As John and I plunge into our eighth year of running Lost Art Press, I am reminded of three things that I learned about life and business from Steve Shanesy, my old boss at Popular Woodworking Magazine. Steve was the best boss I ever had. And though we didn’t always see eye to eye about the magazine’s content, we always worked together – never against one another.
Lesson No. 1: Business is a fight. It’s a struggle and it always will be. If you think it’s going to get easier next financial quarter or next year, you are wrong. So either accept that, or go work for someone else. Corollary: Business and magazines are not democracies, nor should they be.
Lesson No. 2: Sometimes the best action is to do nothing. It’s easy to react quickly to something. But that’s not always the best thing to do. Sometimes doing nothing and watching things unfold is the best course. I spent 18 years observing Steve and learning this valuable skill from him – it might be the best thing he ever taught me. Know when to act swiftly and when to pause.
Lesson No. 3: It’s a story that Steve told me once about one of their countertop suppliers when he was in the furniture trade. One time Steve was visiting the guy’s shop when some customers came in to pick up their order, a custom-made countertop.
The customers asked for a discount – not because the work was shoddy, but because they could.
The countertop guy said: No. The customers said, “OK, we’ll pay full price.”
The countertop guy said: No. I won’t sell this to you. I’d sooner destroy the countertop than sell it to you. Get the &^$% out of my shop.”
I’ll allow you to extract the lesson from that story.
Year eight has begun. Let the fight continue.
— Christopher Schwarz