If you read about my reflections of 2016, I wrote about how it was a make it or break it year for our team. It’s hard to summarize in a single post about how much conversation, planning and goal setting takes place over the course of a goal setting weekend. And, much of it (to be honest) is just plain boring.
When we reviewed all of our data and sales sheets from the previous year (that being 2015), we knew that we were experiencing a pretty dramatic decline in our business. This was the same time that we heard about Macy’s closing dozens of physical locations, Kohl’s running a significant decline in business and many other large brick and mortar retailers experiencing a gross decline in sales. When you hear about the losses in big business, believe me when I tell you, small business experiences it tenfold. EVERY SINGLE SMALL BUSINESS OWNER THAT I SPOKE WITH PERSONALLY FELT THE ECONOMIC DECLINE IN 2015! And those declines weren’t the little 3-6% losses like big box experienced, but losses in the 30, 40 and 50% range. That is staggering for small business when even at the best of times, we struggle to make ends meet and work hard to be everything for everybody.
Rather than curling up in a ball and crying in the corner, we studied and evaluated data; we read through customer surveys that we had distributed throughout the year; we took a long and hard look at everything that we had been doing for the past four years to determine whether we really were offering the best services and unique products to meet the needs of our customers. The reality was, we were in a rut. We spent the last half of 2015 simply recovering from the whirlwind of opening #knottooshabbyMONROVIA and let things go, to put it mildly in Glendora.
The consensus was that the workshop space in Glendora needed a MAJOR upgrade. MANY of you took workshops in our old, dilapidated workshop/storage room/dump room/stock room/pit of despair. You know, that room in the back the housed all manner of objects, supplies and our handy workshop tables. IT WAS UGLY. UNINSPIRING. I hated teaching in it and I can’t imagine anyone felt wildly inspired taking a class in it. Using the design of the workshop space at kts Monrovia, we decided that we needed to move classes into the store and provide an “Experience.”
No longer would workshops be only about passing along information and finishing a piece of furniture. They would be about providing an amazing experience packed with but loads of inspiration; from us and from other participants! We started small in creating the total experience by using brand new paint and wax brushes during ALL paint classes. We added customized and personalized name plates to each reserved participant. We provided hot coffee, tea and munchies set up in a pleasing fashion in the space.
On a much larger scale, we needed to take a serious look at how the store was physically and functionally set up for workshops in Glendora. We spent the first six months of the year (2016) implementing our business plan and saving the funds to embark on the first ever renovation at knot too shabby GLENDORA. And, in June we liquidated most of our inventory, donated loads of furniture and embarked on a renovation and sales plan that was going to change the nature of the shop and the experience of our workshops!
We added a wall, extended a wall, punched out a doorway, turned our stock room into a kitchen and upgraded the bathroom. Dad built me two beautiful farm tables that stand a beautiful 31 inches tall; the perfect height to paint a piece of furniture standing up (unless you are a shrimp). We put those in the back area of the store, moved our supply of paint, created a brush station, added a serving buffet for drinks and refreshments and storage for food, painted the walls, streamlined the inventory. All in the name of being a host and providing an experience complete with the products needed to fulfill virtually any DIY project you could imagine…or at least a lot of them.
We doubled our workshop participation from a crammed five people to a comfortable eight! We could finally host more hands on artisan classes in a space that we could be proud of. And, we could start offering both kids and adult private parties for up to eighteen people complete with a hostess station and food storage (we’ve been offering private parties for years, but our capacity was so limited we rarely had any bookings).
A few weeks ago, my Father-in-Law asked me how business was going (a good person to be painfully honest with because he lives and breathes big business as a mucky muck in a multi-billion dollar corporation). I told him that it was strange; business feels good. Sales are strong. Product is selling. The feedback is phenomenal. People (by and large) love both of the shops. BUT, the gross annual sales just weren’t reflecting that “feeling.” When I really looked into the year end totals, I realized that we spent a grueling first six months of 2016 changing the way we conduct business. The team had focused goals and it was (painfully and financially) obvious that the adjustments we were making would not result in immediate change.
But, an amazing thing happened in June, 2016. Business tripled at knot too shabby MONROVIA. Upon completion of the renovations in Glendora, we saw our monthly sales climb, slowly but surely for the entire rest of the year, surpassing what we did in the last six months of 2015. I had good reason to “feel good” about business, even though we didn’t catch up entirely.
Sometimes, the simplest changes can turn the tide of business. And, just sometimes you have to ride out the storm to see the sunshine.
Why do I even bother to share all of this? Honestly, I don’t know. I think I want people to know that knot too shabby is living and breathing. It evolves as the market evolves and as our customers demand something new from us. To remain stagnant is to resist change and to lack the motivation for progress. I love to paint and to teach people my craft; to inspire that DIY mentality in others. But, I also LOVE the business. I love stretching my imagination to the possibilities and to see opportunities of growth that others might’ve missed. I love when our conscious business initiatives lead to lasting change and experiences. I love that I don’t have to do this on my own and am surrounded by a wealth of talent that reaches far beyond my own abilities. And, when at the end of the year we can make an assessment based on the quantitative data, I can sigh with relief and say, yes! We did well. I love that, too.
As we move into 2017, how do we continue to make the most of our workshop space? I can’t say for sure yet, but we have plans and ideas swimming around our heads. This weekend, my entire team will enjoy a delicious dinner in a gorgeous restaurant where we can throw out the “highs” and “lows” of 2016. We spent the last two weeks surveying our customers for the feedback and will review a years worth of workshop participant surveys to determine what we keep, what changes and what we will add. It’s all about YOU! Your interests. Your desires! Let us know what you want to learn! And, if it is within our power, our scope of expertise or among our network of artisans, we’ll make it happen! GUARANTEED!
Here’s to 2017 and all that we have in store (literally)!