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Wheelhouse Rock

Shayla

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Been thinking lately about the value of knowing what's in your wheelhouse.

The received wisdom is to go with your strengths. Focus on what you do well and find a way to build with it.
And for our areas of weakness, to either improve our ability or outsource those functions.

This comes to mind when I read articles about adding printing to a frame shop. It's a smart move, but only for those with the right skill set. (Unless you have low standards. ha ha). I'm good at finding a mat to complement artwork, but I have a poor visual memory. Some spatial relations gaps, too. These, along with a lack of mechanical aptitude, (and low technical interest) make me someone who needs to outsource printing. Thankfully, we have a great printer in town.

Reading that might leave someone thinking, if you lack skill in those areas, then why are you in this business? I think it's because I work to my strengths. Make great connections with customers, create good, classic designs, and am adept at supporting our helpers. It's also a lifesaver being in partnership with a spouse whose skills fill the gaps. I'd be sunk without him, as he does books and joins frames. He'd be sunk without me, as I can design and keep a bunch of plates in the air. I read social situations and people, am a friendly team player, but lack a competitive streak and some strategic planning skills. He can't much read social stuff and lacks design ability, but is a good systems thinker. He's also not competitive, so we're good at working together. Our combined strengths and weaknesses mean we're capable of running our business in a certain way, and as long as that meets our needs, we're content. Our lack of competitive drive and obsessive focus means we'll never scale up, but that's not for us, anyway. Someone who thinks, 'Oh, but it is!' likely has those skills. And, as in the case of a few retired Grumble gems, has already used them to good results.

There's a difference between excuses and reasons. The former can prevent us from doing what we otherwise would.
The latter can help us know when something just 'is', and then we can work around it.

I'm curious as to how you've dealt with this balance in your business.
How has working to your strengths and supporting your weaknesses worked?
 

echavez123

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Interesting thread Shayla. In my case, my strengths lie in technical and artistic side of the biz. Weakness lies in marketing our product and services. I have a good rapport with customers and prospects , and most of the time will get the order. I love to create and solve problems. But, I loathe maintenance. Once a problem is solved, I want to move on to another challenge. I have lots of photographic artwork I have never brought to market. I just dont seem to have enough time to bring it to life, to print it, to frame it, to dress it up. Perhaps your thread is a wake up call for me.

I dont do the marketing because it is boring and expensive. Thank God for Google! Perhaps, I need a really compelling reason to focus on marketing. Maybe I should start by focusing on the benefits to see if they justify the cost and effort. In any case, the justification would have to be more than just making a living and generating a bit more income. I need a passionate reason. Searching ...

ernesto
 

Shayla

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....In any case, the justification would have to be more than just making a living and generating a bit more income. I need a passionate reason. Searching ...ernesto

Do you feel motivated by wanting to share your work with others, or do you find the most satisfaction in just creating, (whether or not others see)? I know it's often a mix of both, but if income generation isn't a driving force, then this question is helpful to consider.
 

Nikodeumus

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Great topic.
I was thinking similarly today.

Working to your strengths is definitely a good practice in my mind. Find out what you are good at and get really good at it.
No sense spreading yourself thin trying to be all things to all people.
If you're good at making Thingamajiggies, make that your passion.
Let the shop down the road be the Whatchamacallit master.

Heres one personal example:
My (very small) shop offers a limited amount of photo printing in shop.
I wouldn't say printing is my "strength", but it is convenient for "one-off" orders.
Mostly the service is requested by Jane Public looking for a fast print to frame for themselves, or a gift.
The occasional professional photographer or discerning artist looking for fine art reproduction are not my target for photo printing. And I am upfront about that with those people. That's not my focus at this time.

I offer a basic limited range, one kind of Epson paper, and one kind of Epson canvas. I'm not a fan of the canvas, and don't have the time or space to improve that, so I am considering farming it out. My preliminary research shows that it probably will cost more, but it would save me the headache. If the math doesn't work, I may just drop canvas printing as an option. I have more people bring me printed canvas (buying online mostly) than we produce in shop, so not a huge loss in my mind. Especially since that time can be better spent on other tasks.

