching, price validation, transportation, financial support, and risk taking. When you don't have the answers, they are there to fill in those gaps.

Over the years my business has experienced just about every kind of collaboration imaginable. From small local events to national platforms. My advice is to always ensure your core value drivers line up with whoever you partner with. That is it. That is the test. Can you dream alongside them and vice verse? Are your visions complimentary? Are you ready to climb aboard and trust their trajectory? This is time when the business of your dreams can grow into an even greater mission with a greater purpose. Congratulations dear maker, you are ready to grow. 

 

Grab a copy of A Makers Guide to read a few of of own collaboration experiences along with many other helpful tips on how to navigate this exciting phase!

 

Until next time.

XOXO

Amy

 

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