Friday, June 18, 2021

Failure : Turn it into your first step to success

We all fail. I have failed, numerous times, and at some point you will too. It is what you do after that matters. Today I will talk about how you can make your failures work for you.

You have worked hard on your business. And in spite of pouring in everything you had you failed. Be it a failure to sell your stuff in the craft fair, or not being able to achieve your goals. Here's what you can do to not just help you deal with failure, but learn from it and turn it around into your biggest success.
1. Accept it. The first thing you need to do after you have failed is accepting your failure. Accept that things did not go as you thought they would. Own it up. Do not blame anyone or anything else (we will analyse the failure later). Once you have accepted the failure you will be better prepared for your success.
2. Don't make it personal. Remember every moment that even though what you have done failed - your actions - its not you who failed. Separate yourself from your failure and then you will be able to look at it with a more critical approach.
3. Look at it from a bird's eye view. First, learn to look at it in a disconnected manner - like it is someone else's problem. Now analyse it to find the why. Make a list of all the reasons you come up with.
4. Look for solutions. Now look at your list and find multiple solutions for every situation. Were your products too costly for the crowd at the craft fair? What can you do to reduce the cost? Were you not able to promote your webinar on social media? Can you create a strategy to do that or maybe hire someone to do that? Find multiple solutions for each of the reasons.
5. Learn from it. Now make a list of changes that you can make right now based on your findings that will prevent the same kind of failures in the future. And then, implement them, right now.
6. Do not dwell on it. Don't spend your time thinking about your failure. Look forward to implementing the changes and seeing yourself succeed. Do not let the negativity pull you down. Like you would do when you fall down while walking, get up, dust off the dirt, look at why you fell and keep walking ahead.
I am hoping my six-point plan will help you get over your recent failure and gear up for success in your business ahead. Is there anything else you might want to add?
Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Being original : 5 ideas and exercises for you

Sometimes we become too inspired by something and tend to create something that cannot be called original. Today I will give you 5 ideas that will help you assimilate all your inspiration and create a unique idea - be it a product or a service.

Inspiration comes to us sometimes and sometimes we have to go looking for it. In either case, it leaves a mark on our minds that helps us create - products, content - everything that we make.

Our inspirations always influence us. But we can definitely control the amount of influence that is visible on the final outcome.

If you are inspired by a fellow artist and make a painting exactly like theirs - its copying. But if you are inspired by them and make something based on the idea that you love in it - maybe its the colour choice, the style or sometimes even a brush stroke!

Its not wrong to copy someone's ideas - with permission. And it is close to a sin to copy someone's idea and project that as your own.

A few years back, I ranted on my quilting blog and on FB about a fellow Indian quilter who had copied some other quilter's design - not a block (which is very common), but an intricate design of applique and thread stitching - line to line - and said it was her original work. I did not have a problem with her copying someone's work. I had a problem with her claiming that it was original.

Have I not ever copied someone else's work? Of course I have. But I have credited the original artist every single time. Every time, I have asked them for permission before starting the project and then when I finally made my quilt, I mentioned them in the post everywhere.

In my quilting classes, I am very commonly asked about how to make sure that the work that my students are creating is original.

Here are 5 things that I do to make sure that my work is not a complete replica of my inspiration. You will find me going back to quilting for examples having worked in the industry for the past 10 years.

