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THE COMPETITION: Underestimate Them At Your Peril!

Posted by learntobead on February 3, 2021

The Workshop

The weekend had arrived.

I slowly glanced around the room, at each and every participant, all seventeen of them, sitting quietly around this very large classroom table, eagerly awaiting what was to come before them. Our guest Jewelry Design Instructor standing at the head of the table. Me sitting at the other end.

Two very special days with this super-hero Instructor. She guiding them step-by-step through the processes of design and construction. Demonstrating how to use the tools. Then the technique. Then the discussion about strategy and materials. And finally, beginning this fabulous necklace project design.

The excitement was palpable. No one could contain themselves. They were lapping at the starting gate. Eyes on the prize. Working together with a celebrity designer. Hearing her thoughts. Seeing her in action. Becoming at least a Facebook friend. Hoping to be able to finish by the end of the next day. And show it off the next.

It took two years to get to this point.

I had arranged everything.

My plans methodical.

My organization without question.

My calendar and schedule to the point.

But until that moment we all entered the classroom, finding our seats, laying out our tools and materials, making sure our water or coffee or tea was at hand, snacks carefully positioned along the center of the table, our guest Instructor passing out the instruction kits … until that very moment, I wasn’t sure this was all going to happen.

The Advanced Study Was To Culminate In 
 A Masters Class In Beadweaving and Design

I am a jewelry designer.

I own a bead store.

I have all kinds of clients and customers interested in various aspects of jewelry making and design. There are bead stringers. Also wire workers. Some fiber artists, silversmiths, and lampwork artists. Toss in some hand-knotters and braiders. The occasional biologist and physicist who use beads in their experiments, and we meet the beading needs of quite a large range of people

One group gets my special attention — the bead weavers. These are people who like to use those tiny little seed beads and needle and thread, and make jewelry, tapestries, embellished clothing, and sculptures, and whatever they can think of. Our bead weavers have a special Advanced Jewelry Design Study Group which has existed for many years. One of the earlier projects this group pursued was to study the life of a well-known and well-respected bead artist and designer. At the time we studied her life, she had already become a celebrity designer and teacher in the bead weaving field.

The question before the group: What makes an accomplished bead weaver and jewelry designer?

Was it family upbringing? Special innate talents? Schooling? Happenstance? What influenced her in her development as a bead artist and designer? Were there ups and downs? Was the career path linear? How important was it to have a mentor or special teacher? How about comradery — what kind of social network did she have, and how important a role did that play?

The group picked their target. I phoned her, and explained what the group wanted to accomplish. I asked if she would be willing to be interviewed, probably about once a week, and she agreed. And that began our adventure and exploration which lasted a little more than a year.

The Advanced Jewelry Design Study Group, to say the least, was very excited. To have this kind of access to a master bead weaving artist and designer was extraordinary. And they had many, many questions for her.

So, my routine began with asking the group what questions they had. Then I would phone the instructor and we would talk about 30 minutes. I reported her answers back to the group. There was some group discussion. Then we generated some more questions.

There were questions about how she got started. She was a seamstress. How she got into beading. She was hired to work in a bead store. How beading became a passion for her. She began to teach classes. She saw how she could integrate the techniques she used as a seamstress into techniques for weaving beads. Did she have a mentor. The woman who owned the bead shop had been a basket weaver, and adapted those techniques for bead weaving. This person was very inspirational, and took her under her wing. Was there any happenstance. Someone was wanting to start a major bead weaving magazine. They came to town — San Diego — to interview several bead weaving artists to see whom they might highlight in the first issue of the magazine. Our Instructor was one of the chosen few.

Over the year, we talked about variations in several bead weaving techniques, and how she came to choose the variations she preferred. We asked what it meant to her to have a design sense. We discussed other bead weaving artists, what of their history she was familiar with, and how they came to specialize in certain techniques over others. We were inquisitive about her selection of materials. We asked questions about what it was like to teach, and how her approaches were similar or different, given the varying skill levels of her students.

During the summer, I asked her if I could arrange a 3-day workshop with her in Nashville, Tennessee. We decided on the weekend of June 21st, about 1 year later at that point. We planned to do two projects — a simpler bracelet, and a more advanced 2-day necklace.

I added the dates to my calendar. I created my marketing plan and schedule. And did not give it much more thought, since the workshop was not to happen for about another year.

Competitive Conflict #1:
 The Local Bead Society

I had been an active member and supporter of our local bead society until the year previous to when my Advanced Jewelry Design Study Group began its study of the artist and designer.

As a store owner, I actively promoted the bead society. I garnered them a large membership. I offered steep discounts to their members. I steered many opportunities their way. I let them use our classroom spaces. I provided materials for their activities at no cost to them. I assisted their planning, program and development committees. I worked with them to write their bylaws.

Everything worked smoothly for many years. But then it didn’t.

Bead society officers were elected every two years. In that last election before I discontinued my relationship with the group, three of the four officers elected — the president, the vice president and the secretary — no longer managed the society and functioned in the members’ interests, nor followed the bylaws.

The society had a bylaw that stated that every program had to have a prespecified date, on which, if that program looked like it would lose money, the membership had to vote whether to continue with the program, or cancel it. The officers ignored the rule. They scheduled several workshops of interest primarily to themselves, many which had nothing to do with beading, over their first two years in office. They drove down the $8,000 the society had in the bank to a little under $1,000.

The officers made themselves the chairs of all the organization’s committees. Refused to do the monthly reports to the membership, including information about the society’s bank accounts.

The officers refused to let the treasurer have access to the bank, or any signatory powers as specified in the bylaws.

The three officers spent society money on lavish gifts for themselves.

And on and on.

Which is why I withdrew.

The Society Wanted A Workshop Too

About six months after I had booked our workshop with the Instructor, the bead society officers approached this same Instructor, and cleverly booked a workshop the weekend before ours. They did not pick any particular workshop projects at that time. I had already done a lot of pre-marketing, so the message about our workshop and our dates was very visible and out there way before the time they approached our Instructor.

