I’d realised my milestone was coming a while ago, and I did ponder briefly about sharing this publicly. I decided that I would, cos it’s a heck of a number, and I’m bloody proud of it!
Since I started my business back in 2010 I’ve always shared various standout successes along the way – anniversaries, milestone orders, press features and so-on. Social media posts celebrating these key moments have always been met largely with positivity.
However, in more recent times I’ve been aware of a rippling undercurrent of negativity towards such celebratory posts. The ubiquitous “sack shot”, once extremely popular at Christmas, now divides a nation of small business owners… is it braggy and boastful, or is it simply telling your business story? I’m still unsure myself – I do think it’s great to celebrate success, and I love to see my fellow small businesses doing well - but it always needs to be genuine (and thereby sparing) – and of course it needs to be sensitive.
Being completely inundated with orders that crazy Valentine’s Day back in 2014 is integral to my business story – enabling me to give up my day job – and I know it’s a tale that has subsequently inspired many other small businesses. I’m proud of the story, and I’m not ashamed that I have shared it to death. I’d hate to think that it was an anecdote that had ever caused anyone to feel in any way negative.
In the past I’ve heard unsubstantiated tales of online sellers filling Royal Mail sacks with empty boxes to get that perfect “sack shot”, and rumours of sellers photographing piles of blank paper claiming that they are delivery notes. The quest for insta-perfection goes that one step further, and only fuels the crippling anxiety felt by other small businesses who might not be that busy either. Building a façade of busy-ness is not helpful or constructive for anyone, but I can understand that it could be an easy trap to fall into when everyone else seems to be so busy.
I have other small business friends who remain steadfastly tight-lipped when it comes to order numbers and milestones – never sharing their figures with anyone. Equally that is absolutely fine, and a totally valid business decision – though I do hope they have their own little secret celebration when the counter tips over to the next 100 or 1000 orders!
Behind my most recent milestone is a slightly different story to what you might actually expect.
I’d genuinely expected my NOTHS milestone to come during the Christmas busy period. Christmas, to be truthful, was not really as busy as expected – in fact my business has been in a gentle decline throughout 2017, and there have been some quite scary weeks. This year will be about consolidating my business activities and making some big decisions about the way I operate day-to-day. It’s all going to be okay, I’m certain, but my “winging it” approach definitely needs a bit of tightening up this year. The gifting industry is changing, with a saturation of online sales platforms, many people are giving it a go – so there’s a lot more competition. There’s also a lot more uncertainty around – people do seem to be spending less.
It’s also really really important to remember that a huge proportion of my sales are for £2.50 greetings cards. And I’ve been selling on NOTHS for just short of six years. So if you do a quick bit of maths you’ll soon realise that we’re not talking millions of pounds here.
Comparison is inevitable. I do it myself. Everyone does it. But it’s always worth remembering – in the oft-quoted words of Theodore Roosevelt, “comparison is the thief of joy”. No two people are the same, no two businesses are the same.
I’ve lost a good handful of Instagram followers as a result of my 50k post. I’ve also had – to date – almost 400 likes and over 100 positive comments on that one post across Instagram and Facebook. As a ratio I’m fine with that; and I will more than likely continue to celebrate my successes, but I will always endeavour to do it sparingly and mindfully.
I’d love to know your thoughts on this – do you enjoy seeing small business milestones? Or do you find it distasteful? Have you ever unfollowed someone after they've shared a milestone?