I look at more than one inspiration. I will talk about one of the most favourite quilts that I have made, The White Rainbow. The inspiration came to me after I read Danielle Steel's book Sisters. I just thought - I want to make a tactile quilt that will appeal to an artist who has lost her eyesight. Then I looked up people who had made tactile quilt or quilts with textures. That was when the Trapunto technique came up in the results. I had been making my reverse applique portrait quilts at that time and decided to apply the same technique to add texture. Around the same time, the idea of writing the names of the colors in Braille peeped into my mind. And that is how, all my inspiration assimilated to create an original quilt - which wall an all white quilt with the names of the colours written in braille - such that blind people could actually touch and read them.
I give it time. Any time I am inspired, I do not get working immediately. I let that idea sit in my mind. I think about it. I give it enough time to morph. In the meantime, I experiment or work on something else altogether. Sleeping over an idea usually gives me enough time and ideas to work on something based on my original inspiration, but yet making it my own. When I made my son's portrait, it was based on Sandra Bruce's Material Matrix technique. It took me three years between being introduced to Sandra's technique and actually making Aadi's portrait. I met Sandra in 2015 and spent the day in her Studio. She shared her technique with me. But I modified it to make my son's quilt. It looked similar to her quilts, but the method was drastically different. Both of us started at the same point and reached the same destination - but we used different paths. And even then I credit her with the inspiration for the quilt - every single time.
I experiment. When I find something that is truly irresistible, I start looking for ideas to make it simpler, faster or cheaper. Usually, one of these experiments helps me stumble upon an original technique. When I started making portrait quilts, I made the first one the traditional way - Raw Edge Applique. But deep down, it did not satisfy me. I had a feeling that something was missing. And also that if it took three months to complete one portrait chances of me making another one are pretty slim! So I experimented. It took me an year to come up with an original technique to make portrait quilts! Using this method I can now make a two coloured portrait quilt of about 36" x 40" even in just 7-8 hours!
I journal. When I find an idea that keeps coming back to me, I go and scribble. Sometimes its words and sometimes sketches. If its an idea for a blog post, I write down what i feel about it. I analyse the idea till I find out the real reason I want to copy it. What do I like in it? What do I hate? Why do I like it? Why do I want to write about it? Why do I want to make it? This is a very common process I use to come up with blog post ideas. I have a running list of topics I want to cover in my notebook. I just skim through them every time I plan my monthly content. I then pick the ones that resonate with me - at that time - and research them. I read as many blog posts as well as articles on websites like Forbes, Economic Times, Washington Post or even NY Post about it. My Kindle Unlimited subscription also offers me many options to read more. After I have assimilated all the info, I usually wait for a day and then just sit and directly type my post. I do not worry about the formatting at this point. After I have written everything, I read it aloud to make sure that it is all in my language. Anything I am not comfortable speaking out loud, is a sign that it is not original by me and is highly influenced.
Sometimes, its just okay to copy - with permission. In spite of all of the above steps, sometimes the original idea is just so powerful and unique that you cannot come up with something that is more unique. At that time, it is okay to accept that you cannot do anything about it. But you still want to share it with your audience? First Ask permission. Just drop an email to the person who created it. Don't forget to tell them how much you loved what they did and how it has been on your mind for a while. And then ask them if you can use their idea/words/picture in your post/product/book. Make sure you are completely honest about any monetary gains that might be in it for you - are you including their words in a blog post that people read for free or a book that you will be selling? Will their design be made into a quilt that is meant to be a personal gift for your family or are you making it to enter in quilt shows - and potentially win a money prize. Make sure you convey everything that you know to them. Including a permission form (PDF) for them to sign and email back is a very good idea. That way you will always have a letter from them when you need it. And last but not the least always give them credit when you publish it. If its a blog post, link back to their website, page or blog post. If its a book, include a footnote. If its a product, mention it in your product description.
Being original will always help you grow your business. Because when you copy you become a second grade version of the original artist / creator. But by taking the efforts to be original you will be a first grade version of yourself!

Friday, June 11, 2021

Things you should know before hiring your first employee

You have thought it out well and finally, your business has reached a stage where you have enough work for a person to work for you full/part time! Congratulations! You know that you will need to hire soon but are not sure how you will go through the process! Keep reading while I take you through the process of hiring an employee.

Your main concerns might be:

What to do before hiring?
How to hire?
How do you know who is right for you?
How to help your new employee settle in?
How to fire an employee?What should YOU do before you hire an employee?

The first thing to do is to determine what you actually need. Which areas do you need help in? This process is almost halfway done by the time you realize you need to hire someone. But now, you need to think whether there will be enough work for the person you hire to keep them busy in their working hours.Before you consider hiring someone make sure that the work is not something you can outsource or collaborate for. These options are easier if you need help for a shorter period of time. When you hire an employee, you will not only need enough work, but also regular work. Think about all these aspects before you decide to even start looking for someone.

How to hire?