We’re in the same town — Nashville, TN. Our potential market of possible participants is virtually the same. The market was not large enough to support two workshops. I did not find out about their plans until 3 months before our workshop was to begin. That’s the timeframe when they began their marketing.

The Instructor should have had more control over the situation. But she did not. She thought the bead society was located in another part of Tennessee, where there would not be a major conflict.

So, here we were.

I proposed to the Instructor and the bead society the following, hoping for a compromise:

a. We would keep our June 21 weekend date

b. We would do the two projects that the Instructor and I had agreed upon.

c. We would hold the workshop at my bead store

d. My advanced students would get first priority for available seats, which would still leave room for a large number of additional participants

e. The workshop would be marketed as a joint project between the bead store and the bead society

f. The bead society could have all the proceeds, which would have been several thousand dollars

The bead society said No!

I held our workshop as planned and scheduled.

The Instructor canceled their workshop, and told them she would never do a workshop with them again.

Competitive Conflict #2:
 Another Local Bead Store

My bead store is located less than half a mile from another bead store. I view them as friendly competition. They see me as the enemy. The two stores have different mixes of merchandise. Some customers overlap, but I view my market area as a 5-hour driving radius around Nashville. They view their market as Nashville only. They offer classes, but come from a craft perspective. They teach steps. I offer classes, but come from a design perspective. I teach theories and applications. We do not attract the same customers. We do not attract the same students.

For me, the presence of both stores, plus a Michaels craft store across the street creates a lot of synergy — more things to buy, more things to do, more customers to entice into learning beading and jewelry making. For the other store, they assumed loss of sales, loss of students and loss of customers. The reality was that our businesses presented more of a continuum than any overlap.

But having this Instructor teach here was a coup. It was status. Power, Legitimacy. Credibility. It was an endorsement of who I was, what I was, and my way of thinking. And the other bead store owners — a husband and wife — wanted all of this for themselves. They were not happy.

We may have been seen as some kind of enemy in this instance. Or, perhaps conversely, as a friend providing more opportunities to bead artists and designers for fun and professional development in Nashville. I guess it depends how you think about competition and where you are standing.

The first thing the other store’s owners tried to do was steal the workshop for themselves. Not long after I had booked the Instructor that summer, they called her. They asked her to reschedule the workshop the same weekend, but at their bead store instead. Even before she told them No!, they began a premarketing campaign. Emails, signage, phone calls — all indicating that they were to host the Instructor the weekend of June 21st. And after she told them No!, they continued their premarketing campaign anyway.

This confused lots of people. Many people thought I might be lying about our program. Luckily, I was interviewing the Instructor weekly, and reporting back to our study group. I included summaries in our marketing materials we sent out to all our customers each month. Eventually, the other bead store stopped their marketing.

The wife who owned the bead store found out the Instructor was doing a workshop in Kansas City. This was about 5 months before our scheduled date. She drove all the way to Kansas City from Nashville. She arranged to meet the Instructor at the hotel lobby one morning, on a pretense and supposedly to show her and sell her some specialty Czech glass beads. They had never met in person before.

The Instructor told me that she had come down into the lobby, and the wife began pulling out displays of Czech glass. But the conversation quickly turned to the Nashville workshop. The wife asked the Instructor to change the venue to their bead store. The Instructor again said No!, and sent the wife on her way. “Creepy,” was the word the Instructor used.

There was more to come.

Three weeks before the workshop, the husband this time phoned the Instructor. He asked her when she would arrive, and which airline she was flying on. He told her that he would pick her up at the airport.

She was already suspicious of the couple. She told him she had other arrangements.

And one more thing.

For three days during my workshop — Friday and Saturday and Sunday, the husband parked his car in the parking lot. Directly in front of my store. Headlights on. He was there all day, every day. As if he were taking names of the customers coming into my store.

Creepy.

Underestimate Your Competition At Your Peril

Looking back, it all seems so much fun — great stories to tell. An adventure in competitive competition. But it was very important to take competition seriously then, and seriously now. It is important to know…

1. What competition is

2. Who you competitors are

3. The specific characteristics of your marketplace

4. What your competitive advantage over your competitors is

5. How to get the message across to your clients and customers — current and possible — about your competitive advantage

Many businesses do not take the time to truly understand their marketplace, and all the competitive forces within it. They may spend some time listing some differences between themselves and those they compete with. Lower prices. More accessibility. Better quality. Faster service.

But the differences in and of themselves do not make the difference between capturing your market or not. It’s the visibility of these differences. And the credibility of how these differences are conveyed. And the risk and reward calculus of your customers. Your competitive advantage is not the quality or price of your product or service you are selling, but your ability to make this information known in the market, and believable in that market, and valued in that market.

1. What Competition Is

Competition is a process utilized to influence outcomes.

Competition begins with perceptions of differences in status or position, and the subsequent recognition of contradictions between market reality and personal or organizational expectation. Status or position can relate to things like wealth, power, attention, income, market share, access to scarce resources, prestige and fame.

A person or business makes the decision to compete when those contradictions become personally or organizationally untenable. Survive or die.

The motivation to pursue competition, then, is to enhance or impede positive or negative changes in status or position.

A strategic competitive response, intuitive or formal, is developed. It is an opportunity for action based on an assessment of the relative risks and rewards for acting versus not acting.

This competitive response and pursuit can take two forms: 
 Either,
 
a) cooperation, when a common goal can be shared, and both can gain,
 or,
 b) conflict, when a common goal cannot be shared, and the gain for one is a loss for the other.

Whatever the response, competition can incentivize. It can set in motion positive things which make the person or business more efficient, more effective, more responsive, more actively learning, more adaptive, and more innovative. Or just the opposite can happen.

