Advice: When a Long-Term Goal Comes to Fruition–And it Sucks


classic-female-dress-display-formsDear Holly,

I’m a clothing designer here in Brooklyn and have recently started a partnership with a larger retailer.  It’s always been a goal of mine to work with this company, and now that I’m here, it’s not really what I had imagined.  

I’m having a terrible time communicating with the company, and I feel like my standards of quality and design are being sacrificed in order to make this work.  

Part of me just wants to pull out, but I think I should give it one last go and see if I can improve the situation.

Can you give me any advice on what I can do to make this work?

Thank you,

Living the Dream?

Dear Dream,

Congratulations on achieving a long held goal!  I know how frustrating it can be when you envision something for so long and then you achieve it, and it’s nothing as you had imagined.  We can often feel let down at that point or disenchanted, but I urge you to embrace this situation as an opportunity to grow.

New situations always stretch us, and sometimes we can talk ourselves out of our goals because they force us to confront parts of ourselves or our business that needs to be improved upon.

So, here you’re saying that you’re having trouble with communicating.  First, I would address this directly with the company.  Have you simply called them and stated this as matter of fact?  We often assume that more established businesses operate at a higher level, but this isn’t always the case.  You need to take responsibility for reigning them in if it isn’t working and help create a system and style of communication that will work for you.

Want valuable insights into how to grow your business? Email Holly to set up a time to talk at or to ask a question for the next Ask Holly How.

Want valuable insights into how to grow your business? Email Holly to set up a time to talk at or to ask a question for the next Ask Holly How.

So I recommend you call a meeting either over the phone or in person and address the communication breakdown. Don’t wrap the meeting until both you and the retailer have agreed on how you will fix the problem.  Be prepared with your own list of solutions.  The retailer may need to be managed too.

Second, when it comes to feeling like you are lowering your standards when it comes to quality and design, you have to address this too. We never want to sacrifice our values in business no matter what.  The problem usually lies where we fail to clearly communicate our standards to our partners.  Too often I see clients assuming that everyone is on the same page.  I’ve said it before, no one is a mind reader.  It is so much more effective to put these types of things in writing.  Our frustration is often times self-created due to the fact that we do not make our expectations clear from the start.  It’s your responsibility to articulate your design and quality standards and speak up the moment you feel the process isn’t working.  Write them out, talk them through with the retailer, and don’t move forward until both of you can agree on the process.

Don’t let things fester or they will be much harder to turn around.  You may decide to part ways in the future, but I wouldn’t do that without addressing the problems first.  I promise these types of issues will continue to arise in partnerships and the sooner you learn how to manage them, the more successful you’ll be.

Good luck!


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