You can look for people you know to hire them, or you can start looking for new-to-you candidates be looking up on LinkedIn or by publishing an advertisement or a call to apply. Here are a few things you need to keep in mind when you write your Call for Candidate (advertisement or listing or even messaging acquaintances).
Your listing must have information about your company and your work culture.
It should have a clear description of the Job title, expectations and responsibilities.
If there is a certain skill set that you require the candidate to have (a software that they need to be well versed with) mention it.
Compensation, perks (if any) and benefits clear.
Before you start the interview procedure, make a list of EVERYTHING you expect the person to do for you. Time yourself doing the stuff and multiply it by 1.5 (you have been doing it for a while so you're obviously faster). That will be the time required for them to finish the tasks. Then multiply by the current hourly rate that is popular in your industry in your region. Check with a few friends who do what you do or similar work. That should be the compensation you should be willing to pay the person. Be ready to negotiate a little. When I employed my first assistant, I told her, "You work on the salary that I say for a month. After that if you do the work like the way I want, I will pay you the salary that you want!" It worked remarkably! I got to know how efficient she was and she got to know how much work there was actually to be done here.

How do you know who is right for you?

My best suggestion when it comes to hiring employees is to let them do the talking at the interview. Ask them enough questions to get them talking. Do not waste your time on rhetoric questions. Ask open ended questions that will get them speaking. Their manner of speaking, the words they choose as well as their knowledge will all tell you if they are the right person for you. If you are hiring for a skilled job, you can ask them to bring along something that shows off their skills. Even better, you can ask them to demonstrate their skills. Make sure you explain all the responsibilities to them. There should be no surprises later.
Like you expect to get the best person to do your job, you should also be the best employer for your new recruit. How can you do this? Pay well. You want the best work, they want the best pay. A little generosity will get a lot done. But do not overdo it, or your employee will expect the same.

How to help your new employee settle in?

It is essential for both you and your new hire that you help them settle into their new role in your team. Here are a few ideas to help you do that.

Show them around. Show them where they will be working. Where the coffee machine (or the pantry) is. Where the toilet is. Show them everything they will be using.
Introduce them to your team. Introduce them to everyone else who works for you. As you do this make their designation and role clear so that those who will be working directly with them are aware of their position.
Give them a few days to get the hang of how things work. Assign them a work-buddy if you can.
Be friendly. Check in with them regularly to ask if they have any concerns.
Define their responsibilities clearly. Do not keep anything ambiguous There are a few ways you can make their experience better.

I suggest a rewards system. I use this even for my maids at home. If they complete all of their allotted work in the month and do not take a single holiday, I give them a 10% Bonus! That way they are motivated to not take a holiday.
You can also tie in some non-monetary rewards. Every year, in Navaratri, I send all my domestic staff to Kolhapur to visit the Mahalaxmi temple. It means a lot to the women in Maharashtra and they really appreciate it. I also invite them to lunch on one of the days. They totally enjoy it! Be innovative with your ideas! Do small things everyday that will help you connect to them.
Remember their birthdays. Remember their children's names. Inquire about their health when they seem a little off. Ask them how they feel about their work. If you find them excelling in their work, ask them if they would be willing to take on more duties.

How to fire an employee?

Sometimes everyone does everything right yet things dont work out and you have to tell your employee to leave. I personally find this to be the most difficult task. I have pushed through with an unfavorable employee for over 8 months because I did not know how to tell her that she was not the right fit for my studio!
Here are a few things that can help you. The first would be to give regular performance feedback. Even if you have only one employee, get into the habit of having a monthly performance meeting. It does not have to be formal. Just sit down over a cup of coffee and talk about how they are performing. Are they working up to your expectations? Are there any changes that they need to do? Keep the conversation light and friendly and you will avoid a lot of uncomfortable situations. Firmly, but gracefully, show them areas where they need to work on. And at the next meeting give them an evaluation. If the offence is repeated over and over - warn them in no uncertain words that it might result in their termination.
Once you have decided to terminate someone, be very clear when you talk to them. Tell them that they have been terminated and their duties are no longer required. Tell them when they are expected to leave the premises and make sure that they do. If possible, previously pack their things into a box or a bag and keep them ready for them to take when they leave. That way you can be assured that they are not leaving with any of your important tools or documents.
Firing will be stressful for them as well as for you. So keep yourself calm and avoid raising your voice. There is no point in arguing with someone when you know they will not be working for you again. Assure them (if they have not committed any offence like theft or damage to property) that you will give them a letter (or word) of recommendation if they require it.

