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Bettie Goes Solo: Here Are 5 Clues That Your Business Is Ready To Grow

I’ve just survived another Christmas. And I’m not talking about dealing with distant relatives reminding me that my biological clock is ticking, over a turkey and some grey Brussels sprouts. I’m talking about the Christmas rush, when people from all over the world are looking to buy the most perfectly thoughtful Christmas gifts for their loved ones, and you’re one of the many thousands of small businesses that make those gifts.

For anyone with a business like mine, you’ll know the feeling that you get to around the end of September. The pit in your stomach that means only one thing. The Christmas rush is imminent and it’s time to batten down the hatches and prepare yourself for the onslaught. I’m fairly certain the phrase ‘The Silly Season’ came from how ridiculous this time of year is for small creative businesses.

Come late November most people are planning their outfit for the 80s themed office Christmas party, or choosing which 6-foot fir would look best in their front room. Creative small businesses are devising a plan for the best way to survive the upcoming months with all of their hair and most of their dignity intact.

Reflecting on the 2018 Christmas craziness has got me thinking a lot about where my business is going. After what can only be described as utter craziness in the run-up to Christmas, I tried to imagine what life would be like at Bettie HQ in a few years’ time. Would every Christmas be like the last few Christmases? Where do I want to be in five years? Still dealing with lost parcels, angry customers and stock control? Hmmm not sure about that.

Now seems like as good a time as any to really start developing a long-term plan. I would say strategy, but my years working in the corporate world have made me well and truly allergic to that word. So, plan it is.

The last few weeks I’ve been working on a plan to rid my life of tedious making by 2021. And by that, I mean making sure that I don’t wake up when I’m 40 and still be just a teeny tiny business making cards and pencils out of my loft room. And while I’ve significantly grown my business over the last couple of years, there’s so much room for so much more.

So when do you know it’s time to start thinking bigger? Here are a couple of clues.


Sometimes you have to take a step backwards to look forwards

The first and most important part of recognising that it’s time to start really growing your business, is to take a step back and look at everything you’ve achieved in the last few years. And I mean really look at it. What worked? What didn’t? How do you feel a few years in? What part of your business do you love working on, and what are the parts that make your stomach turn?

Assessing where you’re at to decide where you’re going doesn’t have to be a terribly arduous exercise. In a way, it should really be cathartic. There aren’t many moments in your business life where you’ll take the time to pat yourself on the back with one hand and push yourself into the next phase of business with the other.

Something to do now: Seeing as though most of us have just completed our tax returns, it’s a pretty good time to look at your figures. Take some time to work out the percentage that you’ve grown over the last few years and set yourself a realistic, but stretching target for this coming year.


The only way is up… or is it?

Over the last year, my brand has grown significantly in retail outlets. They’re now available in about 150 shops in the UK and it’s taken a lot of work to get to that point. But I’ve realised in the last few months that the amount of retail outlets in the UK is limited and with the bleak forecast for the high street that doesn’t feel like it’ll change any time soon.

I get the feeling that while I’ve increased my presence in retail shops steadily in the last year, that increase is likely to plateau. With hundreds, if not thousands of greeting card publishers in the UK alone, there’s only enough space on the shelves for a handful of brands. So, constant innovation is a must. A very expensive must.

When you feel like your business is approaching that plateau, it’s time for you to get your plan written down so you don’t become the next business closing its doors.

Something to do now: Break down your numbers over months and start using your finest Excel skills to plot it all into a bar chart. If you’re a visual person like me, you’ll soon be able to see if the plateau is nearing or if you’re in it already.

Reflecting on the 2018 Christmas craziness has got me thinking a lot about where my business is going. After what can only be described as utter craziness in the run-up to Christmas, I tried to imagine what life would be like at Bettie HQ in a few years’ time. Would every Christmas be like the last few Christmases? Where do I want to be in five years? Still dealing with lost parcels, angry customers and stock control? Hmmm not sure about that. 

