Years ago on my thirtieth birthday Aaron took me to Louisville to celebrate. We visited Churchill Downs, enjoyed a mint julep (well Aaron enjoyed it at least. I’m a light, and I do mean light drinker. Bourbon, even if doused in mint and sugar still tastes like gag worthy medicine to me. Sorry bourbon lovers!), and walked the exciting area of Fourth Street Live. But of everything we saw my favorite place was, oddly enough as I couldn’t care less about sports, the Louisville Slugger museum. Why? Because I love seeing how bats of the pros are made? Nah. Because I love seeing how machinery works? Nah. Because I just love to walk the floor of a factory? Nah. Because of its story.
The Story of the Louisville Slugger
If you haven’t visited the museum or haven’t heard its story, it’s an amazing one. The business, originally called “J.F. Hillerich, Job Turning” had been making all kinds of wooden products over the years, spindles, wooden bowling pins, and what the owner and father of the company thought would really take off, swinging butter churns. But his son, Bud, had a different idea. Legend has it that one day when playing hooky Bud went to watch his favorite baseball player, Pete Browning aka “The Louisville Slugger,” play. While there, Pete broke his bat and Bud offered to make him a new one. Pete accepted the offer and Bud went back to the factory, creating the very first Louisville Slugger. And with that very bat, Pete got 3 hits in the first game he used it in. The legendary bat was born.
Bud then seeing the value and opportunity, pushed his father to add baseball bats to the family business. His father resisted. But believing in this new avenue, Bud continued to push and develop new bat making processes that even earned him several patents. Over time, his father saw the success, decided to be flexible, and eventually trademarked the name “Louisville Slugger.” And thankfully added Bud to the company. The rest is obviously not only baseball history, but national history as well.
A Reminder to be Flexible
When we ended the Louisville Slugger tour, they offered everyone a small piece of wood that was no longer needed. It looked like the end of a bat. I don’t remember what it was exactly or why they didn’t need it anymore, but I took them up on their offer. Aaron with an entirely flummoxed look on his face asked why I, who couldn’t care less about baseball, or sports, or the Louisville Slugger, wanted that small piece of splinter ridden wood? What was I going to do with it?
I told him that I wanted it as a reminder. As a reminder to remain flexible. To keep my mind, eyes, and ears open for a new opportunity. For a better way to use my skills and abilities. To be able to pivot if needed or warranted, in a way that may have not been in my original plan, but may end up being a better plan, and the right plan. I still have that reminder today. And ponder it and reflect on it regularly as I think, is there somewhere in my business that I need to be more flexible in what I’m offering? In how I’m serving? Is there some other way that I need to be using my skills and abilities as well? It’s an ugly and odd reminder, but a powerful one nonetheless.
Remain Flexible to Remain in Business
If Bud and his father wouldn’t have remained flexible enough to adapt their abilities to new opportunities, imagine where that company would be today. No doubt, it would be long gone. It would have closed shop as wood gave way to plastic, as butter churns gave way to manufactured butter, as bowling gave way to well, almost any other sport. Their business would have gone the way of the cotton gin. Useful for the time, but only for that time. Not for a continuous time.
But because they remained flexible, they survived. What started as a small woodworking shop in 1864 has now turned into a multi-million dollar, nationally renowned, legendary business in 2019. And there’s no sign of it going away at any point.
Only Focus On What You Can Control
So I encourage you to do the same. Interior design is always changing. And largely in a way that’s out of your control. You can’t control what companies will offer to the public. You can’t control whether or not “trade only” will become a thing of the past. You can’t control trends and styles. You can’t control society and their love of all things DIY and HGTV. But you can control what you offer.
So if a client brings an idea for a new service to you. Or if you see a new opportunity in the interior design market. Or if your husband brings you a wild idea for a business that’s never existed before (ahem… thank you, Aaron!), stay open minded and flexible. It might just be the next big thing. If not for society, at least for you.
Rather than fighting being shopped, or forcing every client to be full service, or being anti-DIY, maybe lean into it. Maybe adapt your business to something that’s sustainable no matter what the outside economy is experiencing. Maybe adapt it to something that your clients will want and need 10 years from now or 30 years from now. Use the skills you have acquired now, and see if you can’t adapt them in some way to be used well into the future.
As we all know, Stefani Germanotta, aka “Lady Gaga” didn’t originally plan on being a singer either. Her first idea was to be an actor. But she pivoted to music instead, and the rest is clearly history. And she also found her way back to acting anyway once she hit it big in music. The same thing can happen to you.
Maybe your first idea was residential interior design, but a client or prospect suggested you started designing for wellness centers, or B&Bs, or even hospitals because you have a way with designing relaxing spaces. Or maybe you begin to use your design abilities to create spaces for others who are struggling with something, like the organizations I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Savvy Giving by Design and Dwell with Dignity.
Change is an Opportunity Not a Threat, If You’re Willing to See It That Way
Whatever it is, keep your mind open to change. Remain flexible in what you’re willing to do. Don’t be so steadfast and loyal to something that it will eventually cause you to go out of business. Remain open, in your mind and literally open for business, by being flexible. Because businesses that last the test of time, don’t remain, by remaining the same. Their values do, but how they deliver those values has to be adapted in some way throughout the years. They use their basic skills and abilities and rework them to respond to the environment as they see fit. They remain flexible in order to ensure continued success. They see change as an opportunity, rather than a threat. Your business is the same. Look at the current environment and ask yourself, “How can I be flexible? How can I adapt my current business to serve clients in a new way? In a way that’s sustainable, profitable, and valued?” Then take that idea, run with it, and knock it out of the park. The rest will be history.
If you’d like even more ideas on how to provide the kind of client service that gets you higher fees and profits, visit the Client Service Consultation page to find out more!