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Glass artist creating new direction for 2012

Post Time:Jan 17,2012Classify:Industry NewsView:370

Glass artist Bob Held's business resolutions for 2012 range from the micro to the macabre.

 

On the one hand, Held's been in the glass giftware business since 1978 and he's well established. On the other, the troubled U.S. economy has disrupted his happy 80/20 balance of glass vase, bottle and paper-weight sales to the U.S. and Canada. At the same time, Held turns 69 in March so he's starting to want more time to him-self. So this year, Held wants to increase his efficiency, develop new markets, and move along his succession plan.

 

His 2012 business resolutions:

 

1.     Stop reading email first thing in the morning.

2.      

"You know what happens when you get on your emails in the morning," Held said. "All of a sudden my mind shifts from what I'm supposed to be focused on - getting the business up and running in the morning, developing the direction of the business."

 

Held got the idea from his management consultant, Tara Landes of MRSI Benchmarking Inc. who publishes Insights, a free best-practices newsletter. The first hour of the day sets your priorities, Landes said. Email, voicemail, social media prompt reactive activity, she said.

 

Held now checks email after he's got the work day on track. "Because I'm up and down on the [production] floor blowing glass, once in a while, I'll take a scan at my emails," Held said.

 

2. Move into the funeral urn business for pets and humans.

 

Held's U.S. giftware market has dropped dramatically since the 2008 downturn and now constitutes just 50 per cent of his business. Forced to focus on developing new markets, Held has identified funeral urns as a key target.

 

"There are less and less people being buried, and more and more cremations," Held said. "We're running out of room for cemeteries. ... I've learned how much volume an urn has to take for an average human - a whole bunch of things you never thought you'd get into."

 

Design and production of the handmade glass urns will be the fun part. Held's thinking about Ming and Tang dynasty shapes, and because he's a colourist, he'll focus on surface decoration. "It's like a painting," he said. "What am I going to put on it? Should it be lively like you're going to a party, or sombre?"

 

This year, Held will decide whether he'll sell direct or through distributors. "Do I really want to go to funeral conventions? That's not high on my list," he said. "I need to come up with a name. Do I market under 'Robert Held Art Glass. Come and buy your dead urns here?'" he joked with the dark humour of industry veterans.

 

3.     Make progress with his succession plan.

 

An offer to buy his business last year spurred Held to create a two-to three-year succession plan with the help of an accounting firm. He'd like to move to Parksville where his girlfriend lives, and open a small working studio where he can create prototypes for his Vancouver business. With a bit of luck, some of his employees might buy the business, retaining him as creative director.

 

"So many of my male friends have retired early and they don't do anything," Held said. He has already restructured his business with Landes's help, and this year, he wants to train the team that may take over from him, and find a space to build the Parksville studio.

 

THE SUN ASKED SMALL BUSINESS EXPERTS FOR THEIR TOP TIPS FOR THIS YEAR

 

Vancouver management consultant Tara Landes, president of MRSI Benchmarking:

 

1. Be mindful of your first hour. Instead of checking email, do the most important things first.

 

2. Create space. Shorten meetings, limit which opportunities you'll follow, schedule an hour or two of open time every day.

 

3. Take breaks. Focus your attention for 25-minute intervals, then take a 5-minute break. "You will accomplish far more by 'not doing' for five minutes than you will by doing all the time."

 

Bankruptcy trustee Greg Best with Smythe Ratcliffe chartered accountants:

 

1. Have a plan and set some goals. Where do you see your business this time next year? How are you going to get there?

 

2. Keep your eye on the money. Always understand your cash flow.

 

3. Don't spend the government's money. Segregate the HST collected.

 

4. Keep your records up to date. Hire a bookkeeper.

 

5. If you are incorporated, don't be afraid to say no to providing a personal guarantee. It may not always work, but you won't know unless you try.

 

Certified management accountant Dave Macdonald of Yupana Consulting:

 

1. Create a budget that shows revenue, expenses and income as a minimum, a happy target and a stretch goal. Aim for the third, be comfortable with the second, and worry only if you're hitting the minimum. 2012 will be a tough year, and the way to do well is to be proactive, not reactive.

 

2. Review your market growth goals, ability to meet service and support targets, long-term plans.

 

"Identify at least some of the resources you'll need to meet future goals. Equipment breaks down; growth often requires financing; and investment in efficiencies requires some cash - what are you prepared to do this year, next year and possibly the year after to be more competitive?"

 

 

Source: www.vancouversun.comAuthor: shangyi

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