Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Over the Hump!

Allow me to explain about the glass studio business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster. So what do we do? Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well. How? I don't know. It's a mystery.

I finished in the studio at 11:30 tonight and celebrate with another glass of sauvignon blanc which will undoubtedly be finished before I head up to the shower so I'll have to get another one with which to share the shower steam. It was definitely a two-glass-of-wine day.

Becky the bookkeeper finished up my 2010 books in her Quickbooks 2011 for Windows last evening just in time for my meeting with my accountant this morning. She sent them to me about 9:30 am so I could import them back into my Quickbooks 2009 for Mac (from whence they originated). Already you know this isn't going to end well...

Though I could go on for several scathing paragraphs filled with blistering invective about the absolute ethical impoverishment of the Quickbooks products and Intuit's customer service, it's already all been said (ad nauseum) elsewhere on the web. If they didn't hold all our data hostage, we would have risen up and skinned and eaten every last Intuit employee long ago. Bottom line for me is that after spending *eight hours* trying to get to my own business data (does everyone remember that it is theoretically tax season?), I am still unable to even find out how much I made/lost last year.

Those eight hours were filled with entertaining anecdotes including the story of how I had to upgrade my Mac's OS from Leopard to Snow Leopard (the LAST thing you ever want to hear when you are having an application problem is that you'll need to upgrade your computer's operating system in order to run the version of the application that will fix your problem--especially when it doesn't). They were enlivened by having to spend $174 for a new version of QB for Mac (2011). But the REAL frosting on the experience was Becky being told by pro tech support at Intuit (she PAYS them in order to receive service as an accounting professional--she's not just some schmo [like me] calling in) that we would have to pay $750 for them to expedite them fixing my file which is broken due to a bug in the software. Laugh? Cry? You tell me. Pay $750? I think not.

Now, as I finish my first glass of wine, I am undaunted, of good cheer and stout heart, and slightly more mellow than I was earlier today. I taught a class tonight, unloaded yesterday's monster kilns loads, loaded all four kilns with new fuse loads, and am home in the same day I left the house. It's a Good Thing. Helen, my accountant is meeting me for breakfast Saturday morning at 9:00 to take my finished books and turn them into a business tax return. Becky is lending me her Windows laptop from tomorrow morning through Saturday morning so I can enter my last 2010 data (mileage, expenses paid from personal accounts, etc.) into Quickbooks for Windows prior to dumping the whole mess in Helen's lap.

I should get my glass order in to Bullseye now, but that's going to have to wait till first thing tomorrow. I'm too tigh-tigh. Night all!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tuesday Was Too Long

It is the cusp of the day. I just got home from getting the last kiln loads in--37 pieces fused today. I shudder to think what time Bertha and Bettina (the big kilns) will be cool enough to unload tomorrow. It'll probably be another late night just because of the timing of the unload. Tomorrow, one last big fuse and the slump loads begin. Thursday is all slump all the time, and Friday we ship.

When all is said and done, I like when Dave is in Austin for these big production pushes. He worries when I start work at 8:30 am and end at 12:30 am with just a couple of hours off in the evening for family time (not that he won't worry now from reading this post). Of course I couldn't do it without my mother here to get the J showered and into bed while I head back to the studio.

So why am I still up when I have to get up at 7:00 to get the J up, pack her lunch, fix her breakfast, and take her to school? I have to transition. I am sipping a glass of sauvignon blanc, and in another line or two I'll carry it upstairs where it and I will share a hot shower. By the end of the shower, it will be gone, and I will be totally relaxed and ready to crash for six short hours. Tomorrow we crest the hump and start the slide to the bottom of the week. Hope I can follow McMurtry's advice in "Ruby and Carlos" and stay off that slippery slope. Night all.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The F-Word

In the old posting style: Coffee in a 1930's diner-style white ceramic mug, a lot of people laughing and talking over "It's All I Can Do" by the Cars in the background. Wow. Is the universe talking to me through music again? Is it telling me (as my mother hinted this morning) that I am already pretty (over)extended and taking on yet another project at this time might not be in my (or my business' or my family's) best interest? But then Annie Lenox comes on singing that "sweet dreams are made of these and who am I to disagree?" and so I must post on about my New Direction. I think it's finally time to bring the F-Word into my business model.

At first (as I wrote before), I didn't think I had anything to offer that would make someone want to F=word with me. So I decided to just write up a little e-how-to instead. But Dave remarked again last night how his boss--a very business-savvy man--thought I just should do the F-word, and for whatever reason, this time the idea really resonated with me. Dave also pointed out that you don't make any money writing about something (unless you're Deepak Chopra). Do or Do Not, but don't waste your time writing about for $10 a copy.