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In 2023, I’ll be nudging 40. Lord. And while five years seems like a long time, in reality it’s not. It’s a nice medium amount of time. In the distance, but not so far away that you can’t really imagine what it’ll be like. And in five years, my business will be close to celebrating its decade of existence and so I need to know what I’m aiming for with Bettie.

My Grandfather had this expression “Someone’s got to make Doll’s eyes”. It basically means that in life, there always has to be a certain level of averageness. That for the world to keep turning, there needs to be people and businesses at every level to keep the engine running. And it’s at this particular point in my business that I need to decide whether I want to just plod along and be average, or whether I have the courage to take some risks and push my business to grow and thrive.

If in five years if I could still picture myself folding cards and cutting out glitter embellishments in my loft room, then I would leave things just the way they are. But in my magic crystal ball of future gazing, that’s not what I see at all, so time to get some plans in place.

Something to do now: Write out what a typical day looks like now for you. For me, it would be fulfilling direct to customer orders early in the morning, wholesale before lunch and admin, marketing and event prep in the afternoons.

Now, take a new piece of paper and write out what you’d like your days to be like in five years. And I’m not talking about sitting on a beach somewhere because you’ve retired young. Let’s be realistic. For me, it would be assigning work to staff members early in the morning, inventory management before lunch and product development in the afternoons.


Who’s got the funk?

Another sure-fire way to know that you’re ready to grow is if you’re getting a little bit bored. For me, it’s the willingness to complete orders that tells me whether I’m drifting slowly towards a boredom funk.

I still remember the first sale I ever made online of one of my cards. The feeling of elation as I carefully prepared the order, hand writing the address in my best cursive, and sending it off to my very first customer. It’s been a long time and a lot of orders since then and I can tell you, that feeling of elation is well and truly gone. And when you lose that joy (clearly, I’ve been watching too much Marie Kondo), you need to make sure you don’t fall into a funk.

Something to do now: Create a plan so you have something to look forward to. Easy, well thought through steps of how you’re going to get to your next business milestone and all the ones beyond that. It doesn’t need to be a hugely detailed plan, because it will continue to change as you’re moving through the steps. It just needs to give you enough direction to motivate you towards an end goal.


Classic middle child syndrome

Right now I’m in the middle of my business. I’ve overcome all the challenges that starting a business can bring. I know things now that I never thought I would and have learnt more lessons in the last two years than in the previous ten. So with being in the middle of my business journey, the classic middle child syndrome restlessness is to be expected.

If you feel a little bit twitchy about where your business is at the moment, like I do, you have two options. Embrace it and use it push you into the next stage, or forget the whole thing and get yourself an overpriced season pass to start working in the city again. And even though I might, on occasion, fancy a £3 meal deal for lunch, there’s no way that I’ll be taking the second option.

Something to do now: Newness. That’s the antidote to the restlessness that you’re feeling. This time of year is the perfect time to think about your product development. What are you planning to launch in the coming year? How can you add to your current product line or portfolio? Have you had a winning product in the last year that you could develop further? Using tools like Google Keyword Search or for creative businesses Etsy Rank to research the demand for any new ideas you might have.



Let’s get this show on the road

It’s January. People all over the world are turning vegan and alcohol consumption is at an all-time low. And even though the uncertainty of where my business is heading can be unsettling, it’s nothing a well-cooked steak and a glass of red can’t ease.

Like many other businesses, January is a time for reflection. And when you get the feeling it’s time to take your business to the next level, embrace it and move forward. With that in mind, let’s make 2019 the year of growth. Whether you’re at the very beginning of your business or in the middle, there’s no excuse to stand still. Not even Brexit. Get planning, as I will, to make this the year you take your business to the next level.

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Andy is the owner of Bettie Confetti, a snarky greeting cards line available at Not On The High Street, Etsy and select independent retailers in the UK. Want to grow your sales and business profits? We’ve come up with 43 low-cost or free advertising and marketing ideas for small businesses.

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