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Archive for the ‘Management’ Category

What Message Does Your Environment Send?

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

Have you given much thought to the message that your environment sends? This could be the space that you invite the public to enter, whether that’s a storefront or your website. It could even be your personal workspace. Recently I had two interactions that brought this to the forefront.

The Chef

Last year I had lunch with a friend at Petit Louis, a small French restaurant in Columbia, MD. It was a delightful meal, and we both commented on the relaxed and inviting environment. An added plus was the tile floor we both shot photos of.

Because of that experience, I read with additional interest a business article in the food section of the Washington Post about Cindy Wolf, one of the owners of Petit Louis. She was nominated for the sixth time for a James Beard award for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic for Charleston Restaurant in Baltimore. Cindy, along with her partner and former husband Tony Foreman, own Foreman Wolf, a restaurant group. The group owns and operates six restaurants and two wine shops, and the two owners also host a local radio show weekly.

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Save Money With Tax Tips for Creatives

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017


Yes, it’s tax time again. As a self-employed business owner, it’s important for you to have a handle on your business and know what is deductible and what isn’t.

Invariably when I talk about taxes with creative entrepreneurs, someone will tell me they have an accountant. “Terrific,” I say. “But what does she know about your business in particular?” You go to an accountant because she knows taxes. She can be very knowledgeable about small businesses, but she cannot know the nuances of every type of small business. She works with what you give her. That’s why it’s important for you to do your own research, understand tax strategies and keep track of deductions to which you are entitled. Here are nine tips for maximizing those deductions. To be sure that these apply in your particular instance, be sure to discuss with your accountant.

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Finish the Year Strong

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016


It’s mid-October and, if you are at all like me, you’ve look at the end of the year and at all you want to accomplish before then. It could be trade shows, new patterns or programs, a rush to get your sales where you projected. And, then, of course, the holidays  — Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah — will be here before you know it.

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Back to Business

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016



Labor Day in the United States was earlier this week. While many school districts around the country opened their doors in August, September always seems like back-to-school month to me. Since I run a business these days, I think of it as back-to-business month. You have four months to really rev up to meet those goals you set early this year.

While it is back to business for many of us, it has been a changing business landscape over the summer in the sewing, quilting and crafts fields. Here is a roundup of what has happened and my thoughts. It’s likely you already know about some of the changes.

1. In July, Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine announced that it was folding with its October/November 2016 issue. QNM, owned by F+W Media, was started in September 1969 by Bonnie Lehman at her kitchen table. That first issue cost 35 cents, and the magazine went on to be a leader in the industry. I don’t think the industry would be where it is today without her foresight and willingness to help it grow. I was a long-time subscriber and still have a stash of issues. Magazine publishing is a hard business. I focused on magazine publishing getting my masters’s and was in it for 20 years. Magazines thrive based on a variety of factors, including advertising and circulation. Advertising is what pays the bills for most magazines and in today’s environment the competition for the advertising dollar is steep. It’s not just from other print magazines. Ad dollars are spent on the Internet. Advertisers see where the buyers/readers are and go there. Today, so much is available on the Internet. What can stop other magazines from the same future as QNM? Support your favorite magazines. Tell the advertisers in them that you found them in the magazine. Current QNM subscribers will receive Quilting Arts magazine until the subscriptions expire.

2. In July, American Quilter’s Society announced that it will stop publishing books in 2017. AQS was formed in 1984 by Meredith and Bill Schroeder, who were collectors and publishers of books for collectors. The business went on to sponsor quilt shows, host a television show, and publish magazines. If you look at the quilt and sewing industry, you will find lots of competition for the crafter. I have always been amazed at the numbers of quilt and sewing books published each month, so it does not surprise me to see a shake-up in this area. Again, consumers are looking for how-to craft information, and, in addition to finding it in competing books,

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Is Your In-Box Running Your Life?

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016



Do you ever wonder if you can actually have zero emails in your in-box? Well, I do know some people who have empty in-boxes. I will admit I never have. I fully expect my in-box, virtual and not virtual, to be full when I die. If you are trying to move in the direction of a less full in-box, here are eight tips, plus a bonus reflection, that might just help.


1. Send less email. Doesn’t that seem obvious? If you send less, you will get less.

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Leverage to grow your creative business

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016


You’ve probably heard people talk about leverage. And not the TV show of recent years. Leverage is about using a resource to its maximum advantage.

When I think of leverage in your business, I think of it as a triangle with Time, Money, Knowledge + Talents + Passion as the three sides. When you start your business, you have all these elements in varying degrees. And likely some are limited.

TIME (1)

As you grow your business, you begin to have more of each and can use each to its maximum advantage. And, you can leverage other people’s time, money and knowledge, too.

Leveraging Time

Everyone has the same 24 hours in the day. You can’t create more or save it for another day. And, you have no clue how much time you actually have in the end. One of the keys to being able to leverage your time is to surround yourself with great people. Here are three ways to leverage time.