I even have the perfect candidate in mind for my first partner. She talked to me for well over an hour at the BMAC show in February about how to start. Then she called last week to see where I was on the e-how-to as she had been hoping to get it in time for her first anniversary next week. This morning I am going to call and offer her a different sort of deal.

So why has Franchising (Date Night in the Glass Studio) suddenly become so enticing to me? Two reasons: 1) I have finally begun to believe in the uniqueness and value of the business process I have created and the uses of marketing technology that I bring to the table (what's easy and obvious to me ISN'T necessarily to everyone else), and 2) I would happily pay someone else to give me this level of assistance, skill, experience and physical support to get up and running quickly, so it must be worth it.

Now I need to put it all together. What services will we offer? How much will we charge for them, and will it be a flat annual fee or a percentage of bookings? We will need to have a buy-in fee for training and initial materials, but there are advantages and disadvantages to flat fee vs. percentage ongoing. What about equipment? Marketing? Managing the calendar and sign-up? The picture upload system?


Even after over two hours on the phone with my proposed partner I still have more questions than answers. I also have a domain: Now I need a nap.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Doing It For the Money

As I anticipate the great 50 year marker at which I will arrive in a couple of months, I spend increasingly more time introspecting. This morning's epiphany was about Doing It. Why do we Do It, what do we want/need/get out of Doing It, (and I'm sure you're wondering, what IS It)? Most of us know as we're growing up that we're going to have to Do It. We dream about It, we think about what It will be for us and where we want to Do It, and when we picture ourselves Doing It, it's always the most fun and exciting, novel and unique aspects of It that we see--we certainly never see ourselves being bored Doing It (though we often will be).

Our parents encourage us to choose It based on how much we will make Doing It, how much security there is, how much demand for It. They want It to be able to provide for us and our families financially--and, don't get me wrong, financial stability IS important. But when push comes to shove, as it always does, how many of us can really Do It just--or even primarily--for the money? I can't. My spouse can't. Maybe my father did, and he was often miserable--though that brings up another point to address below.

My epiphany was brought on this morning when I ran into a parent from Jessie's school here at Kavarna who works at the school in a parental representative position. She (as always) was full of energy and enthusiasm, zest and focus for her job and the rest of her life. I looked at her as an employer (more on that below) and thought how lucky I would be if I could hire her for the studio. She's educated, articulate, enthusiastic, energetic--and not at all focused on The Money. She couldn't be. Though I don't know how much she makes for the school, I know that if she thought about how many hours she works and how much she makes she would realize that she could Do It at the Publix deli counter and make more money and have more free time for her family than she does now. She doesn't work at the Publix deli counter.

Doing It, aka Working, cannot be about the money you garner from the work. If it were, you would inevitably become dissatisfied and think you are worth more than you are making--the expression of which would undoubtedly make your employer think you were worth less. As I looked at this woman this morning I realized that we do not work because we have to for money, we work because we have to to live. Work enables us to feel worth, participate in a community, exercise our brains, be anchored, have a purpose--in other words, to live.

When we start thinking about how much we're making for our work compared to how much we're working and we begin to feel resentful, it's not about the money--however much we might say it is--it's about the work. Something about the work is not or is no longer meeting our needs. The answer really isn't to ask for a raise. More money for the same work environment is a short term sop that initially makes us feel more self-worth but doesn't address the real problem. The real problem is either that the negative aspects of the job or the job environment outweigh the positives and leave us feeling down at the end of the day, or that we have intrinsic self-worth issues that keep us from being fulfilled and validated external to the job. In the former case a reworking of the job or it's environmental factors (co-workers) might fix the problem, in the latter, a good therapist would be a good start. In both cases, I really don't believe money is the issue.

A physical need for an increase in money may dictate a request for a raise or a job change, but it won't decrease our satisfaction level with our job. Instead we're more likely to regret the change that's being forced upon us by financial responsibility--and we hope we'll be lucky enough to be happy in the next job we have to take based on the remuneration for it.

So why am I thinking as an employer right now? Because we are expanding the studio again and I have been putting together salary and benefit packages for potential employees. I have to balance being fair with how much the studio can afford--and it's made me really think about how much (or in this case little) I make and what that means to me. At the end of the day, it doesn't mean a thing. Dave has always said that he'd code even if no one paid him. If he ever works for a company that goes public or is bought by Google or Amazon resulting in millions of dollars for him, nothing about his relationship with his laptop will change--he'll still be plugged in all day every day writing code. He has to code. It gives him joy that cannot matched by anything else long-term. He would wither and die if he couldn't code anymore.

