Getting Dunked in the New Year | Bullseye Glass Co. | Bullseye Glass Co

Getting Dunked in the New Year

Remember when this kind of thing was all part of a company picnic?
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Sales manager Jim and Comptroller Eric enjoyed the dunking pool back in the carefree ‘90s.

I hate meetings.

I’m consistently late. I say stupid stuff that always sounds better before I hear it outside my own head. I can’t concentrate for being distracted by the subtle facial tics of staff that reveal what they’re really thinking while they’re politely nodding agreement. I use the discussion time that I think is irrelevant to my own agenda to lob back the endless stream of incoming emails from the iPhone hidden beneath the desk, then blubber an Alzheimeric “huh?” when interrupted for an opinion on an argument I only half heard.

But last Friday’s meeting was different. In fact, recently a lot of them have been different. Lately we’ve had to talk about stuff that it’s hard to snooze through. Things like:

“Is it worse to cut back on the 401K benefits or to terminate 2.4 more people?”

“If sales drop another 5%, are we going to have to reduce our medical benefits package?

“Can we really afford to run an art gallery in this economy?”

“How can we justify spending money on research that is generically educational?”

Only six months ago, these were questions that either didn’t need to be asked or, if asked, didn’t have to be debated within the context of the company’s survival.

We’ve always worked to provide our people with wages that were in line with our marketplace, and benefits that were as good as or better than most. We’ve always had a strong educational mission; we’ve often given precedence to arts support over profits; and we’ve believed that research is the cornerstone of longevity. But we thought and talked about those things within the context of a company that in 34 years of operation had never had a year when sales were less in the current year than the prior one.

Today we’re like a lot of other companies in America. Our meetings are about survival. Period. And mostly they are about the survival of our people, about lay offs, wage freezes, benefits, and morale (which, I am heartened to see as high as it is in such unnerving times.)

Recently we’ve been meeting a lot about the people inside Bullseye. Friday’s meeting was – at least on the surface – about long-range marketing plans. But it was, in fact, again about people – this time the people outside Bullseye.

To backtrack: Bullseye is largely the company it is because of its users. We’ve had a successful and – we hope mutually – rewarding relationship for over three decades with a global community of artists, hobbyists, teachers, students, resellers and studio operators who have explored with us on the leading edge of studio glass – in both making and working.

A lot of the programs that support those relationships are now threatened. How do we pay for an educational program when profits have shriveled? How do we support museum and gallery exhibitions that promote our field and the artists who work in it when we’re turning off furnaces to save fuel?

As gritty as those questions are, the tougher one is this: how do we be who we are if we cut back on all that defines us? No one ever said it quite like that in Friday’s meeting. But in the fast and furious debates over which projects to cut and which to fight for, I saw a team of people whose determination to keep art and education afloat through the storm made me immeasurably proud of this company.

Like the rest of you, we’ll most likely be giving up a lot in the months ahead, but coming out of that meeting last week, I knew that at the end of this thing we’ll still be Bullseye. Smaller maybe, leaner for sure, but still committed to the art, the education and the community who has shared these values with us for so many years.

13 Responses to Getting Dunked in the New Year

  1. JC says:

    Hi Lani,
    Your recent blog is moving, inspirational and a little too close to home.
    It is interesting that there have been no other comments…yet. It’s all too painful and personal.
    We are all feeling it.

  2. Lani says:

    Jackie, yeah, maybe it’s like talking about one’s health. Everyone asks about it, but few people are comfortable with a serious answer. Thanks for the note.

  3. Perhaps we all feel alittle numb by what is happening in the economy. My heart feels numb; as glass keeps the flame going in my spirit. Glass is what get’s me out of bed each day. I dream ideas while I am sleeping and can hardly waite to get up. My mind is full of ideas but I had to re-think the way I have created for the past 30 years. With “GUSTO” perhaps is the best explanation of the past. Now alittel more mellow. But for awhile anyways; I have had to re-think my creativity to make sure that I am using my time wisely and logically and putting importance ahead of my hunger to create. Alittle stiffling , but I can handle it. My spirit feels dampened, but I am trying also to take this precious time to experiment and design new ways of working the glass. I just have to be logical; which has never been my strong point, but by being wise ;perhaps I will come up with a new and innovative way to work.
    I agree this is not an easy subject; and for some it is hitting home in a devestating way, but if we are realistic in how we approach this interesting time , perhaps we can all keep each others spirits up and creativity will follow. Help a friend, teach a course, share some unique and interesting technique to inspire others, and hopefully by all of us thinking of others before ourselves we can all get through this time of struggle. Glass makes me happy and I will give up alot of other things to keep creating and sharing . Hope others can tooo. !!! Leslie

  4. lmcgregor says:

    Beautiful thoughts. Thanks, Leslie.

  5. I may use other glass only for very small reasons but I want to say I appreciate and value, I’m very grateful for all that bullseye does for the glass community. I’m disappointed that a “brainstorm” of sorts a while ago got such a very limited response. We are creative people right. It might be too big and scarey.Maybe that pressure will bring out the best. I firmly believe there is a lot of different angles we haven’t tried yet. Interesting article in GAS News, International Window P3 par 3.Coming from outside I see this isolation in Aust. glass and see potential mixing materials,art forms,industry,architecture. Isolation is the worst in tough times.

