Last week we had a little shindig to celebrate the 5th birthday of Swiss Cottage Designs! Sometimes it feels as if I’ve just started this business while other days it’s impossible to remember how it felt to work for anyone but myself. Running the business has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve undertaken but also one of the most rewarding. It’s been fun to look back on the last few years to see how far it’s all come and how much I’ve learned along the way. In that spirit, I wanted to share 5 lessons I’ve learned over the last 5 years of SCD.
Mistakes are okay. You will make them. No matter how hard you strive for perfection, there will be slip ups, accidents, and oversights. From small errors to (seemingly) more colossal mistakes, they are bound to happen along the way. As the old cliche goes, no one is perfect. The upside is that each mistake can be a learning experience so that you can do better in the future and avoid making the same mistakes again. Even as you perfect one aspect of the business, new challenges will arise in which you are bound to encounter some hiccups. It’s an ever evolving process, so take it in stride and don’t let it get you down because…
There is always a solution. I know it doesn’t always feel that way, especially in the moments after something has gone wrong. If you take a deep breath and give yourself a moment to brainstorm, a creative workaround will always come to mind. Reprint the job, messenger the samples, offer a discount….it’s won’t be the most ideal situation because ideally nothing would have gone wrong! But it’s great to take a step back and realize that nothing is so bad that it can’t be fixed or solved. Keep a positive outlook and an open mind and you’ll be able to tackle any issue that arises.
Kindness always wins. When it comes to clients, vendors, employees, and yourself – being kind is never the wrong way to go. You won’t regret treating someone with kindness and understanding, especially when it would have been much easier to respond with annoyance or terse words. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and truly empathize with where they are coming from. This helps avoid tense situations, awkward interactions, or sour relationships. It won’t always feel like the easiest way to respond, especially when you’re frustrated or stressed, but it goes much further in the long run and will keep you and those around you much happier and more positive.
Self discipline goes both ways. It takes an incredible amount of self discipline to work for yourself. It’s wonderful to make your own schedule but even when trying to stick to a “normal” 9-5 , many nights and weekends will be swallowed up by the business. It’s not uncommon to miss out on beautiful days because you’re inside working or having to say no to a night out with friends to meet a deadline. A lot of willpower goes into saying “no” in order to prioritize the business but I’ve also discovered the importance of making sure you say “yes” to things – don’t let too much of life pass you by as you work. I’ve certainly missed out on things or events I won’t have a second chance to go to, so I want to make sure I’m mindful of the balance I’m striking so that the business continues to thrive and that I feel fulfilled in my other relationships and activities. Set aside time for yourself and your other priorities outside of the business.
The positive outweigh the negatives. Despite the bad days or moments of uncertainty, running your own business will always be worth it for many reasons. You’ll spend your time doing work you actually enjoy doing. Pajama Friday is a very real thing. Setting your own hours leaves you free to run errands on a weekday afternoon or work remotely for a week while you visit family. No one can judge you for how many snacks or treats you consume during the day. Great relationships will be forged with clients and you’ll get to see and feel the excitement firsthand. Each day is a new chance to improve and expand. Failures can feel more personal but successes feel empowering, exciting, and earned.
I’ve been so fortunate these past five years and I can only hope that the future brings even more exciting challenges and learning opportunities for Swiss Cottage Designs. Do you have any lessons or insight that you’ve taken away from the work that you do? I’d love to hear them if so!