I have a background in photo lab printing, I am an on and off amateur photographer, I do know photo printing. But it isn't the main focus in this business, for a number of reasons I don't need to get into here.

There are a lot of ways I could improve the photo service I offer. But in my mind, that would pull attention away from what I would prefer to focus on. Framing is the focus, and there are also a lot of ways the framing service can be improved. That's why I come here to the Grumble, to pick y'alls brains for information to help me improve. To increase my strengths in framing.
 

Ylva

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I am a decent designer with great color feel and memory for color.
I am an excellent salespersons think outside the box and can create several solutions to a problem.
I love a challenge and as a result have seen more complicated projects come my way.

I’m bad in marketing and maintaining social media.

I work best under stress and high pressure. That’s when I get results.
Don’t tell me “whenever you get to it”. Not good for me.
 
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Shayla

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I am a decent designer with great color feel and memory for color.
I am an excellent salespersons think outside the box and can create several solutions to a problem.
I love a challenge and as a result have seen more complicated projects come my way.

I’m bad in marketing and maintaining social media.

I work best under stress and high pressure. That’s when I get results.
Don’t tell me “whenever you get to it”. Not good for me.

We have a one page website with a photo, a short blurb, location, days/hours, and a link to our FB. I only update FB a few times a year. But the way I see it, that's fine. For a small shop, we have so much work come in that we don't need to advertise, and thanks to searches, new customers find us. I've never paid to optimize anything, and we still come up. If you're as busy as you want to be, maybe your marketing and media are enough. Does it seem that way?
 

echavez123

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Do you feel motivated by wanting to share your work with others, or do you find the most satisfaction in just creating, (whether or not others see)? I know it's often a mix of both, but if income generation isn't a driving force, then this question is helpful to consider.

I think most of us like to be appreciated for the work we produce. Hey, if someone tells me they really like my work, then I will work harder because of the appreciation - kind of like Pavlov and his dogs. If someone needs something I create, then they buy it (or get it for free!). But, if they dont need it and dont feel the same excitement about something kool, then it is not for them. It is for me.

If we are passionate about something, we may do it as a means for make a living, but really, we just get a kick out of creating or building something with our hands, mind and heart. When I find something new I am learning or discovering, I bounce it off someone else to get some feedback. My poor wife is usually the first person who bears the brunt of my excitement - even if she doesnt understand what I am talking about, she knows it is important for me and puts up with me.

I am passionate about playing the guitar, about programming database applications, about landscape photography. I enjoy sharing, but I love just doing it. Now, if I could somehow market my music, programming skills, photography at a high level - that could be awesome. I have some experience playing in bands, have experience as a programmer, and have done the art circuit with my photography. But I have not done it in a way where I could create residual income - you know, the kind of income where I could be in Hawaii while my product is being sold via a marketing machine! Yes, I am a dreamer ...
 

Nikodeumus

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But I have not done it in a way where I could create residual income - you know, the kind of income where I could be in Hawaii while my product is being sold via a marketing machine! Yes, I am a dreamer ...
I think a lot of people relate to that. Big dreams of making a comfortable living doing what you love.
Problem is.... that's hard work.
I had a very modest amount of local success for a brief time with my photography. Just began to get my toes wet as it were. But it was difficult to put the time into that, and still be able to pay bills, eat food, etc. So fell down that age-old well of having to work a "real job", as no one else was going to support me to pursue my "passion".
Can it be done? Sure. Lot's of people are relentless and work hard, and live through hardship to achieve that goal. That's often how successful artists in many disciplines achieve their goals. I'm sure there are people on this forum right now who have done exactly that.
 

Ylva

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Shayla, my website is probably like yours. I update the hours, it’s a landing place and people do find me through my website.
I don’t spend much time on it. I sell locally only and apparently I hit the right tone for my area ad new people usually feel drawn to come in.
I’m busy enough. I focus on the long term more complicated projects and it pays off. Not that I don’t do the simple stuff, of course I do.
But I find that people are more willing to pay for those complicated projects, plus not everyone can offer that.
 

echavez123

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I think a lot of people relate to that. Big dreams of making a comfortable living doing what you love.
Problem is.... that's hard work.
...
Can it be done? Sure. Lot's of people are relentless and work hard, and live through hardship to achieve that goal. That's often how successful artists in many disciplines achieve their goals. I'm sure there are people on this forum right now who have done exactly that.