I'm hoping that my article will be useful to you. How many employees do you have in your business? Who was your first hire? Have you ever fired anyone of them?
Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Business bestie: Who? Why? How? What?

We have all grown up with BFFs (Best Friends Forever). Your BFFs might have changed over the years or stayed the same. It does not matter. Having that one friend (or many) to have your back means a lot! You share everything with them. Your successes and failures! Your hopes and dreams! E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.

Sometimes, your best friend is not an entrepreneur like you. So even though they try to understand your situation, their point of view and their solutions might not be the ones you are looking for!

What do you do at such times? Who do you talk to regarding achievements, goals and successes in your business? An ideal situation would be having a Business Bestie!
When I speak of Business Besties, a lot of questions come to your mind. Who is a business besties? Why do I need one? How do I find her? What do we do when we are together? Keep reading to get answers for all of these questions!!!

WHO is a Business Bestie?

Sometimes when we are overwhelmed in our business, we end up cursing ourselves for creating the mess we got ourselves into. That is when we start having doubts about our capability! We need just one person who swoops in at that time and offers us something we need - a word of encouragement, a sympathetic ear or an ability to make us look at ourselves in a more positive manner! That is a Business Bestie. They are the first people we go to when we have that brilliant million dollar idea! They are the ones that we go to when we think we have failed miserably! They are the ones who have our back, share our work, give us tough love when we need it and offer advice that we respect. They are like BFFs but for our business. More often than not, the relationship between Business Besties is much more than just business! They know so much about each other! They are a part of our lives, sometimes much more than our families!

WHY do you need a Business Bestie?

Here are a few reasons why I think you need a business bestie.

They love and support you. They will love you through your failure and your successes. They will support every decision you make. They will help you get over your mental blocks and move on towards a successful business! Just like your best friend extends you full support in spite of anything! Just like she might curse you when you are alone but with fight like a wild cat if anyone else says the same things as she says, your Business Bestie will point out your shortcomings to you, but will support you and your business before anyone else!
They share your work. You do not need to even ask them to do that. Every time you create something new, your Business Bestie is the first to share! They are the ones whom you talked to before you created your stuff so they know it as much as you do and can talk about it with confidence.
They give you a kick in the butt if needed. If you are being an ass, they will let you know and will not hesitate in bringing you back on track. They will tell you when you are doing it wrong. They will reason with you. they will try to explain it to you. And if you still do not understand, they will be ready to kick you in the butt!
They inspire you to do better. They are the ones whom you do not want to let down. They constantly know the right things to say and do to keep you motivated. Just like when you were kids, you worked hard at studies because your results pleased your parents, you work hard in your business to please your Bestie! Not because she is someone to be pleased; but because you value her pleasure as much as you valued your parents' happiness.
They understand your business woes. They have worked on the ideas of your business as much as you have and they understand exactly what you're going through. You can share any troubles with them and they will help you overcome them and find solutions - that work!!!
They will give you honest feedback. They will definitely give you an honest feedback. You can depend on them to tell you if your product is overpriced or if the combination that you are working on will not work!
Remember, having a Business Bestie is not a one way track! You will have to do the same things as they do for you if you want it to work! So unless you're ready to put in the same amount of efforts in HONESTLY helping someone grown their own business, do not expect them to do that for you. If you feel you cannot do it, or you do not have the time to invest in that kind of relationship, opt for a business coach! They will charge you a fee to do all these things!

HOW can you find a business bestie?