1. Learn to use other people’s time. This could be hiring people to lighten your load. It could be bartering tasks. It could be creating win-win opportunities with other partners.

2. Look for ways to serve more people at one time. You may already be doing this, only not thinking of it as leverage. If you teach classes, either online or offline, you are reaching more than one person at a time. If you create patterns, you create the pattern once and reach many people.

3. Create systems for tasks. When you have a task you do more than once, create a written procedure for it. This way someone else could do the task and you’ve gained the time. A great example of this is in the franchise business. The franchisor has created systems that are followed by all the franchisees. That’s why you can go into a McDonald’s anywhere in the world and get the same good tasting fries.

Leveraging Money

For some of us the money side of the triangle is particularly short when we start our businesses. I like to say I started mine on a quilting thread! For others with corporate or other full-time jobs, money may not be the short side of the triangle, and you may be able to leverage money to a greater extent.  Here are three ways to leverage money.

1. Reinvest what you make in your business. It’s about growing the size of your business and you will need money to do that. If you reinvest what you make rather than spending it all, you will grow at a faster rate and leverage more.

2. Borrow from family and friends. Many small business owners, especially those starting out, may not be able to get a bank loan. Look to borrow from your family or perhaps your friends. If you do this, be sure to draw up some type of agreement so that they get their money back with interest. As your business grows, so do both of your investments.

3. Look outside your close personal network for crowdsourcing. You may be most familiar with Kickstarter. Other options include Indiegogo, Smallknot, A google search will yield others.

Leveraging Knowledge

The amount of knowledge available today is more than any one of us could ever take in and understand fully. With technology today, there’s literally no end in sight to the amount of knowledge you need or can gain. Your specific talents and passions also play into this part of the leverage triangle. It’s important to dedicate yourself to lifelong learning. Look for courses to take and books to read. Here are three more ways to leverage knowledge.

1. Look for mentors to shortcut your learning. Study what they have done and model them. Look for ways you can work with them one-on-one.

2. Build a team. You can’t possibly know it all, and the easiest way to supplement your knowledge is with a team of advisors, affiliates, and employees who support you.

3. Harness the power of the Internet. This might be through search engines or programs that let your own knowledge go further.

How are you leveraging your time, money, and knowledge? Maybe you have some ideas you would like to share, if so, I would enjoy hearing them. Would you share them below or on our ICAP Facebook or Google+ pages.

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Please do! Just use it in its entirety and be sure to include the blurb below:

Morna McEver is the founder and CEO of the International Association of Creative Arts Professionals where creative arts entrepreneurs craft business success. Her weekly e-zine offers tips, techniques and inspiration to help you craft business success from your creative arts passion. You can sign up for a FREE subscription at



See the ICAP blog at



Where’s your third place?

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

ICAP community

Yesterday I went to the post office to pick up some Priority Mail envelopes and drop off a certified letter. In Laytonsville, population 353 at the last census, the post office is the center of the town activities and full of activity. I always see someone I know. Yesterday it was my dentist. I can meet new people, as I did yesterday when I learned about a local dog trainer. And I can find resources on the bulletin board. I left with two cards and a name of a third repair person I could call about some equipment that needs work.

I remember when I lived other places that there was always a place where locals congregated and you could learn all the news. When I lived in Connecticut, it was Luke’s Donut Shop. At our home in Saint Michaels, my husband would tell you it’s the local YMCA.

What is a “third place”? It’s that place where people gather other than work or home and feel a place of community. I’m sure you can think of places you know of, whether that’s the fictional Cheers of TV fame or the local coffee shop.

According to Ray Oldenburg, an urban sociologist who wrote The Great Good Place and Celebrating the Third Place, all third places have the following eight characteristics: neutral ground, a leveler, conversation is the main activity here, assessable and accommodating, has a the regulars, maintains a low profile, has a playful mood, and home away for home. The idea is that people are free to speak their thoughts and opinions freely.

It is easy to see the coffee shop or the local book store as the “third place.” I think it’s also easy to think about the local quilt or creative arts shop as the “third place,” even though it doesn’t technically meet all the eight characteristics. I think it’s about a sense of belonging, and I think that all creative arts and quilt shops foster that. Think about your experience at the local quilt shop and what made you feel like you were part of a community.

If you own or manage a creative retail shop, what are you doing to create that third place community feeling? Here are some of the ideas from shops I know or frequent.

