The Year in Review: 2007
I'm writing this review at the end of 2008. Basically, I decided it would be nice to have an annual journal of Tumbleweed's growth process as a business.
When 2007 began, Jay was still running a solo operation. He was a one man show: designing houses, talking to the media, building houses, mailing books, and more. He hired the occasional assistant, doled out the basic tasks, but seemed to come up short when it came to meeting his real business needs. Jay and I had casually discussed partnering together; but the real change in thinking for me happened when Oprah called. In my mind, that was the turning point for Tumbleweed. Jay almost turned it down because he could barely handle the current amount of business. In the end, Jay appeared on Oprah, and I decided to join Jay in his quest to "dream big and build small" in March of 2007.
Jay is a wonderful artist and promoter, but hardly a business person. The first tasks were to get a hold on existing business and analyze what we had. And what did we have? Thousands of unanswered emails (mostly spam), 100's of unfilled book orders, and inventory shortages. We spent most of the year trying to catch up. And the backlog wasn't helped by the changes I made to the website in my first 10 days with Tumbleweed. Analyzing the pages customers were visiting (and more importantly weren't visiting), I instantly knew the website wasn't working for us. Using that data, I made about a dozen changes on our website and our sales doubled overnight. But there was still more to come.
We hired people, and dramatically improved upon the almost nonexistent customer service. It worked, and business doubled again. At the same time, we also identified the areas that we needed to improve. It was clear that our homes really struck a chord with people, but our books and website didn't convey the same sense of style. We set out on a plan to make a new website that was more beautiful, create at least 10 new designs to incorporate elements that customers were clammoring for, develop a new book, and improve the plans for all of our houses. Later in the year, we decided to experiment with workshops, too. We also hired a wonderful photographer to reshoot our houses, modified our website again, and haphazardly tried to improve anything we could. It all took much longer than expected, cost much more than we could have imagined, and proved to riddle us all with anxiety.
The year 2007 is forever etched in my memory as "The Year of Anxiety". Tumbleweed's potential was so enormous. We wanted to do so much, and it was so hard to make a plan and stick to it. It seemed almost impossible to talk to anyone without hearing ten great suggestions of how to improve our business. Managing all those ideas, including our own, proved to be a real challenge. We had to force ourselves to stick to our plans and build our foundation. In 2007, we laid the foundation needed to stay afloat. For a business that went from one employee to four almost overnight, we did a good job staying within our boundaries.