On Our Way from Good to Great!
Before he started the research for his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins “expected to find that the first step in taking a company from good to great would be to set a new direction, a new vision and strategy for the company, and then to get people committed and aligned behind that new direction.” To his surprise, Collins discovered that great executives “first got the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where to drive it.” Collins added that the right people also had to be in the right seats. By concentrating more on the who than the what, great executives were better able to adapt to a changing world.
And, even in this old-fashioned business of selling fabric and notions, the world is constantly changing. According to the Craft Industry Alliance (my favorite professional association), the number of 2018 store closures, high-level staff changes, and strategy pivots in our industry is staggering. I was going to make a list, but it would be too long. Here is a link to all the CIA Journal “Inside the Industry” articles.
Picking Up the Best Bus Riders
2018 has been my year of hiring the right people, and helping them find the right seats, so I can drive the bus. Check out the About page to see who we are!
Three members of The Confident Stitch team were sitting in the right seats on the bus all along: Bess, our product photographer, Mairin, my daughter and sometimes sales associate, and Bonnie, our sample-maker and pattern-reviewer. They have all spent the year doing what they do best: Taking great photos (Bess); great customer service and pointing out opportunities for improvement (Mairin); and, crafting beautiful garments (Bonnie).
I kicked a few “people” off the bus: our Point of Sale System, web platform, and the middle men who connected them. We have one inventory and two inventory tracking systems. One of our biggest challenges since we opened in 2015 has been keeping the inventories accurate. Over the summer, we switched to a new POS system and a simpler web platform. We eliminated the software middle man, meaning that now we spend much less time making sure the inventories are correct.
Helping Everyone Find the Right Seats
This leads me to Jim Collins’ “right seats” analogy. Jane has been THE right person since day one, but she and I have both been bouncing from seat to seat on the bus, unsure which is the most important. During the long slog of transitioning all our products to two new platforms, however, Jane actually loved organizing the backend of both inventory systems. One of her many skills is copy-editing, and the backend work lets her make sure everything is correct and well-organized. Yay. Jane has found the right seat.
I selected two new bus riders this year, both of whom are starting out in the right seats: Meredith and Jen. Meredith is in charge of social media and advertising. She is learning on the fly by analyzing metrics and changing course when needed. In the past, I have used local venders for advertising, but they each specialized in a single type of advertising, and they didn’t know how to pivot if/when their ad type wasn’t working. Meredith is sitting in a seat I should have filled long ago. Jen is also sitting in a long-vacant-but-important seat: she has a degree in Fashion Design, so she brings a deep understanding of how fabrics are manufactured and how they behave when we work with them. She is a helpful resource for me and our customers.
Driving the Bus
Me? I’m the bus driver, keeping my eyes on the road while occasionally checking the rearview mirror to make sure everyone has the tools they need to do their jobs. I don’t know what next year’s opportunities or challenges will be, but I have faith that the team I’m building is wise and flexible enough to help me keep this beautiful bus moving forward. Stick around for the ride.