Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Pillbags,Take 2.

This has been a week of highs and lows, as far as the pillbags go. First - the highs: my patent applications have been filed, so I'm free and clear to show the world pictures of Sara Gorman's Pillbags. Yippee! Up until now, my patent attorney had recommended that I keep photos of the bags off my site, just to protect myself until my apps are filed. (Turns out Daddy G knew what he was talking about!) But now, bring on the product shots!

Which leads me to my second victory, which was hiring and working with a fabulous photographer to do my professional product shots. She's been phenomenal! The placeholder shots I had on my to-be-launched site don't hold a candle to the shots she's taken. Once the site is up and running, you'll be able to see her handiwork first hand.

But now for the low - the site is NOT up and running...because I broke up with my manufacturer. While it was hard to say goodbye to the guys who got me started in the bag business, it was definitely time to move on. I wish I knew where we went wrong. but alas, I think it may be the nature of manufacturing. When you're dealing with quality, price, and delivery - it's a tall order to make all three of those happen time, after time, after time.

As far as product development and design go, however - they are the tops. They helped me get the product to the place it is today, and for that, I will be forever grateful. But clearly, I wasn't the right customer for them, and they weren't the right production team for me. We just couldn't make our expectations clear enough...and so it was time to part ways.

The good news is that I had another couple of manufacturers in my back pocket. My goal is to keep the work domestic (go Made in the USA!), so that narrowed the field a bit. But my reluctance to move on from this first manufacturer reminds me of the difficulty we all have with change - with or without lupus. For me, it was particularly reminiscent of the difficulty I had making the career changes to accommodate my declining health due to lupus years ago.

Here's what I was up against - both times:

1) Comfort - Oh, how easy it is to stay with what you know! When it came to this manufacturer - I'd been working with them since August...talking as often as three times a week. That's not six months of rapport-building you just want to walk away from. What's more, we'd made some real progress working together. However, it wasn't as productive as it needed to be, hence the fact that I currently have no product to show for it. But walking away from a situation in which you're comfortable, where you don't have to try so hard, and where you have a pretty good idea what to expect - that's hard to do. Same with the 10 years I'd logged in television production: I was comfortable, I didn't have to work hard to make my job happen, and I knew what to expect. But was I as productive as I could have been? Was I as healthy as I could have been?  Was the situation working anymore? Not really, to all three.

So the question has to be: is the comfortable situation in which you find yourself working? Is it as painful as it is productive? And is there a possibility that the pain actually outweighs the comfort?

2) Persistence - So if you've read my book, you know that I use derivations on the word "determined" more than two dozen times. I don't give up easily - and I approached this manufacturer relationship with the same level of determination. I wasn't just going to walk away because things weren't rosy and perfect. I knew some things took a little extra time, energy, and massaging. And because I was new to the world of manufacturing, I figured I couldn't let the bumps in the road deter me.  It was just like with lupus - I thought the harder I tried to muscle through the pain and ignore the toll the disease took on my body, the less effect they'd have. Well - not true. In fact, the pain and the toll just got worse. And in the end, I think that's what happened with the manufacturer. I kept overlooking the issues, but the damage toll just got worse.

3) Unknown - This one was a real problem for me. I mean - as a newbie to manufacturing, how could I start over with someone new? How could I know that I wouldn't just run into the same problems? How would I know if it was going to be better? Well - just like anything, you don't know until you try.

I had no idea what it would be like once I let go of my career for good. I was going to be 32 years old, with no kids (because I couldn't have any at the time), no job, and no plan for a job. What in the world was I walking into? And yet, almost 6 years later, I now know that the unknown isn't half bad. And I tell you this - the possibility is what will get you through. The possibility that I might be able to be healthy...live well...have kids...write a book. Those were pretty darn compelling reasons...just like having a quality, cost-effective product delivered on time as expected was a compelling enough reason to move on.

So onward and upward. I've learned and will continue to learn...one pillbag at a time.

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