Do You Acknowledge Others’ Good Work?

I’ve long said my No. 1 marketing tip is “Do good work.” Sometimes buttoned-up, practical types look at me quizzically when I say it, but I stand by it. Referrals will come on the heels of that and business builds upon itself.

Over the years I’ve also learned that an extension of this is to appreciate and encourage the good work of others. We all have our favorite businesses we patronize because they make the very best pumpkin muffin or exquisite jewelry or look us in the eye when we talk car repairs. My recent experience with a quality new business felt like a grand and gorgeous lesson in the art of fine communication and its potential rewards.

For way too long, my microwave had been sitting on a table not meant to hold one. A conventional microwave cart seemed boring, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted. A few years ago a friend suggested I find an offbeat piece, something with character. Yes, that sounded right given the rest of the hand-selected pieces in my home. He was on to something.

Lately I’ve been prone to bringing visitors of my town to this one particular home shop run by a lovely couple. He makes beautiful furniture, ranging in scope and purpose. She brings a meticulous eye to the setup of the place, seeing to details that showcase his craftsmanship.

Right after Christmas, I stopped in with no mission in mind. But then some factors converged – I had some gift money to spend, a real need, and I was especially motivated to stay loyal to local businesses in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

I told my artisan of my need, gave him the microwave measurements and promised to go to a paint store to look at swatches of specific colors I had in mind. I was thinking about reds or blues and brought home a nice assortment to show him. Also, per his instructions, I sent him some photos of my kitchen so he’d have an idea of my style and the feel of the room.

Then one day she sent me an email asking me to call. I hadn’t been by with the swatches. Why not? He got on the phone and I explained that I was lost and looking for some guidance. Holding up the color samples in my kitchen had me shaking my head instead of nodding. I was frustrated.

“Well, how about you go find different swatches until you see what you want and bring them by?” he asked.

“Hmmmm …” I said, mulling the futility of that.

I could sense his exasperation through the phone. With a little probing, I realized it was not because he didn’t want to help me but because I hadn’t made it clear that I wanted him to.

“I came to you to do this because I like your work so much,” I said. “Can we try to talk this through?”

He softened.

“I was thinking the top can be a different color from the base,” he said. “Or the drawer fronts can be contrasting.”

“Yes, I like that,” I said. I already knew the piece he was repurposing had great bones.

He began suggesting colors. Green scared me a little, only because I’ve brought such an array of hues to the room already. But there was some green. I perked up, trying to picture it.

“Tell me more,” I said.

I could feel his energy shifting as he kept talking. My trust was becoming more obvious as we continued on. He was excited about this project. The ideas came pouring out.

“You know what?” I said. “I like this direction you’re going in. Why don’t you execute your vision? Surprise me. Do something fun with the drawer knobs. I’m leaving it in your hands.”

And with that we had a deal.

I hung up the phone wondering why in the world I had felt the need to be exact and micro-manage the project in the first place. Isn’t that a wee bit uptight? I make my living encouraging people to indulge and hone their creative inclinations. I have an acute appreciation for realized creativity. It’s what makes me tick.

So trust in the creative process. Let the man strut it out. Duh. What peace.

When I went to view the finished piece, I was delighted and couldn’t wait to see it in my home. My joy blossomed further when my artisan friend, beaming, said, “I was just waiting for you to tell me to do what I was envisioning.”

So much swirled through my mind right then. I like my eye, but sometimes it’s best paired with another’s expertise because, oh yeah, it takes a village. Trust is imperative. This is how relationships are built. It is the very reason why I have such a strong allegiance to my local frame shop – he goes to a place I wouldn’t think of and I let him roam. It is the reason I am proud to have special relationships with many of my local shop owners – I know they excel at what they do.

True, respectful connections are often born somewhere in that sizzle of communing creativity and heightened listening, whether it’s home décor, a business partnership, in child-rearing or just about anywhere else we have significant goals or desires.

This is a blueprint for realizing a vision.

The lovely couple delivered my new piece, along with a gift bag that contained a fragrant new candle. So divine.

That’s some good work.