  • Be welcoming. When customers come into your shop, greet them. Ask them what project they are working on. Nothing makes you want to come back like feeling welcome on the first visit.
  • Have a space set up where customers can congregate to look at quilting or art books and/or share their projects. I used to love to go to Borders Bookstore when it existed because I could find a chair to sit and look at a book.
  • Create special events. Look at other businesses outside the industry to see how they create events that draw customers in and make them feel welcome. We are all looking for an experience, a shared experience, so look for ways to create experiences. Disney is a great example here. Another example: in September I went with my neighborhood book club to an annual book club party hosted by author Lisa Scottoline at her home in Pennsylvania.
  • Look for ways to create shared connections. A monthly stash buster club or fabric club is an idea here.
  • Consider a monthly show and tell for your customers. This encourages them to engage with others.
  • Set up a gallery in your shop and showcase different artists. Have an opening reception with a talk from the artists.
  • Serve food. I don’t know a quilter who doesn’t like a beverage and a cookie. In the winter have some hot cider and gingersnaps. In the summer, lemonade and sugar cookies. Some of you may remember a shop called Patchwork and Pies in New York that was owned by Clara Travis. I loved the image of stopping in the quilt shop and picking up a slice of pie.
  • Run a book club that focuses on a particular artist’s work or designs.
  • Host a monthly “sit and stitch.”
  • Think about ways that you can offer your space to other uses in your community, e.g., let the local knitting club meet there, or depending on the size of your town, even an association that needs space for a small meeting. It’s about encouraging community.

I’m sure you can come up with other ideas. Remember that in creating the experiences that lead to your third place, you don’t have to do them for free. I think you can create a sense of community with a bit of exclusivity with a small fee. And, remember that you are never done. Creating your third place is ongoing.

If you are a shop owner, what you are doing to create a “third place”? And, as shoppers, what makes you designate someplace your third place?

Too Much On Your Plate? Delegate

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015




Recently I was talking with my client Claire, a needlework designer, about the need to start delegating some of her work. She was overwhelmed with the amount of work on her plate and she felt that she needed to do it all herself.


She is like many other small business entrepreneurs I work with who have a hard time delegating. It is hard to leverage your time to work on your business if you are always working in your business. Claire, like so many small business owners, had a fear of assigning work to others. (Control issues, anyone?) When we looked at this on a deeper level, we discovered a few common reasons.


First, Claire was afraid that if she had someone else do a task, they would not do it as well as she could. Of course, this is really a story in her head, and it is not necessarily true. Just because you can do something does not mean that you should. Often someone can do the task even better than we can if we just let them. It is about letting each of us work in our brilliance.


Related to that is the fact that Claire really looked at herself like many small business entrepreneurs do, as the technician. If you are familiar with Michael Gerber’s Emyth Mastery, you understand his terms technician, manager and entrepreneur. When we started our businesses, we did everything: design, pattern stuffing, marketing, website development, sales, content creation, order fulfillment, and on and on. That was fine in the beginning, only you are trying to grow a business. That requires that you learn how to spend less of your time as the technician, and to do that you need to build a team and delegate.


I think Claire, like many of us, started with a misunderstanding of what delegation is. Delegation is not tossing off the work to someone else without guidelines, a system of checks and balances, and follow-up. That would be abdicating and leaders do not do that.


So, how do you get started delegating?


Your first step is to begin to create a list of routine activities that you are doing as a technician that do not use your brilliance. A few examples could be formatting your weekly zine, bookkeeping or editing your videos. Then you need to take the time to document the system for one of those. Once you are done with the first one, move onto the second.


Once you have your task to delegate, it’s important to keep a few things in mind so delegating becomes part of your comfort zone.


1. What is the authority you are giving someone? Remember you are not abdicating all the work and decision making. You are giving a specific amount of authority to someone to do a task. For example, if you own a shop, your manager may have the authority to make decisions that the employees will not. You have to specify what the authority is.


2. What are you delegating from an autonomy standpoint, i.e., what can someone do without oversight or what is the degree of oversight. Andrew Grove, the former chairman of Intel, used the term “task-relevant maturity” when describing how he considered delegation. The person you delegate tasks to should have proven through prior work that they have experience completing that kind of task. It’s not an all or nothing proposition.


3. Do not confuse responsibility and accountability. Responsibility defines the tasks that are part of someones job. Accountability describes the positive or negative consequences for the results of that work. A few examples: A salesperson’s responsibility is selling your product, making a certain number of sales calls, etc. His accountability would be how much he gets paid and whether he gets to keep job based on the amount he sells relative to the sales goal. Your bookkeeper’s responsibility would be keeping the books. Her accountability includes the raise she receives as a result of her accuracy.


Are you ready to delegate?


If you have identified your tasks to delegate, created the appropriate systems, found the appropriate team member, the next step is to clearly set parameters with that team member. What is the authority, autonomy, responsibility and accountability associated with the task. What are the conditions of your satisfaction with the task completion. Be sure you discuss this with your team member and answer any of her questions.


If you do not set parameters and follow-through on your end, you are likely abdicating not delegating. Your business is not going to grow as it should.


Last, here is a good quote on delegating from John Maxwell:


“If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.”


Please share your thoughts on delegating below. I would love to hear them. You are also welcome to go to leave a comment on the ICAP Facebook or Google+ pages.

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Please do! Just use it in its entirety and be sure to include the blurb below:

Morna McEver is the founder and CEO of the International Association of Creative Arts Professionals where creative arts entrepreneurs craft business success. Her weekly e-zine offers tips, techniques and inspiration to help you craft business success from your creative arts passion. You can sign up for a FREE subscription at


See the ICAP blog at


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