Posts Tagged ‘Business’

Hello Etsy <--- Said With Dutch Accent

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Last night I returned home from a four day trip to the Netherlands. My travels were dual-purposed:

  1. To attend the Hello Etsy 2012 conference
  2. It was a good excuse to visit my family.

I always feel very at home in the Netherlands – perhaps it is because all of a sudden I am surrounded by people who are tall, blonde and rosy-cheeked like me instead of the short, skinny Frenchies I hang out with these days. I can’t speak Dutch although from growing up listening to my Grandparents speak to one another I seem to have an ear for the language. I can’t tell you exactly what is being said but I can follow very basic conversations. The human brain is an amazing thing.

Maybe it is these red shutters, but I feel at home in Holland

Anyway, I spent most of my time with my family in Gouda (it’s pronounced Gggccchhhh-ow-der not G-oo-da), visiting the city, driving to the apparently mountainous ‘dunes’ (they was slightly raised patches of ground) near the coast, and eating gevulde koek. On Sunday we went to Delft where I didn’t buy any blue and white porcelain but I did watch people sail boats around and around a course in a small area in a canal. My cousin, Judit was one of the organisers of the event and she tried to explain to me the complexities of the event. It certainly looked technically difficult and I definitely couldn’t have done it. Crazy Dutch.

Delft canal

You can’t get more Dutch than this – canal, boats, houses, Vermeer clouds.

On Saturday I woke up very early and caught three trains to Eindhoven for the Hello Etsy 2012 conference – a day of talks by small creative business owners run by the good folk from Etsy. It was linked with Dutch Design Week and there were many interesting events happening in Eindhoven. None of my family could understand WHY it was in Eindhoven, but that’s where it was so that’s where I went.

Hello Etsy

Hi there.

The conference was attended by lots of fellow crafters who sell their products on the Etsy website. There were about 200 of us and we listened to various speakers including Janine Vangool from Uppercase Magazine; Satish Kumar, a former monk who now travels the globe encouraging peace and environmental responsibility (he also walked from India to America via Moscow, London and Paris (yes, walked) carrying boxes of tea to give to the heads of government to encourage them to drink a cup of tea and have a bit of a think before starting nuclear war); and Piet Hein Eek, a Dutch designer whose atelier the conference was being held in.

Piet Hein Eek workshop

The AMAZING workshop at Piet Hein Eek

While all of the speakers had something interesting to say, I gained the most insight from Janine as she spoke about the processes and changes she has gone through throughout her life in order to get to her current position as a magazine and book publisher. It was reassuring to hear that it isn’t an overnight occurrence and that she has changed jobs and directions many times throughout her career to be where she is now. It made me realise that over the past two years I have been telling people about this book I am writing about Paris (yet honestly haven’t really started yet) and am trying to attempt various other projects instead. But the idea of having my words printed in a beautifully bound book with nice typesetting and photographs makes every inch of me tingle with excitement.

Janine provided the advice of doing what you love and the fact that you can’t succeed or fail unless you try. This is a significant pitfall in my current way of doing things – I don’t try. I sit around hoping that some magical fairy will make something happen for me on my behalf instead of getting out there and making things happen. This has to change.

She also said that there is always room for quality which I think was a lovely thing. You can tell from Uppercase that she has a great eye for quality and that the work she produces is made from the heart. This is something I aspire to do.

An overall feeling I gained from all of the speakers was that they were simply following whatever their heart and soul was telling them. Instead of producing products with a specific market in mind, they would make something that they liked, loved, wanted and the market would find a place for it.

Hello Etsy conference

Lots of interested listeners

The most popular speaker of the day was Satish Kumar – a cute, little, 70-something Indian ex-monk who made the hearts of the 90 per cent female crowd go gooey. He is a very impressive man with a strong will, amazing intelligence and a determined agenda to spread the idea of peace. He was also very human and approachable, not preaching to us but presenting the facts and encouraging us to follow our dreams and to focus on making the world a better place. One of the things he said that stuck with me was that everything in life has a place, including fear and doubt. It is just a matter of keeping these things in their place and not allowing them to control us. Very true.

I came away from the conference not having ‘networked’ as much as I set out to do but with a better understanding of creative business. It is a long journey and requires a lot of effort and work, all of which I believe I am capable and willing to do. I just need to get my butt into gear and do it.

Hello Etsy bag

Why, hi!

I’m a Business Term.

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Today I discovered that I am related to KPIs. The term “JDs” was being flung around in a meeting, letters that I discovered are not only my initials. They also stand for “Job Description.” It’s like Luke finding out Darth Vader was his father. Depressing stuff.


Thursday, May 13th, 2010

I have just returned from a staff meeting which involved discussions of strategic marketing plans and timelines and budgets and all things that I HATE. The meeting was relatively low-key so I survived, however before heading into the meeting my manager said that I had a lot of KPIs on the marketing plan. I looked at her with one eye brow raised (yes, I can do that) and said “I have lots of what now?” Now, I had heard of a KPI in previous workplaces but it is one of those terms that I purposely dispose of from my brain because I think it is a waste of space. So I always forget what it stands for – Keep People Interested? King Penguin Igloo?

Key Performance Indicators. In other words, tasks. Responsibilities. Expected outcomes. Ooh, outcomes! There’s another rubbish word. Now, before I start my ramble, I’d just like to state that this isn’t an attack on people who use this kind of language (aka, my manager who gives me work and pays me money!) but more on the person who thought of it in the first place. Who on earth sat down one day and thought, “You know, I’m going to invent a phrase that will terrify people into doing their jobs. And then I’m going to abbreviate it so that it sounds impressive and that no one really knows what it means but are too scared to ask.”? Well I’m asking!

KPIs are used widely by businesses and organisations to ensure they are performing well and yes, I know it is always good to have measures and guides to record successes and issues against. But there’s always a push to make KPIs within small teams of people more important than they really need to be. My KPIs are basically a list of tasks that I have to complete by the end of the year but I can’t say that I am in any way more enlightened now that I have read them on a piece of paper because I already knew they existed. I just called it my “To Do List”. I have KPIs so that my position can be quantified and measured so next year there’ll be money in a budget to employ a person full-time. That’s fine and good and they really need a writer, but why does so much time and money and effort need to be spent putting excel spreadsheets and reports together to prove that a job I am currently doing is required? Surely the fact that I go to work, I sit at my desk and type and magically websites appear and brochures get printed is proof enough?


Whoa. Graphs.

The other  business terms that also appeared throughout my education that I loathe and despise are Vision and Mission. Problem #1: No one knows the difference between the two. Problem #2: No one cares. One day I want to write a Vision and Mission that are completely negative. Such as “Zaum’s vision to do the work that’s coming in the door and hope for the best.” and “Zaum’s mission is to make as much money as possible so that I can retire as soon as possible.” No one would dare put that on their Annual Report. Instead there is a need to put as many inspirational verbs in as possible – Strive, Innovate, Achieve. So what is the point? Perhaps it is to make writers like me, who are forced to write the things, pull out our hair. Maybe there really are some people out there who LIKE these things? Recent adventures in the world of “Business” has made me discover that there are actually people who think like this and who become highly successful  because of it! And good on them. Clearly I won’t be running a multi-national company with thousands of staff, each of whom have a strategic objective and a list of KPIs. Luckily they’ll always need writers to put together snappy one-liners.