Everything I wish I’d known when I started pt.4

I had promised Annie that I would list the things I admired about her, things that made her different from the average designer entrepreneur based my experience of working with her. [If you need to catch up, her entries are part one, part two and part three. Her guest entries explain how and why she went from using sewing contractors for production to making the transition of setting up her sewing factory.] So here is my list of 15 reasons why Annie is successful when other designers won’t be:

1. She’s smart. No surprise there, any regular visitors here are well above average. Attracting the crowd that I do, I forget that fashion people are universally considered to be quite stupid.

2. She’s brave. Which is not the same thing as never being scared. Two years ago she endured the biggest PR social media fiasco with jealous and petty drama queens. While personally in the midst of despair, she repeated her message in the face of ribald fabrications and lies about her brand and came out on top.

3. She has a great sense of humor and a great laugh (my favorite). She laughs loudest at her own mistakes. She’s so objective that she can make you laugh about it too and never be offended.

4. She’s forgiving. If people let her down, she seems to presume incompetence rather than malice. She gives others the opportunity to explain and make things right. Which is not the same as not ever becoming angry or letting others know she’s disappointed. I’ve never heard her speak ill of anyone, meaning being judgmental or gratuitously unkind.

5. She doesn’t assume she knows everything. Most people would say this is also true of themselves but in my experience, they go off and do exactly what they’d already decided to do. Such pattern emerges that the people who expect or glean from free advice are the very people who also think they know everything. Why is that?

6. She takes responsibility for her mistakes. She assumes the responsibility of mistakes that people she has hired have made and is proactive about solving them. She has changed course when she needed to. She’s wedded to outcome, not the path she thought would work to get there.

7. She is flexible. If one solution or person doesn’t work out, she’ll try another. She is committed to a successful solution, not her preconceived ideas of how to solve them. Which is not the same thing as not being disappointed when her pet theories don’t work out.

8. She listens, even to people she doesn’t agree with because she senses the grain of truth in everything. Besides, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

9. She is humble. Oh how she is humble! She knows that being successful does not depend on her having all the answers. She knows she only has to know who knows and ask them.

10. She makes difficult choices both personally and professionally. Not willingly (who does?) and not happily but she’s centered and focused on what’s real and needs to be done.

11. She’s smart about her product and brand:

  • She developed a compelling brand and brand story.
  • She is consistent and focused.
  • She was an active participant in the consumer community she gestated but was flexible to change the vision of what she wanted and the financial goals it entailed to embrace the needs of her customers. Meaning, she let them be in charge -somewhat- and ran with it -which is not to say she wasn’t reluctant about it. But she’s also smart enough to not always listen to them or do what they say. That takes a very fine hand.
  • She is very very good to her stores.
  • She doesn’t take her product (or herself) too seriously.

12. She is strong. She doesn’t give up on herself or others quickly.

13. She checks in with me fairly often and is pretty good about asking for help. She knows it is more important to solve problems than to worry about what someone may think of her for having made a mistake. She consistently tries a variety of strategies to solve her own problems but she doesn’t wait too long to ask for help.

14. Other than design, Annie’s greatest strength is perseverance in problem solving. This doesn’t mean she always knows how to solve problems (although she increasingly gets better at that too) but that she works through problems in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds and disappointment both personally and professionally.

15. Annie is very generous. Actually, she’s proactively generous before she needs to be. Because she makes deposits well before she ever needs to make a withdrawal, Annie is always first in line at the favor bank. She has her own window.

Related:
Everything I wish I’d known when I started pt.1
Everything I wish I’d known when I started pt.2
Everything I wish I’d known when I started pt.3
Everything I wish I’d known when I started pt.4

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