I did the art circuit out of the San Francisco Bay Area for 8 years. It was tough - lots of competition, and made decent sales, but not enough to keep extra money in the bank. I had to invest $5K-$10K to keep the shows booked, plus buy material, make the product and lug it from show to show. I think that you can work hard, but still not make enough. So, there has to be a better way.

Artists who have made it have done by obtaining a significant investment from others, and have put a good marketing plan in place. Take Peter Lik as an example. He was able to convince clients that his art would appreciate in value, and guaranteed his investors a return on there investment. His ploy was to get clients to believe his "limited - edition" photos had value, and would continue to appreciate. His edition size is 900 units! When you purchase on of his oversaturated photos framed with Roma moulding, you basically got that and a number -- # 430/900 e.g. He trained his staff to repeat absurd stories about how the "ghost" appeared in his photo, etc. The public ate this up and bought into the ploy. Any of you had a client try to sell you Peter Lik photos? They claim they are valuable, and try to convince you to buy them - cause they need the money! And yet, Peter Lik will NOT buy them back. Go figure.

As I said before, I am terrible at marketing, and yet I sit on a pretty good collection of my own photos. My dilemna.

ernesto
 
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wpfay

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My wheelhouse is large but pretty shallow. I enjoy learning techniques, but learned long ago that being able to use the knowledge gained a second or third time is often not to be. I occasionally get to share something I've learned, and while gratifying in its own right, it's often preaching to the choir.

Because I had to make a living at it, I tried many approaches and finally was able to carve out a space where I was financially comfortable. Doing this created new challenges not necessarily in my normal comfort zone. I had to learn more the business side of the business, and my training was certainly more right brained. Things like logistics befuddled me. There is significant difference between balancing the many varied orders in a retail shop and managing an order for 60-80 pieces that all had to be completed and ready for transport on a day in the future that always seemed way too soon.

I see perfection as an asymptote, so never achieving it isn't a disappointment. I manage to do a lot of the things required of a framer passably well, but as with my art, never had the passion to master any one thing. If I have any focus or curiosity that would approach passion it would be in the culinary realm, and there, as I am leaning from my daughter who has the real passion, I am but a novice with good knife skills.
 

Stephen Ray

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Artists who have made it have done by obtaining a significant investment from others, and have put a good marketing plan in place. Take Peter Lik as an example. He was able to convince clients that his art would appreciate in value, and guaranteed his investors a return on there investment. His ploy was to get clients to believe his "limited - edition" photos had value, and would continue to appreciate. His edition size is 900 units! When you purchase on of his oversaturated photos framed with Roma moulding, you basically got that and a number -- # 430/900 e.g. He trained his staff to repeat absurd stories about how the "ghost" appeared in his photo, etc. The public ate this up and bought into the ploy. Any of you had a client try to sell you Peter Lik photos? They claim they are valuable, and try to convince you to buy them - cause they need the money! And yet, Peter Lik will NOT buy them back. Go figure.
I understand the OP’s post of “wheelhouse” to be part of a business’s common SWOT Analysis; Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. I also understand a “grumble” just as a dictionary defines; complain or protest.

So, since you’re complaining or protesting about Peter Lik, I’m wondering how this person plays a part in your particular business as far as a strength, weakness, opportunity, or threat?

It seems you're praising his marketing plan but chastising it at the same time.
 

Ylva

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Hi Stephen,
Are you asking what the comment has to do with this thread? We all frankenthread, more or less. Sometimes a thread goes into a totally different but still interesting direction.
 

echavez123

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Stephen,
If you find no value in what I am saying, then just walk away from it. There is no point in knit-picking a response. Some of the most entertaining conversations come from deviations from the original thread.