The first option would be to look at all your existing friends. Is there someone who is also running a business? She might not run a business similar to yours, but as long as she runs one, you surely can become Business Besties. You already have that connection and trust in your relationship. Becoming Business Besties is the natural next step.
The next place to look would be a community of women entrepreneurs. Be it your local community or an online one. A good option would be to pay a visit to a local business that is run by a woman and introduce yourself and get acquainted. Just talking about what you do with others, helps you in building your 'tribe'. Will you be Business Besties with all women that you meet like this? NO But you will have a tribe! A common group to come to in case you need anything. Maybe one of them will become your Business Bestie, but it wont happen overnight! This relationship needs trust. And that has to be built!
What if you do not have a local community of women entrepreneurs? BUILD IT! You can always take the first step to build what you want! Start by visiting your local exhibitions and craft fairs. Better still, if your business will be helped by it, book a stall. Connect with other women who are running businesses and then develop a relationship beyond the exhibition or fair. Once you get to know them, start promoting them - WITHOUT EXPECTING ANYTHING in return! Just promote them. Compliment them on things done well. They will start reciprocating your actions soon and in no time will you have a roaring network of women who support you! But remember - TAKE THE FIRST STEP!
As your relationship with your fellow women entrepreneurs develops, get to know them better. Meet regularly and start discussing your business with them. Start by discussing common problems and issues that all of you face. It will help in breaking the ice and women will feel safer to share. Be the first to offer solutions. Get them to trust you. Be a leader. After regular interactions with your group, you will realize you connect with some of them more than the others. Let your friendship grow naturally. And you will have your Business Bestie!WHAT do you do when you have a business bestie?

Now that you have your Business Bestie, we come to the next question - WHAT next? I highly recommend meeting regularly. If you are in the same town, meet up for coffee every week. Make it a habit of keeping one day of the week aside for your Business Bestie. If you live far away or meeting up every week is not practical, make it a point to talk to each other often. I call Kausalya almost every day! We talk about a lot of things related to both of our businesses. The ideas that we have. The problems we're facing. The success we have achieved. She is sometimes the first to know about my achievement even before my husband knows! Staying in touch is the key here - regularly.

One thing that is super essential for a Business Bestie relation to work is that you should not feel insecure. You should NOT look at her as competition even if you are in the same business. There is enough room for both of you to grow, and some more! You need to trust the other person to make this work. You need to be honest with them.

Here are some topics that you can discuss when you meet, if you do not know where to start :

Ideas for growth of businesses
Struggles you are facing
Upcoming events and how you can help each other
Requirements in your business
Work-life balance
Promotion of products or events for each other
Financial advice
Feedback about products and services
Anything else that is bugging you!
And you can always gossip about that one woman who is a pain in the a*% for both of you!!!

Do you already have a business bestie? Or is your childhood friend also your business bestie? What do you two do when you are together? Did you find my tips useful? Do leave me a note in the comments.
Friday, June 4, 2021

Self doubt : How to tackle it and turn it around?

Do you have a big idea that has been brewing in your mind, but you have not felt confident enough to actually go through with it? There something holding you back. That little voice telling you that your idea might not be as brilliant after all!
That, my friend, is “Self-doubt”

It can poke it’s head up in the best of times. You have been working hard on your idea; researching, designing, even making it. And then as you start getting ready to share it, something happens, inside you. A little voice from somewhere starts talking to you. It usually starts with, “But…” And then your thoughts spiral right out of control.
But, is it really that good?
But, will it really work?
But, is it really worth it?
But, am I really capable?
It’s not easy to stop. The butterflies in your stomach start making you queasy and you just feel like giving up altogether.
Today I am going to tell you how to tackle the beast that self-doubt is. Together we will slay it and tame it to make it work for us.

Accept it. It is very essential to sit down and accept that you are having doubts. You might want to just push it away and keep working, but I do not recommend that. The more you push away your doubts, the stronger they get. Denying them will only delay the inevitable and then when it rears it’s head, the time might be the most inconvenient and if you are not strong enough to push through, it might even end up making much more damage. I would suggest taking some time off and acknowledging your doubts. It’s like you are telling your mind, “Hey, I am listening to you”.
Scan them. Scan every doubt you have thoroughly. See if there are any valid ones. If it were a friend of yours in your place and they came to you with these self-doubts, what would you tell them? Put a little distance between yourself and the doubts and look at them to check their validity. Discard aside the ones that are unjustified. If you find yourself questioning your capacity, try to think impartially about it. Are you really unqualified to do it? You do not need a formal education. You need desire and clarity. Do you have it? It helps to go back to your why at such times. Why did you start thinking about it in the first place?
Search solutions. If you were presenting a paper and someone asked you questions at the end would you not take time to defend your ideas? Do the same here. I love writing down my doubts and then kind-of arguing them on the paper. It helps put things in perspective and it also helps me better my product or presentation. Find solutions for each doubt that you have. If I feel that my quilts might not sell if I only use imported fabric to make them, I know it is a valid doubt. It will make them costlier. I can then work out if I can use a combination of Indian and imported fabrics to make them more affordable.
Be prepared. The biggest self-doubt is the fear of failing. Imagine what will happen if you fail. It is not always the worst thing. Even if you fail at what you are doing, there is always something else that you can do. Decide what you will do in case of the worst case scenario. You’ve prepared a bunch of bags to sell online and no one buys them. What can you do? Well, you can always gift them to your friends and family on their birthdays and special occasions. That will save you money and you will get some constructive criticism so that you can find out why it happened. Once you have gone through these steps, you will realize that you are more than ready to go ahead with your idea, without an ounce of self-doubt. There will be hurdles, there will be times when you hear that little voice come back and tell you “I told you so” but now you will be prepared to deal with any situation that arises and make the most of it.