Competition is never a fixed state of affairs. It is a journey. So the rivalry has a lot of give and take, and ebb and flow, to it. Things can improve for one party, and diminish for the other. Things can improve for both. Just as easily, things can deteriorate for both. These can lead to compromising ethical standards. These can lead to financial ruin.

2. Who Your Competitors Are

Your competitor is anyone operating in your market — whether individual or business or network or organization or even an event or other more abstract thing — which can influence outcomes related to your status or position.

This might relate to the products you sell. This might relate to the services you offer. This might relate to your design sense, ideas and philosophy. So, you want to get a handle on how your competitors CAN INFLUENCE THINGS, and WHAT RESOURCES AND CONNECTIONS they have on hand to exert such influence, and what their MOTIVATIONS are for wanting to influence things.

Understanding Your Competitors

You cannot compete if you do not have a thorough understanding of who your competitors are. Their understandings and assumptions. Their business strategies. Their operations. Their client / customer base and how they market to them. Their perceptions. Their expectations. Their skill sets. Their level of resiliency and ability to adapt to changing market conditions. How they position themselves within their market.

You cannot compete if you do not have a good estimate of how many competitors you have, and whether they are direct or indirect competitors.

Your competitors include any individual or business which might deter a potential client or customer from choosing you. Some of these individuals or businesses will be obvious because they compete directly with you. Another designer. Another design business. Another business, but not specifically a design business, which sells the same types of design products or services you offer.

These direct competitors may be in the same locale or service area you are in. They may be online. They may have a print catalog. They may be registered as ancillary employees with another service.

With direct competition, you want to be as visible or moreso than they are in order to attract and retain clients and customers. Visibility means that people know who you are, where you are, and the relative risks and rewards for patronizing you rather than one of your other direct competitors.

Indirect competitors are those who do not offer the same products or services that you do; however, the products and services they do offer satisfy your clients’ or customers’ needs in a similar way. They are viable alternatives to what you offer, as understood by a shared or overlapping client / customer base. You must always ask yourself, to understand these indirect competitors, what all the alternatives to your products and services might be.

For example, people buy jewelry for many reasons, one of which is to be adorned in an appealing way. That same person, rather than buy jewelry, might meet their same need by getting a tattoo or buying another accessory like a handbag. Jewelry purchases might be seasonal, timed to special holidays and occasions or the schedule of the partying circuit. At other times, these same people might be attracted to other artistic products and services. In the winter, they might think more about getting a knitted sweater. In the spring, they might think more about planting a garden.

To reach your client / customer base when they are involved with your indirect competitors will still require strategies to increase your visibility. But the specific things you do might be very different, than when competing for the attention of clients and customers who visit your direct competitors. You will need to change your field of vision. You may redefine your client or customer based into different sub-groups. Your marketing messages will probably be very different. Where you place these messages, and when you schedule these messages to go out, may be very different.

3. The Specific Characteristics Of Competition In Your Marketplace

You cannot compete if you do not have a good understanding, not only of who your competitors are, but also, how good they are at competing. What is their position, both in terms of status and location, in your market place –marginal or core? What is their strategy for pricing and how does that relate to clients’ or customers’ perceptions, wants and needs? Do they offer discounts? Payment terms? Do they have anything related to special status, such as awards? What kinds of marketing do they do, and what is the content of their messaging? Are there cultural or social things which impede or enhance their competitiveness? What is their history, how did they get started, how did they keep going? How adaptive and resilient do they appear to be as market conditions change, and what kinds of things make you draw your conclusions?

How Do You Define Your Market Boundaries?

It is very important that you have a clear understanding of how people find you, or find where your products and services are available. This will influence what marketing messages you want to send, where you want to post them, and how often you want to post them.

Some of this information may involve mapping out local shopping behaviors. An example, 25% of your clients or customers visit both the local mall and your business or where your products or services are on the same shopping trip. Another example, 15% of your clients or customers interact with you or your products or services three times each month.

Other information may be specified in terms of how extensive the driving radius is, such as, 50% of your clients or customers are willing to drive 1 hour to get to you, your products or your services.

Within your market boundaries, you may have some sub-markets or market niches. This might break down by age or by income or by gender or by some other variable. You might have clients who want fully customized services, or those who want boiler-plate.

Your physical, geographic market boundaries may have little to no relationship to your online market boundaries. In fact, you may have several different online market boundaries, given where and how you create your online presence.

Concurrently with all your analyses, with a simple review of your various competitors advertising and websites, you can determine how they define their market boundaries. This might trigger new ideas and understandings for you in your own marketing efforts. Or it might create new competitive puzzles to solve. It might give you a better way of calculating whether any one marketing approach is worth the costs.

Also, ask yourself, are there any gaps in the market which you might exploit? Conversely, are any parts of the market oversaturated, and should be avoided?

How Do Your Competitors Position Themselves?

Your same products or services can be presented within your market or market niches in a number of different ways, and through various combinations of circumstances and contingencies.

Based on the packaging and presentation, different existing and potential clients or customers may vary in what resonates with them. That is, even though the products or services may be the same or similar, people won’t always recognize how all of these may equally meet their needs, wants and demands.

The circumstances surrounding the packaging and presentation of products or services is known as positioning. It is important to know how your competitors position themselves. Ask yourself: Am I positioning myself similarly or differently from my competition?

This information about positioning helps you differentiate what you offer from what they offer. It helps your clients or customers compare you to your competitors in a way which influences them to believe that they would trust purchasing from you rather than them.

What Is Their Pricing Strategy?

One of the most visible aspects of your business is how you price your products or services. Your prices provide a concrete measure your clients or customers can use to compare you to your competition. They are perhaps the most singularly important way you recruit and retain your clients or customers.

Obviously, it is critical to get an understanding of how your competitors price things. Do you use a similar or different strategy for pricing your products or services? How appealing are your prices? Are prices in line with what people in your market area are willing to pay? Do your clients or customers trust you in how you value things in order to price them — especially if your prices are higher than your competitors?