  6. ps.they used blown flashed glass here. I’ve suggested they find a fuser next time.
    http://picasaweb.google.com/MacyandShane/WSGWAInspirationStone?feat=directlink#
    Peter.

  7. lmcgregor says:

    VERY cool project! Thanks for the link, Peter.

  8. *woof* The joys of business.

    Folks going into their Local Glass Shop see the tip, the teensy-tiny tip of the iceberg. What’s amazing is that BE is as reasonably priced as it is. Each person in the chain from the guy that dug the raw materials out of the ground, to the transport guy that brought the stuff to the factory, to the guys that shovel it into the furnace, to the… etc etc adds a bit to the cost. Then you have to tell people that “Hey… we have glass for sale here” and “Hey…wanna know some cool ways to use our glass” and “Hey..dorks…don’t tell lies about or glass or we’re going to see you in court.” Each person in the chain adds to the value, and adds to the cost.

    So, where do you draw the line? If you want quality, you can’t stint on raw materials, so that’s out. You can save costs by cutting down on employees, but who’s going to make the glass? I always think things like this are akin to the bubble in the water bed. You push it down in one place and it pops up in another. I think that at the end of the day your employees ARE your business. Without them and their dedication you have nothing. In lean times, the trick is keeping the good employees on board without going bankrupt. The gallery is great…but how much more glass does it sell? You need education…but what education adds to increased sales, and what is there for a philosophical sake rather than a market-driving sake?

    Don’t get me wrong… I want to see the gallery, and education for education’s sake is what makes us grow. Galleries can be shut down in rough times and non-revenue generating education can be put on hold. They can come back when things get better. But they can only come back if the company that supported them is still standing and strong. The talent that makes and markets BE glass are the jewels of the company

  9. lmcgregor says:

    Peter, I’d read a synopsis of Angela’s article on the website of the European Glass Context conference:
    http://www.glass08.com/Default.asp?m=93
    It’s got some hard truth in it…even if I’m not wild about “the American way” being characterized as “drowning and cloistered”, but some truth even there.

    From the factory perspective, the occasional slight by academia can rankle of course. Especially when the schools are often so woefully lacking in a lot of the technical knowledge crucial to glassmaking.

    The upside? Yeah, I think our all being together in this Struggle now is going to force a lot more cooperation and respect.

  10. Lani says:

    Gary,
    I don’t believe this: “Galleries can be shut down in rough times and non-revenue generating education can be put on hold. They can come back when things get better.”
    I guess I believe pretty strongly that those things are what DRIVE our market (and the demand for what comes out of the factories). They are our future. Shut them down and what’s to come back to?
    I actually think that one of the positive things that will come out of this situation is MORE research, more exploration, more teaching and learning. When the relentless demand for (and ability to buy) STUFF recedes, what’s left but to hunker down and get Better and Smarter. (Of course that’s easy for a twenty-something like me to say ;-)

  11. Note the phrase “non-revenue generating education”. It’s the “non-revenue” bit that needs examination. Does the education result in new glass people coming into the craft or is it just for people already IN the craft? If the education doesn’t result in increasing sales (and, of course, that increase will not happen at once), then the education needs to be put on hold.

    Same thing with the gallery. Does the presence of a gallery increase sales for BE or does it just make us feel good about ourselves?

    You’ll never, ever, get me to say that we should arbitrarily kill galleries and education, but when it comes to the choice between a small piece of pie and no pie at all, I’d go with the small piece of pie.

    (Gosh, I really like this Meaphor-Gen 3000 I picked up! It’s helping me write these pithy notes faster than a, than a…. (Darn, it crashed.))

    GcB

  12. Lani says:

    Gary,

    #1: “revenue-generating education” is a contradiction in terms in my experience. We’ve never made enough money on any classes to offset the cost of the research needed to mount them.

    #2 How does one measure the affect on sales of “non-revenue generating” education and a gallery? It’s nearly impossible.(But if/when you write the program, we’ll volunteer for the beta testing;-)

  13. My feeling is that if you educate someone in different techniques and ideas the artist can only get better at creating as they now have the knowlege and tools to make their designs come to fruition. They can afford to experiment. Without the knowlege, a beginner will just get frustrated and not be able to complete their ideas.(hence maybe throwing in the towel ) With knowlege you can just about design and create almost anything you dream up. This will be so exciting and the artist will then purchase more glass .
    Then you also need the equipment to still bring it to a professional finish. So it will just keep “Revenue” going for not only the glass business but the tools business and the kiln builders and so on. Take that out of the equation , and our dreams of large architectual work will only be a dream. Not to mention the incredible exhileration from a wonderful sharing of ideas in a good class situation. I have watched over the years as Bullseye has created an amazing business with the artists as the center point and glass as their pallette, and that is what has made them soooo successful over the years. Combining the retail with the Gallery which educates the masses and customers and well, the rest is history. It all works together , and I pray that it will be very successful even in tough times. Les

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