In my case, when I'm stretched too thin or feel down from the weight of running a business, I experiment with new patterns. Since designing is my passion, it renews my love for what I'm doing and reminds me why I'm in business.
As you grow, stay focused on the dream set before you. Instead of competing with other people, compete with yourself to be better than yesterday. Keeping my mind on what I do best rather than on how many people are trying to copy my patterns gives me the energy and the impetus to improve on everything I create.
Be Ready for the Next Step
If your business isn't growing, it's dying; it's that simple. You must always be prepared to take the next step.
We recently had an opportunity to create a private label pattern for a restaurant, something we had never before even contemplated. But we took the risk, and it turned out to be a wonderful growth opportunity for the company.
As your business grows, you will need to add people to help you. Wise people know where their ability ends and someone else's begins.
Recognize That the Hardest Place to Stay Is at the Top
Awards and achievements are great scorecards, but don't dwell on them. It's healthy to enjoy them and feel proud of them, but then put them up on a shelf and move on. If winning an award becomes the most important thing, then there is nothing to achieve once the award is won. Besides, next year someone else may be winning it.
Build a Support Network
Surround yourself with a support network of people who truly believe in you. Even when I was selling my pieces just to friends and relatives, my husband always believed in me and never once laughed at my desire to have my own pottery business, although I had never taken an art or business class. Your support network can be anyone who believes in you and your dream and who will encourage you to reach your potential in spite of the obstacles others see.
Set Your Priorities
One lesson I learned early is that you can have it all, as long as you remember you don't have to do it all.
When my children were young, I decided we would always have dinner together as a family. Many nights we had take-out or went out. Buying dinner cost a little more, but it allowed me to keep my family first.
Now, even though my youngest child is in college, I still make sure I'm there when one of my children needs me. My daughter was recently in a contest at college, and I left a trade show to fly to see her and then flew back to the show when the contest was over. It was hectic, but being there for my daughter was very important to me.
You don't have to choose between family and career, but sometimes you have to be creative in how you balance them.
Balance your life and your business. It's often hard, but it can be done so you succeed in both.
When my children were small, I stayed home and started my business slowly, designing pottery at my kitchen table. It gave me time to enjoy my children and my pottery. As my children grew, so did my business.
Today, my children are grown and on their own so I've got more time to devote to my business. The result is that my business is taking off at a time when I am able to keep up with its growth.
Whatever you decide to do with your business, make sure it stays fun. I often hear women make comments such as, "I work in insurance, but I love to throw dinner parties." If this is your situation, then become a caterer or an event planner!
Realize that you can make money doing what you love. And if you do what you love, then you're going to love what you do every day.
Also, remember to have a life outside your business, with family first and then friends. It takes a lifetime to cultivate friendships, and you could lose them if you don't make time to enjoy them. You may also lose your perspective!
The Lord continues to bless me and my company. We now have showrooms in Atlanta and Dallas and a display at the New York Gift Fair in the Javits Center. I am privileged that my love for painting and pottery has transformed into a flourishing regional business.
I don't know what tomorrow holds, but I do know who holds tomorrow, and I trust Him to do with my business as He sees fit--and to work in me as He works in it. May He do the same for you.
Gail Pittman is an artist who turned a love for painting and pottery into a flourishing corporation, Gail Pittman Inc. Her dinnerware, home accessories and collectibles are sold in specialty gift stores throughout the United States and Canada.
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