Do any of your competitors offer discounts? Are there volume requirements before giving someone a discount? Do they offer different payment options? Terms?

And many designers find they often have to compete with other designers who under-price their products or services, sometimes even below their costs, because they are unaware of the business fundamentals of pricing. There is no good competitive strategy here except to ignore them. Under-pricing is a yellow flag that these designers will not be able to provide a quality service or product, and won’t be able to survive very long as a business.

What Are Your Competitors’ Strengths?

You want to fully understand what clients and customers like about your competition, and like more about your competition than your own business. Then you ask yourself, are these qualities or products or services you need to adopt and include in your own business. Or maybe differences in appeal come down to how you market yourself. Or maybe these are things you need to ignore and not try to offer.

Examine the backgrounds and skill-sets of the owner, and if a larger organization, that of the staff. How much does this lead to their success?

Have they had any particular wins? Can you learn from those?

What Are Your Competitors’ Weaknesses?

It is not only the strengths of your competitors which you need to be aware of, but also their weaknesses. This may further help you identify both your own strengths and weaknesses. This may help you understand how your clients view the strengths and weaknesses of both you and your competitors. It may help you better sharpen your marketing messaging or reveal how to add to your list of products and services.

Often competitor weaknesses in design businesses relate to those businesses trying to impose one design solution on every situation. They have no adaptive skills. They aren’t very resilient. Their knowledge and skill-set in design is shallow and limited. They have difficulty overcoming unknown or unfamiliar situations. They do not know how to engage with their clients in a fully empathetic way.

Has your competitor had any particular failures? What can you learn from those?

Your competitor’s weakness may have less to do with the competitor but rather some deficiency or disorganization in your market. You might learn how that competitor has tried to respond to market imperfections, and take that into account when formulating your own responses.

What Are Your Clients’ or Customers’ Views and Understandings
 of Your Competitors?

Clients and customers make or break your business. It is what they perceive and what they expect and what they value which are critical. Every business, whether a 1-person office or a multiplex, must be able to anticipate the understandings people have who use their services, or who may use their products. And then ditto for that of your competitors.

Additionally, every business needs to have an arsenal of competitive strategies for aligning the understandings of others with those of the business. Do you know what your competitors’ strategies are towards this end?

You may think you offer quality products, but they may not know or may not recognize this. You may think your hours of operation are sufficient, but they may not. You may think your design sense is current and fashionable, but they may not or may be unaware. You may think you have better messaging, connections, and relations with your clients and customers, but they may feel that moreso with your competitors.

One place where all these dynamics converge is online through facebook likes, customer reviews, customer comments and the like. It is important to devote resources towards managing and participating at these types of nexus points.

Always do some reality-checking: How do the understandings and views your customers have of the competition or your own business coordinate with your own understandings and views?

What Are The Primary Ways Information Is Exchanged 
 About The Sale Of The Types Of Products Or Services You Sell?

How do people find out about you? About your competitors? How do they know what your sell? Where you sell it? The value? The opportunity to buy? What happens if they are dissatisfied after the sale?

There are all kinds of options.

– Print advertising in newspapers and magazines

– Ads or classifieds in directories and neighborhood papers

– Marketing materials like brochures, business cards, hand-outs

– Online promotions — banners, search engine ads, search engine listings, classified listings, online calendars

– Indexing of websites

– Links from other websites

– Online reviews

– Articles written about you, in print or online

– Co-marketing with a compatible business

– Relationships with your suppliers or distributors

– Classes you teach

– Trade fairs, exhibits, art and craft shows you attend or participate in

– Attendance at social or business events

– Sponsorships

– Word of mouth

It’s that last one — word of mouth — where you usually get your biggest bang for the buck. So you need to think of ways to drive it.

4. What Your Competitive Advantage Over Your Competitors Is

Part of driving that word of mouth is establishing in clear, visible, legitimate and valuable terms what your competitive advantage or advantages are over those of your competitors.

Your competitive advantage(s) are all the reason someone should contract for your services or buy your products rather than those of any of your competitors. What are those 5–10 things about you and your work that sets you apart from, and perhaps makes you better than, your competition?

There’s always something to differentiate yourself from your competition. Even if your products and services are the same, your pricing is similar, your turn-around time the same, your choices of design elements very similar, there are always other things which come into play and with which you can use to differentiate yourself. You can be a better manager of relationships. You can be clearer and more directional about how to develop your business, and assist others in developing theirs. You can deliver an outstanding customer experience better than anyone else.

5. How To Get Your Message Across To Your Customers 
— Current And Possible — About Your Competitive Advantage

What gives any individual or company a competitive edge are four values:

1. Authenticity

2. Rarity

3. Individuality

4. Legitimacy

You want to position yourself so that you stick out among the competition. This is true geographically. This is true in cyberspace. This is true in the marketplace of ideas, feelings, and values.

Start your strategic planning by focusing on the client or customer, their needs, wants, demands and decisions to buy. Get a solid handle on their thinking, their understandings of the marketplace, their understandings of your business and those of your competitors. Get very detailed about their shopping behaviors.

Last, you want to build relationships and emotional connections with these clients and customers. You want to be known as someone who hears, listens and understands them. You want to be a part, not only of the present, but their history and future, as well.

Design your communications and your interactions to maximize your advantages. You have core convictions — Authenticity. You are a unique source for things — Rarity. You can tailor what you do to the needs of each client of customer — Individuality. You can justify why patronizing you makes more sense than patronizing someone else — Legitimacy.

Ask yourself: What devices do my competitors employ to get their messages across and build customer loyalty in terms of authenticity, rarity, individuality and legitimacy?

