5 THINGS SMART MAKERS DO
1) Think strategically:
They develop a business strategy and fine-tune or adjust that strategy every year. Commonly the strategy is described in a marketing plan, or for larger maker operations, in an annual business plan. Smart makers then ensure that they built all business activities around the key elements of their plan. Ideas or planned actions outside of strategy need to be evaluated for fit. If they don’t align with the plan, they should not be carried out.
2) Decide quickly and wisely:
Making decisions quickly and wisely seems to be a contradiction. It need not be. It is unlikely that you will ever find all the information you would like to have to make the perfect, wise decision. For high risk scenarios, for example investing in the development of a new product line, it is important to gather sufficient information to evaluate the risks you are taking. Once you have established the risks and rewards, you can determine whether to proceed or not.
For low risk decisions you still might need some information or data. But often lower risk decisions can be made faster based on your existing knowledge and experience. For example, the decision of adjusting your pricing for a short period of time or for a selected group of your products carries little risk. The downside is that you might lose a few hundred dollars of profits. But that is reversible and can easily be fixed by adjusting your pricing to optimize profit.
The most important aspect of decision making is to get off the fence sooner rather than later, instead of setting up camp in the land of uncertainty and bewilderment.
3) Do not seek perfection:
They seek maximum profit. Perfection is impossible to achieve. Pursuing it results in frustration, increased operation cost and lower profit margins.
A great antidote to perfection trap is Vilfredo Pareto’s 80/20 rule. He found that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Adapted to business management this means that about 80% or your results come from 20% of your labor. You have to invest a disproportionate 80% of effort to achieve the remaining 20% needed for 100% perfection.
Not striving for perfection does not mean you can afford to be negligent in your work, be that in production, marketing, operations or administration. Instead you should establish at which point the quality of your efforts is as good as necessary to drive your business forward.
4) Get to know their customers:
Knowing and understanding the customer is one of the cornerstones of every successful maker business. Artisans must understand who their customers are, what they buy and why they buy specific products.
“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” (Ernest Hemingway, Author and Journalist)
The best place to listen and learn more about your customers is at a show. Email and social media are acceptable, too, but much less effective because 60% - 80% of communication is non-verbal. They will not provide essential information such as body language, facial expression, or tone of voice people use when expressing their views.
Speaking with customers in person at a few shows will give you better and more comprehensive insight into their buying process and purchasing behaviour. Once you have this knowledge, you can use it for building the right selling tactics to persuade potential and existing customers to start buying or buy more (often) from you.
5) Constantly improve their skills and knowledge:
The maker industry is constantly changing. That does not mean you should adjust to every new idea or the latest, greatest new trend that appears in your media feed. On the other hand, continuous learning will help you sustain and grow your maker business. Improving your expertise goes beyond elevating your creative abilities. Deeper marketing knowledge, greater proficiency at selling, a fact based change to your promotion tactics, becoming better at managing cash flow and financial management are just as important.
Expanding your skills and knowledge also needs to be a targeted activity. Randomly searching the net or a bunch of randomly collected e-books will not cut it. Analyze your business, identify areas of weakness, determine which weaknesses result in the greatest negative impact on your business and learn what is necessary to eliminate them; then act and implement. As Friedrich Nietzsche said:
“The doer alone learneth.”