I own/run a business and am not burdened with paying the mortgage, the property taxes or our household bills--Dave's salary covers those things. So because I don't HAVE to work for a salary does that mean I work less or take it less seriously? It is to laugh (as Mike would say). I work as I work because of who I am, not what I make, and I work damn hard. I am very fortunate that I lucked into Judy, my studio elf, because she is just the same. She attacks every task with zest and verve and joy. I was very, very lucky to have found her (thank you Lori), and I hope I am as lucky in my upcoming hires. If you have an employee whose first question is always "What's in it for me/what's it going to cost me?", no one is going to be happy.

Back to my father for a second. He was not happy to actively miserable in his job for much of his 30 years of service (same job, same office, US Forest Service). He was also not happy in his personal life. Was he unhappy in his job because of the job and therefore unhappy in his personal life because of his job, or was he unhappy because that's the way he was? If it had been the job, I would have expected him to be happier in the 20+ years after he retired, but that wasn't the case. There was always something that made him mad, unhappy or just discontented--illegal immigrants were stealing American jobs, there was favoritism in the ski school (he was also a ski instructor), the environment was being wrecked, Someone Somewhere getting Something they shouldn't have and didn't Deserve... (I feel a rant coming on about being so obsessed with what's fair and right that we miss enjoying what is. No time for that today. Need to stay on topic.) My conclusion is that Dad was who he was and all of his experiences were colored by his own inner unhappiness. His unhappiness did not have external causes--it was internally driven. He could be happy for short bursts by achieving some goal, but every success was doomed to be followed by a failure because of how he felt about himself.

Now back to the upcoming hires and managing the expectations/happiness of current staff. It's Not About the Money! I cannot let myself be convinced that it is. The idea of a level of experience and education being worth a certain amount of money and having that as a driving concern for a prospective employee is going to be an immediate strong negative flag for me. I need to trust that I have been fair because that's who I am. I have to trust that I do the right thing because that's who I am. I have to Trust and stick to my vision because I can't Do It for the money, and I really don't want anyone around me who thinks they need to.

Now, anyone know anyone in the Atlanta area who might be interested in teaching glassblowing, working as a hotshop assistant, or teaching kilnforming/cutting and stocking glass?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

It's a Square World

Good morning wet world! It is truly spring in Atlanta. All the cherries, plums, bradford pears, forsythia, and early deciduous magnolias burst into glorious bloom a couple of weeks ago, and now the redbuds are starting to open... and it's raining. I don't mind the rain though, today is a day for getting to studio projects that have languished for too long--repairs, screen-print fuses, and the first round of orders from the BMAC. I'll probably even finish up the bills and supply orders I need to get paid and in (in that order).

A hot topic lately in the small artist world is credit card processing with a Square or similar device. Dave, my uber-geeky-technological-and financial-industry-cred-out-the-wazoo spouse got me one (and even set up the account for me--not that I plan to use it) and got himself one too, who knows why! I don't plant to use it as my card processing needs are more geared to card-not-present scenarios (over the phone, over the web sales), and I also have a high enough credit card sales volume that a real business account with lower rates makes more sense to me.

However I have been following with interest one of the recent debates as to the safety of the square that has been politely raging on Wendy Rosen's Facebook page for the past couple of days. I know (and highly respect) Cynthia personally, and Guy at TeaMac has been my credit card processor for many years. It's worth a look. (And for the record, I, too, would like more hard reputable test data provided and less the-sky-is-falling hyperbole.)

Happy Tuesday!

Thursday, March 10, 2011


It's been so long since I last posted I have almost forgotten how... I promised a post on the BMAC, but, sadly, I've already forgotten what I was going to say. (There's a lot of forgetfulness going on here.)

The past couple of weeks have been filled with studio and life activity. The new kilnroom is finished, furnished, and I have already taught three days in it. I don't say three classes as the second day was an all-day studio experience for 18 homeschoolers aged 10-15. They divided into groups of six and each group spent two hours with me, Brian and Lee/Becky H. In the Lee/Becky group, they did glassblowing with Lee and read about the history of glassmaking with Becky. It was a wonderful, exhausting day. Last night I had a group of travel planners in town for a workshop who came in and learned some kilnforming, ate pizza, drank wine and made plates. They didn't finish till 10:30 and I am wiped today!

Wiped or no, it's time to get last year's accounting finished so I can get everything to my accountant for taxes (late). It's also time to get the newsletter out with next quarter's class schedule and glass specials. Bullseye is tempting me with a special dealers-only curious sale and it could be a lot of fun to have it to offer it this spring with all the new open studio kilnformers.

Okay, though blogging is fun, it's time to work on the website!