Messaging About Your Competitive Advantages Is Not A One Shot Deal

Managing your design business and growing it means you have to be constantly learning about it and making necessary adjustments. Learning about your business in relation to the competition provides a myriad of clues and ideas. Anticipating the shared understandings of your clients and customers allows you to refine your business in a very positive way. And don’t forget to assume that your competitors are assessing you at the same time you are assessing them.

Keep a running list of your ideas, and as they evolve or change.

a. What you do better than your competitors

b. What your competitors do better than you

c. Things your discovered, learned about, and might exploit, and which might be incorporated into your own thinking

d. Things you have learned and insights you have gained which you might leverage into new innovative ideas

Keep on improving. You want to at least match your competition, but better yet surpass them. They are not the standard. Don’t copy them. Innovate, don’t imitate.

Workshop Post Mortem

So how did competition play out after my workshop?

The bead society lost a lot of members, and soon closed down. But many of their members stopped coming into the store. As one former bead society member and former store customer put it: It was more important for her to have a group to come to every Tuesday night, get out of her house at least once a week, and be with others who shared her interest, in spite of any wrong-doing on the part of the bead society officers.

Having a bead society in the area, and maintaining a visible presence in it, was very cost-effective for the store. They were 300 ambassadors spreading good word of mouth about my business. The bead society was also influencing people in the community to take up beading and jewelry making as a hobby and avocation. These were things I didn’t have to utilize store resources for.

My bead store competitor is still in business. To this day I do not think that the owners there recognize that we are different businesses. We have different values and goals. Our customer bases overlap some, but we provide different experiences and attract different market niches.

I try to minimize a sense of Us vs Them. I always refer customers to them and to Michaels. To me, the local customer does this calculus. Is it less risk to find what they want locally, see the real colors and real quality, and get it immediately, or is it less risk to try to find what they want online? With three stores merely blocks apart, it lowers the risk to shop locally. This is incredibly advantageous. I don’t think the other bead store recognizes this.

I was lucky to have approached the design of my classes differently from the traditional craft, step-by-step, learn mechanics approach. The internet, where now you can get all these types of step-by-step classes for free, has driven the value of this type of class to $0.00. My classes focus on the art and design aspects of beading and jewelry making — things not easily conveyed in video tutorials online. So my competitors — the bead store a few blocks away, as well as Michaels — have significantly reduced the number of classes they offer. At the same time, I have tripled mine.

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Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

Should I Set Up My Craft Business On A Marketplace Online?

The Importance of Self-Promotion: Don’t Be Shy

Are You Prepared For When The Reporter Comes A-Calling?

A Fool-Proof Formula For Pricing And Selling Your Jewelry

Designer Connect Profile: Tony Perrin, Jewelry Designer

My Aunt Gert: Illustrating Some Lessons In Business Smarts

Copyrighting Your Pieces: Let’s Not Confuse The Moral With The Legal Issues

Naming Your Business / Naming Your Jewelry

Jewelry Making Materials: Knowing What To Do

To What Extent Should Business Concerns Influence Artistic and Jewelry Design Choices

How Creatives Can Successfully Survive In Business

Getting Started In Business: What You Do First To Make It Official

So You Want To Do Craft Shows: Lesson 4: Set Realistic Goals

______________________

I hope you found this article useful.

Also, check out my website (www.warrenfeldjewelry.com).

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft video tutorials online.

Add your name to my email list.

Visit Land of Odds online (https://www.landofodds.com)for all your jewelry making supplies.

Subscribe to my Learn To Bead blog (https://blog.landofodds.com).

___________________________

FOOTNOTES

360 Live Media, Who Is Your Competitor? 8/28/2017.
 As referenced in:
 https://www.360livemedia.com/post/who-is-your-competitor

 Info Entrepreneurs. Understand Your Competitors. Canada Business Network, 2009.
 As referenced in:
 https://www.infoentrepreneurs.org/en/guides/understand-your-competitors/

Grey, Ingar. 6 Advantages To Knowing Your Competition. Bizjournals, 5/3/2016.
 As referenced in:
 https://www.bizjournals.com/bizjournals/how-to/growth-strategies/2016/05/6-advantages-to-knowing-your-competition.html

McCormick, Kristen. 5 Things You Should Know About Your Competitors. 12/22/2016.
 As referenced in:
 https://thrivehive.com/5-things-you-should-know-about-your-competitors/

Misner, Ivan. My Philosophy About Competition, 6/21/2010.
 As referenced in:
 https://ivanmisner.com/my-philosophy-about-competition/

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RESILIENCY: DO YOU HAVE THE MOST IMPORTANT SKILL EVERY DESIGNER MUST HAVE?

Posted by learntobead on January 2, 2021

HOW RESILIENT ARE YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL, A PROFESSIONAL, AND A BUSINESS?

Guiding Questions:
 (1) What does it mean and require for you to be resilient as a jewelry designer?
 (2) What does it mean and require for your jewelry design business to be resilient?
 (3) What does it mean and require for you as an individual to be resilient?
 (4) Why is it important to be resilient?
 (5) How do you manage resiliency?

Abstract:

Resiliency is a form of power. It describes our ability to bounce back from overwhelming challenges. It is necessary for survival. Organizationally. Business-wise. Professional-wise. Psychologically. It should be at the top of the To-Do list for every designer and for every design business to be resilient. There are always unexpected disruptions. Sometimes these disruptions are negative; othertimes, positive. All present challenges and opportunities. We want to be able to manage vulnerabilities, absorb stress, recover critical functionality, and continue to survive and thrive when our circumstances change. We want to be able to find, evaluate, negotiate and grab opportunities before they disappear or become unattainable.

Over The Course Of My Business

I have been in the jewelry design business for over four decades. There have been many ups and downs. For most, my business and my skills were resilient enough to keep things afloat until they found their footing again. But not always.

