This month is the 3-year anniversary of when I left my job on Bay Street to dedicate my full attention to running and growing Threads. When running your own business, the days and months seem to fly by, but so much happens every single day, so when I think about this anniversary, I can’t exactly pin-point if it feels like yesterday or a lifetime ago. As I reflect back on the last 3 years, I wanted to note down the 5 most important things I’ve learned in my journey thus far, in case it’s helpful to anyone else out there who is just beginning their journey.
1. Have a plan but be prepared to stray from it.
About a year into the Threads journey, COVID-19 hit. Let’s just say a global pandemic was not in my business plan. We’re in an industry that depends on people getting dressed and going out and that was definitely not happening in early 2020. Luckily, in February 2020 we predicted that we would be all wearing masks very soon and we pivoted to use our manufacturing capacity to make high quality, reusable masks. We launched on April 4, 2020, the same day that Canada’s top doctor recommended the use of face covering to stop transmission of the virus. Having the additional product line really saved us that year (and also helped introduce Threads to many people who hadn’t heard of us before!). All that to say: business (and life!) will throw lots of curve balls. It’s important to operate with a plan, but be prepared to change that plan and adapt when necessarily.
2. Execute fast, but have patience.
As an early stage business, knowing when to pivot (when something isn’t working) or when to double down (when something is working) is one of the most important skills you can have. However, having the patience to wait for long-term results is equally, if not more, important. Contrary to what social media may show you and our society’s obsession with the term “overnight success”, it’s critical to remember that a great business is never built overnight.
Patience and consistency always wins, but only when the thing you’re doing is the right thing for your business. Knowing the difference is half art, half science.
3. Zoom out often.
If I can sum up running a business using one word, I would use the word “roller-coaster”. There are tons of ups and downs, it’s fun and scary…but at the end of the day, it’s what you signed up for. The highs are incredibly high but the lows can be pretty low. Sometimes there are multiple highs and lows in the span of a single day. During the low times, it’s important to remember it’s not going to be like that forever. I like to practice “zooming out”. This means reflecting on the past month or quarter or even year. Have we been making progress? Is the slope upward and positive? It puts things into perspective. I love this illustration below by Liz and Mollie.
4. All feedback is not created equal.
I used to take every single feedback into heavy consideration, whether it was an email from a customer or a haphazard Instagram comment from a faceless account. Customer feedback is so important to us, so naturally this seemed to make sense when we were just starting out. However, I’ve learned that not feedback is created equal. In the age of TikTok, where users can make an account without even providing a username, I ask myself: “has this person who took 2 seconds to leave a comment on our account actually thought about our product, our brand, and done the work to give us valuable feedback?”. Much of the time, that answer is no. However, if a customer has taken the time to write us a thoughtful email, you can bet we are taking that feedback super seriously. This advice is easier said than done as we can’t help but internalize the things we read, even when we logically know it doesn’t make sense or it doesn’t come from a place of trying to help. I’ll be honest, since launching our Fly Tights, we’ve received a few messages with backlash about photos (or just the concept) of men wearing tights. But ultimately, are we going to let these people dictate the direction of our brand? And these pieces of hateful feedback coming from the type of people we want to have in our community? The answer is almost always no.
5. Trust yourself.
As a business owner, particularly in the ecommerce space, there are a lot of people out there trying to sell you their services. Many of these people will promise you the world and will sell themselves as being a “guru” or “expert”. Ultimately, there is no one out there who is spending as much time on your business as you do - you are the only expert when it comes to your business. Listen to what people have to say but be discerning about the advice to take to heart and what you implement.