I cannot help but notice the imbalance on friends' social media posts describing 2017 as a bad year versus a good one, and on the surface I get it. Politics, media, disasters and more filled our brains with confusion and our hearts with discouragement. I believe that even though the thought of ridding ourselves of 2017 sounds pessimistic, the underlying hope is being optimistic for a more productive and successful 2018. But I'd like to take this below the surface and analyze my own view on 2017 and how I believe difficult times can be incredible gifts (sips wine).
January is always a tough one for retail and in 2017 it was no different. Although it follows the Christmas boom, it is the single lowest month for sales of all 12 months in the year. We brace ourselves for a considerable loss and the hope is that whatever we gained in November/December can cover the losses in January/February. Our spring season in New Orleans begins the weekend after Mardi Gras and until then, business is painfully slow. 2017 Mardi Gras was one of the latest in QUEORK's existence and so the start of the year was painful indeed (sips wine)! The good news was that our bank had noticed our success and approached us with an offer for a Small Business loan to take the sting out of the seasonal nature of the retail business. The bad news was that SBA loans require an incredible amount of work and documentation (at one point a nurse came and actually drew blood for a required life insurance policy to payoff the loan should one of the partners die). In the end, it took about six months to fund a loan that at best, made us comfortable with our debt!
April and May are the highest months for sales in our company in the year and knowing this helped me finally make the decision to hire a sales manager to help invigorate the staff and bring inspiration to the sales team that I was too often ignoring as I became spread more thin due to our growth. In turn, she restructured and hired management for the stores to help with the accountability. There is nothing more important to me than my employees and bringing in management meant change, and change is tough. I was surprised to see as much resistance at the time but I truly believe that things will work out the way they are suppose to and in the end I could not ask for a better team than what we have today. By June, our stores in New Orleans were blowing away the numbers from the previous year and continued this path to the end of 2017 with no signs of slowing down in 2018 (large gulp after I raise my glass)!
Our beautiful dog and inspiration for QUEORK, Wally, passed away in early July due to cancer. This became a time for reflection and meaning to me and as always, Wally showed me what I desperately needed to be right then...vulnerable. To be vulnerable is to be authentic and is truly the only way to be connected with others. I began studying business leadership, accounting and took every class offered and read every book available, sometimes twice. I found peers, amazing mentors, and asked them as many questions as they could answer. I took a chance and told our story and what came of that is ongoing and our best kept secret to share when the time comes in 2018 (refills glass and toasts to Wally)!
'Tis the season, and for the first time in a long time we were ready! I successfully took out and repaid a line of credit. We restocked shoes for the first time in a year and nailed the preorder styles such that two styles sold out before delivery! We had by far, the highest volume of Holiday sales to date. Our sales team is happy and healthy and kicking ass, we doubled our manufacturing space in October & the talent from our manufacturing team is off the charts - at the beginning of 2016, not one person who makes our products in New Orleans even knew how to sew!
So, (sips wine) let me bring this back full circle before the wine starts talking!
1st Quarter 2017 is the reason I spent two days last week writing our projections and budget for 1st Quarter 2018. Every dollar is accounted for. As much as I hated it at the time, that benchmark brought out the very capable accountant in me!
In the 2nd Quarter I let go of my control and tradition of unstructured "mom and pop" non-management. In time, it served us well and has become an aspiration for each new employee to become the best they can, lead by example, and serve others.
Quarter 3 helped me realize the power and importance of vulnerability. It is a space that allows grace to guide us back to our true paths when we are lost. (Another toast to Wally)
And finally Q4. On the surface it was a success, but only because of all the non successes in our past.
Every failure is simply a benchmark that decides what we have learned and where we need to learn more. In a year we have difficulty for sure, but each year makes us stronger, wiser and all the better for it. I would not want it any other way!
Cheers to 2017 (sips champagne) and glasses high to a challenging, relentless, educational and vulnerable 2018!
The Queen of Cork