There’s the ever-present business cycle which fluctuates between prosperity and recession. There are changes in fads, fashions and styles, manytimes leaving me with some dead merchandise, a rush to design new styles of jewelry, and the need to change my inventory of parts. A few years, brooches are the hot item; then, all of a sudden, brooches are out and bracelets and rings are in; and, on and on. One color like blue is in, and then it is not. Occasionally, I needed some retraining in new techniques which became popularized. Then there was the slowly increasing shift from brick and mortar businesses to online ones. I had to develop the knowledge and skills to put part of my business online.

At one point, for eleven years, my business was located downtown Nashville in a historic district. It was full of mom-and-pop shops, from rock shops to junk stores to small boutiques and restaurants. It was an exciting place. Too exciting, it turned out. The large corporations decided to move in — Hard Rock Café, Planet Hollywood, Wild Horse Saloon. To accommodate them, the city renovated the district. Part of this renovation included removing over 6,000 parking spaces within an 18-month period. Parking costs skyrocketed from $2–3.00 to $15–20.00. People stopped coming there to shop. Things changed so fast, I had to maneuver out of my lease, and put my business into bankruptcy.

Nashville’s downtown was hit by a tornado. The tornado landed one block from my shop. I could see it from my doorway. It left an unbelievable amount of devastation and debris in the downtown.

The Nashville economy was booming for a while around 2005. Unemployment was below 2%, and I was unable to fill two staff positions.

After the 2008 financial crisis, my business spiraled downwards, at times dramatically, for the next 10 years, before I regained some level of control. When the 2020 COVID pandemic struck, there were 3 months where people had to quarantine themselves, and my business dropped to nothing. For the next year, I had to let all my staff go, and curtail my business hours. I had to maintain a level of inventory and a mix of products which customers wanted with little money coming in.

Then, there are always those moments when you need a good back-up strategy, such as when internet and wi-fi services fail, and you depend on these to process sales and credit cards.

When we think of ourselves as designers, and think about the design businesses we lead or participate in, we need to add resiliency as an important factor — and, I think, the most important factor, — among design sense, creativity, skill-set, marketing and selling, which support our success.

RESILIENCY: What Is It?

Resiliency is a form of power. It describes our ability to bounce back from overwhelming challenges. It is necessary for survival. Organizationally. Business-wise. Professional-wise. Psychologically. It should be at the top of the To-Do list for every designer and for every design business to be resilient.

There are always unexpected disruptions. Sometimes these disruptions are negative; othertimes, positive. All present challenges and opportunities. Changes in fashions, styles, fads and tastes. Changes in technology and equipment. Changes in competition. The world changes whether it is in a direction we want or not. We want to manage these disruptions gracefully. We want to recover nicely. We do not want to fail, but if we do, we want to be able to pull our life, our emotions, our businesses back together again.

Resiliency means doing enough things right. It requires some leadership and self-direction. It requires that we continually reflect on what we do and the positive and negative consequences which follow. We want to be able to manage vulnerabilities, absorb stress, recover critical functionality, and continue to survive and thrive when our circumstances change. We want to be able to find, evaluate, negotiate and grab opportunities before they disappear or become unattainable.

Types of Resiliency

Changes and disruptions affect us on many levels. It affects our businesses and organizations. It affects our professional development. If affects us emotionally and psychologically. As professional designers, we need to come to recognize how resiliency plays out and how it should be managed at each of these levels.

(1) Business and Organization

(2) Professional

(3) Psychological

Whatever level, resiliency should be understood as a process involving all aspects of the organization, the professional self and the individual self.

(1) Business and Organizational Resiliency

The business and organization must be structured in such a way as to anticipate, prepare for, respond to, and adapt to sudden disruptions so as to survive and prosper. They must protect the organization as a whole as well as the people who work within it from the overwhelming influence of risk factors.

This translates into every design business needing to have people and systems set in place so that the business can re-act to a disruption as it occurs, pro-act to prepare for any disruption before they cause a problem and create a solid systems foundation, and post-act to overcome any disruption.

From a business standpoint, re-act resilience (adaptive), pro-act resilience (anticipatory), and post-act resilience (robustness) should be built into the following business prerequisites:

1. Access to designer expertise and skill-sets, particularly if current staff may need to be furloughed or let go

2. Staying competitive by maintaining control over risk and costs, including a functioning accounting system, and efficient/effective management over risk assessment, costs and returns on investment

3. Compliance with client expectations and any government rules and regulations

4. Protecting any intellectual property and data

5. Readiness to respond to changing market conditions, which may involve increased research and development costs, developing new ways in response to new competitors and competitive pressures, and creating new ways of linking up your products with potential buyers

Business Continuity vs. Business Resiliency

When you are scouring the internet for ideas about how to make your business more resilient, you need to differentiate between business continuity and business resiliency. Both involve processes for creating systems of prevention and recovering, dealing with environmental threats to the company. Both deal with preparedness, protection, response and recovery.

Business Continuity focuses on what the organization needs to resist one-time crises. These are things put in place to maintain the capability of the business to continue to deliver products or services at acceptable levels following a disruption. These systems and skill-set foundations are able to continually define the market and market conditions, assess risks and impacts, implement controls, adjust training and awareness, act in accordance, and monitor the evolving situation. Continuity deals with crises one by one as they occur.

Business Resiliency is a more strategic approach for dealing with larger, perhaps more desperate in the moment, crises. Resiliency deals with what the organization needs to continuously anticipate and adjust.

(2) Professional Resiliency

As a professional designer, you also need to have re-act resiliency, pro-act resiliency and post-act resiliency. Your current skill-set may get out of realignment. Your client may have changed their thinking midway through a project. The company you work for may have had to let you go. Some major changes in technology or fashion or style may be occurring. Some of the colors, objects, computer code — you get what I mean — no longer exist, are outdated or sun-set’ed.

You may have hit a wall or some other unknown or unfamiliar situation with a project and are uncertain how to proceed. Your work may have been handed over to another designer, or you may have been required to work with another designer, and you do not share ideas, values and objectives. You need to cope with rejection and dismissal.