Are you ready to tackle your self-doubts and slay your goals?
Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Why did your goal fail?

How often have you set goals and worked hard to achieve them and yet, have faced failure? I have. Many times. There are many instances where I have worked hard a diligently, but it has got me absolutely nowhere.

When I spent a little time thinking about why it happened, it also made me realize what I could do to change it and achieve success with my next one. Today I’m going to focus on 3 most common reasons I saw recurring in my own failures.
Unrealistic estimation. I realized that I always over or under-estimated myself. When I look at what I can do in a day, I usually over-estimate myself. I put too many things on my list and end up feeling bad when I cannot check them off. I make a to-do list and mentally make up the deadlines throughout the day. It will take me an hour to write a blog post and then 10 more minutes to edit the required images. In reality, it takes me close to 90 minutes just to get started before I decide the tone is all wrong and I just press Ctrl+A and delete! So at the end of 3 hours, I am done with the writing, but need another 90 minutes to find the right images and another 90 to edit them. Now when I look at the clock and see that the whole day went by and I did not complete the 4 other blog posts I was supposed to finish today, I get deflated and just give up altogether. When I think of my business growth, I realize I usually under-estimate myself. More often than not, I am much beyond my own personal growth goals by the end of the year. I did find a great solution for this problem. Now I think with a timeline of one week / month/ quarter. I do not set daily goals; I rather choose my focus for the week to achieve monthly goals. If I do not write the blog posts on time, I can always back-date them! On my CEO day, as I like to call it, which is the first Wednesday of every month, I take time to make a list of topics I would like to write about on my blog. This is usually a very rough framework and my focus is on writing 3 posts a week. I just make a list of topics against the dates in my bullet journal. I then spend at least 90 minutes every day writing about any topic that appeals to me THAT day or time. Sometimes, I just find my mo-jo and write 5 posts in an evening. Sometimes, I struggle through the introduction. But my goal is usually achieved and I have 12 posts posted on my blog in a month. I also usually work in advance. So while you are reading this in May, I am already working on my June posts.
Not believing in myself. A lot of times, I have set goals, especially when it comes to financial ones, and failed at them because deep in my mind I have believed that I don’t deserve it. I have been working on my mind-blocks and I think I am getting over them. It is a struggle. I need to remind myself that I am worthy! I am as valuable. I find that while I do not struggle to price my physical goods – the quilts I make or the in-person workshops that I take – I do struggle with pricing my online services and feel that I have over-priced them. I had a really hard time pricing my eBook. While I made a lot of sales at the $24.99 price, I had to struggle to remind myself that it isn’t about how much I have spent to write it, but about the value of the content that I am offering. Now I just think if I would pay that amount for the item if I had the money and needed it. It usually helps me price my products and services better and also boosts my self-esteem.
Not having a plan. Before reading about the concept of SMART goals, I had totally no idea what I was doing. I was randomly deciding things like I want to grow my business or I want to earn more money but had no clarity or means to measure them. I researched a lot of goal setting techniques and then came up with my own which, since then, has worked flawlessly for me. You can join the masterclass that I am teaching to learn the technique that I have developed from my experience. Believe me, it works. To sign up, you can just email me.Do you also struggle with achieving your goals? Have you ever thought about the WHY? How can knowing the reasons help you? Did you find my tips helpful? Do you have one of your own? I would love to know. Just drop me a line in the comments section below.