So there it is. Again, if there is no value for you in what I say, then ignore it. But, I dont appreciate you trying to correct or steer my response.
 

Shayla

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I understand the OP’s post of “wheelhouse” to be part of a business’s common SWOT Analysis; Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. I also understand a “grumble” just as a dictionary defines; complain or protest.

So, since you’re complaining or protesting about Peter Lik, I’m wondering how this person plays a part in your particular business as far as a strength, weakness, opportunity, or threat?

It seems you're praising his marketing plan but chastising it at the same time.

Hi, Stephen.

Your mention of SWOT Analysis is appreciated. I find it helpful to be aware of these aspects, to help build my strengths. As someone with health issues, low energy and a lack of competitive drive, there's only so much I can do to muster up more of the key ingredients. So, what works for us is to find my best balance, knowing that 'success' in business can have different expressions, depending on your metrics of defining worth. We're content to be a small frame shop, doing a certain amount of work for local customers. That's just as well, because I don't have the level of energy/skill to do more. But it's also just as well, because what matters most to me isn't scaling up for maximum profit.

I love listening to 'How I Built This' on NPR, and it's amazing how much drive, energy, and resilience those industry leaders have. They learn as they go, but they also tend to be a certain kind of person. One with extraordinary resilience and strategic thinking skills. They're able to rebound from initial setbacks, reposition, and refine their approaches, while often scaling up from thousands, to millions of products. Or from a small internet presence to a worldwide communications platform.

As Anne Morrow Lindbergh once said, 'Life must have limitations in order to have depth'. I think part of the success these folks have is that they're able to focus their energy and impact very narrowly, into one function, and then go deep. They also tend to be in the right place at the right time. Or, if they find themselves in the wrong place, able to glean key insights and move nimbly toward purification and expansion.

Business seems to be a sort of machine. You make this thing, get it moving, and then there's a byproduct creating a return. The business owner is a sort of catalyst, or rudder (pick your favorite metaphor), bringing fuel to the machine, steering it toward open channels. It's obvious that some are able to make a bigger machine, or one that runs for a lot longer. The results often receive different reviews, depending on the perspective of the viewer.

Thanks for taking time to read this note. I'd like hearing your thoughts on how SWOT analysis has affected you in business. :)
 
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Ylva

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Stephen,
If you find no value in what I am saying, then just walk away from it. There is no point in knit-picking a response. Some of the most entertaining conversations come from deviations from the original thread.

So there it is. Again, if there is no value for you in what I say, then ignore it. But, I dont appreciate you trying to correct or steer my response.

I am not sure if that was how it was meant. Which is why I asked and explained. We are used to this one of a kind community. Not everyone is, yet
 

Shayla

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One thing I love about this place is the range of perspectives it offers. It shows so many different methods of operation and metrics of evaluation, and how devoted we can become to our own. With tribalism being as old as humanity, it's the natural response. Most folks tend to think of what they do as what makes the most sense, and I try to learn from being aware of this. It can be frustrating when someone sees things differently, and support that in a way we wouldn't, but I'm thankful for being able to take part.
 

Dave

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I'm finding this thread one of the most interesting I've ever read on "The G" and appreciate all that are contributing.
 

Stephen Ray

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I'd like hearing your thoughts on how SWOT analysis has affected you in business.
shayla,

The analysis has provided a simple way to communicate a high-level view of the current position of the business with 4 lists of action items.
 

Stephen Ray

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Hi Stephen,
Are you asking what the comment has to do with this thread? We all frankenthread, more or less. Sometimes a thread goes into a totally different but still interesting direction.
My question could not be more clear, regardless of thread tangents. I’m merely asking echavez123 how another artist, namely one in particular who practices a certain marketing method, plays a part in echavez123’s business as far as a strength, weakness, opportunity, or threat.

echavez123 does not feel the need to answer.
 
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Ylva

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Hi Stephen,
Your question wasn’t exactly clear to me, open to different interpretations, which is why I asked.
Not everything posted might have something directly to do with the original post or answer that question.

So what are your strengths and difficulties and how do you handle them?
 
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