Designers depend on the responses and reactions of clients to determine the degree to which their projects are seen as finished and successful. There can be a lot of misunderstanding here. The things they design must be both functional and appealing, and this is not an easy task. Often the design process is one of fits and starts, evaluation and re-evaluation, some tweaking, some adaptation, and some trial-and-error. We design over a period of time, sometimes anticipating that the environment will change and the client may change, but oftentimes hoping these will not.

This is why building in a professional resiliency matters so much for designers. It reduces the uncertainty. It reduces the struggle. It enables us to maintain a positive outlook. It enables us to create, to push boundaries, and to get things done on time, acceptable to the client and the situation.

Buzzanell describes five different processes which professionals use when trying to maintain resiliency –

· Crafting normalcy

· Affirming professional identity and Can-Do attitude

· Securing communication networks

· Putting alternative logics to work

· Downplaying negative feelings and emotions, while reinforcing positive ones

Towards these ends, the resilient designer strives for a high level of literacy in all aspects of design. This involves becoming fluent with all the types of tasks and skills involved. This involves an expectation that learning is a continual, lifelong endeavor. This involves a level of comprehension about what goes together well, and what does not. This involves developing a high level of flexibility — what I call, having a Designers-Toolbox of fix-it strategies handy. And this involves getting very metacognitive — that is, fully aware — of your thinking and motivations.

(3) Psychological Resiliency

As a human being, a major crisis may shake you to the core. It may increase your level of self-doubt and self-esteem. It may make it difficult to cope emotionally or to quickly regain your composure and sense of self-worth. You may lose control or motivation over your design work.

Psychological resilience is when you use your perceptual, cognitive, behavioral and emotional resources to promote your personal worth and assets, and minimize negative emotions and stressors. Psychological resilience allows you to maintain calm, to reflect clearly, and to develop a plan of action, minimizing any future negative consequences. While some individuals can handle greater stress than others, everyone needs to develop within themselves this ability to be resilient.

It is important for any individual to recognize when their psychological resiliency is threatened. People respond to adverse conditions in three ways. Can you recognize these reactions in yourself?

1. Erupting with anger (and it’s important to note that anger follows fear)

2. Imploding with negative emotions, perhaps becoming paralyzed to act

3. Simply becoming upset

Only the third response — simply becoming upset — will allow the individual to become more resilient and promote well-being. They are able to change their current pattern of behavior to better cope with the disruption. Otherwise, coping mechanisms tend to be rejected, ignored, or misunderstood. Psychological resiliency requires that coping mechanisms be intentional, not instinctual.

Resilient designers resort to these psychological resources:

1. Maintaining some emotional detachment from the project, and not taking things personally

2. Seeing critique as a positive resource, rather than a punishing one, and recognizing that you won’t have all the skills or all the answers at all times

3. Reframing things when the initial conceptions of problem or solution no longer serve their purpose, in realistic terms and practical follow-through

4. Recognizing that everything done is a learning experience and a developmental investment in yourself in some way, and never a waste of time and resources

5. Knowing when enough is enough, or, similarly, knowing when to say No!

6. Finding a passion for their work in design which is inspirational and motivational and keeps them engaged

7. Knowing productive things to do during “down-time”

8. Having a sense of self-esteem and self-worth, projecting a confidence in the work, even when that work is questioned or where it is difficult to measure its success

9. Having an ability to communicate and be heard and understood about how problems get defined, skills get applied, and solutions get developed and implemented

RESILIENCY: How Do You Manage It?

One way to visualize how best to manage your resiliency is to group all the activities which need to get done into these four categories:

1. PLAN

2. DO

3. MONITOR

4. ACT

1. PLAN

You create accessible databases, reports, lists and the like about equipment, inventory, supplies and suppliers, costs and revenues, location adaptability or alternative and feasible locations if you have to move things, and backup systems for documents, documentation and inventory supplies.

2. DO

You quantify in dollar terms the risk of loss in inventory, personnel, equipment, and the like. You define and measure

a. impacts
 b. threats
 c. impact scenarios
 d. recovery requirements

3. MONITOR

You put into place ways to monitor risks and responses. You create trigger systems which alert you, preferably with some good lead time, when disruptions are approaching, occurring, cascading out of control, and when responses are stumbling.

You maintain strong networks of communication with colleagues, suppliers, clients, and other related businesses.

4. ACT

Building resilient enterprises and professional lives is not a one-shot, one-time thing. It’s a continual process. It is something you always need to be acting on.

Strategic things to embrace:

Redundancy: some duplication
 Diversity: some variety
 Modularity: some insulation of each thing apart from all others
 Adaptability: some ability to evolve through trial and error
 Prudence: some sense that if anything plausible could happen, it probably will
 Embeddedness: some alignment of business, professional or personal goals with the systems and activities within which these get put into effect

Resiliencies strategies will require leadership and decisiveness in order to be put into place and managed day-to-day.

They may require taking an active, not merely a passive, response in shaping the future environment in order to create and exploit new opportunities to flourish.

They may require greater communication and collaboration with other businesses and professionals, in order to increase a broader, more collective resilience and a greater sharing of risks and rewards.

RESILIENCY: Why Is It Important?

Resiliency is a company’s, a professional’s and/or an individual’s capacity to absorb stress, recover critical functionality, and thrive as circumstances change.

Resiliency is especially important these days because of how rapidly global markets, distributional channels, technology, access to resources, and skill-set foundations change or develop, get disrupted, and redevelop.

Too often, designers and the businesses they work for focus on short term results — the number of designs sold, the number of current and new clients, the returns on investments. And too often, the paramount concern is stability and stasis. There is too much devoted to making things predictable. There is too much of a Have-Design-Will-Travel mentality.

Resilience requires a multi-timeframe outlook — short, medium and long. There most likely will need to be some inefficiencies in the short term so that the long term challenges are not too disruptive. It is highly unlikely that the design which worked today will still be workable tomorrow. Resiliency anticipates that things will be unpredictable, changeable, unknown, even unlikely. Significant consequences will present themselves, but you will not know it until you are faced with them, and you will have to adapt to them and recover, in order to survive.

Managing for resilience will require a mental model of business which embraces complexity and uncertainty and the here-to-fore unidentified. It must interrelate all the functional human and technical systems which come to bear during any design process.

On the personal and professional levels, resiliency can keep you from feeling helpless and paralyzed. It can motivate you to keep going, be decisive, and overcome obstacles. It can provide more clues to you, faster, more readily, more frequently about how to approach the unknown or unfamiliar, be flexible, and fix things.

A more resilient organization or individual can provide a competitive edge over other businesses or individuals unprepared to meet various contingencies. You can become better resistant to withstand any initial shock. You can be more agile in your responses. You can respond and recover smarter and more rapidly.

RESILIENCY: How Do You Become More Resilient?

There is no single strategy for making organizations, professionals or individuals more resilient. However, we can know those things which enhance resilience and to which you can work into your own business, professional or personal life.

To become more resilient, basically, you need to seek advantages in adversity. Towards this end, you will need to continually invest, in an integrated and coordinated manner, with concurrent attention to both management and creativity requirements, in these five things:

(1) Infrastructure (technology, inventory, accounting systems, displays, systems structure and analysis)

(2) Knowledge (technical skills, marketing and other business skills, risk assessment, criticality, reflection, metacognition, prediction, anticipation, leadership)

(3) Relationships (establishing trust, credibility, legitimacy, visibility, ways to communicate and dialog, collaboration, ways to sell)

(4) Assessment (measuring fluency, flexibility, adaptability, diversity, capability, cost/benefits, redundancy, modularity, embeddedness, prudence, and critical responses)

(5) Attitude (always designing with the end user in mind, and developing a change- and developmental-mentality and culture within your organization or professional network)

A continual series of incremental investments, implemented as a framework and as an integrated strategy, will usually be more cost-effective in the long run than any one-shot response to a sudden and overwhelming change or disruption.

____________________________________

FOOTNOTES

Bergman, Megan Mayhew. “Why people in the US south stay put in the face of climate change,” The Guardian, 1/24/2019, 2019.

Bruce, Christina. “What does it mean to be a resilient designer?” 10/12/2019.
 As referenced: 
 https://uxdesign.cc/what-does-it-mean-to-be-a-resilient-designer-90bf81d110cf

Buzzanell, Patrice M. “Resilience: Talking, Resisting, and Imaginging New Normalcies Into Being,” Journal of Communication. 60 (1): 1–14, 2010.

Buzzanell, Patrice M. “Organizing resilience as adaptive-transformational tensions,” Journal of Applied Communication Research. 46(1): 14–18, 1–2–2018.

Fredrickson, B.L.; Branigan, C. “Positive emotions broaden the scope of attention and thought-action repertoires”. Cognition & Emotion. 19 (3): 313–332, 2005.

Cocchiara, Richard. Beyond disaster recovery:

becoming a resilient business. An object-oriented framework and methodology

IBM Global Services, October 2005.

Goodman, Milo. Adaptability as the key to success in design. 1/13/18.
 As referenced:
 https://medium.com/gymnasium/adaptability-as-the-key-to-success-in-design-ea64c1ed4044

Masten, A.S. “Resilience in individual development: Successful adaptation despite risk and adversity” pp. 3–25 in M. Wang & E. Gordon (eds.), Risk and resilience in inner city America: challenges and prospects. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1994.

Padesky, Christine A.; Mooney, Kathleen A. “Strengths-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Four-Step Model To Build Resilience,” Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy. 19(4); 283–290, 6/1/2012.

Reeves, Martin; Whitaker, Kevin. “Strategy: A Guide to Building a More Resilient Business,” Harvard Business Review, 7/2/2020.

Reich, John W.; Alex J. Zautra; John Stuart Hall. Handbook of Adult Resilience. Guilford Press, 2012.

Siebert, A.I. The Resiliency Advantage. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, (2005).

Wagner, Mindy. Bounce Back: Become A More Resilient Designer. 1/30/2013.
 
 Zautra, A.J., Hall, J.S. & Murray, K.E. “Resilience: A new definition of health for people and communities”, pp. 3–34 in J.W.Reighc, A.J.Zautra & J.S.Hall (eds.), Handbook of adult resilience. NY: Guilford, 2010.

__________________

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

Disciplinary Literacy and Fluency In Design

Backward Design is Forward Thinking

How Creatives Can Successfully Survive In Business

Part I: The First Essential Question Every Designer Should Be Able To Answer: Is What I do Craft, Art or Design?

Part 2: The Second Essential Question Every Designer Should Be Able To Answer: What Should I Create?

Part 3: The Third Essential Question Every Designer Should Be Able To Answer: What Materials (and Techniques) Work Best?

Part 4: The Fourth Essential Question Every Designer Should Be Able To Answer: How Do I Evoke A Resonant Response To My Work?

Part 5: The Firth Essential Question Every Designer Should Be Able To Answer: How Do I Know My Design Is Finished?

Doubt / Self-Doubt: 8 Pitfalls Designers Fall Into…And What To Do About Them

Part 1: Your Passion For Design: Is It Necessary To Have A Passion?

Part 2: Your Passion For Design: Do You Have To Be Passionate To Be Creative?

Part 3: Your Passion For Design: How Does Being Passionate Make You A Better Designer?

______________________

I hope you found this article useful.

Also, check out my website (www.warrenfeldjewelry.com).

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft video tutorials online.

Add your name to my email list.

Visit Land of Odds online (https://www.landofodds.com)for all your jewelry making supplies.

Subscribe to my Learn To Bead blog (https://blog.landofodds.com).

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