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The January List

The January List

Well folks, I know it's been a long time since I rapped at ya, but life has been busy!

Our holiday season was especially busy for me because we were a little short handed. Whenever this happens and we're unable to plug in temps or make quick hires, Clare and I usually end up doing a bunch of the work. In a normal year, we might spend 20-25 hours a week building gift boxes, running the labeling machine or just floating between the warehouse and kitchen helping to support the team. This year it ended up being more like 35-40 hours for both of us.

My plan was to get caught up on the various projects I had to put on hold (blog writing was one of them) by the middle, or possibly the end of January. But, here I am at the start of March and I'm just now starting to dig out of the mountain of work that had piled up!

So, what's the deal? Well, I blame "The January List."

What's that, you say? We'll, I'll tell you.

There was a time, years ago when the business was much smaller, that our orders really fell off a cliff after the end of the holiday season. We're talking crickets for weeks here. So, we settled into a rhythm of using that time to take on bigger projects and initiatives around the business. This led to the creation of "The January List," a list of all things we would think of during the busy season, but didn't have time to execute.

Me: "You know, as I'm packing up this order, I have some ideas of how we could rearrange the shipping area to make things more efficient."

Clare: "Put it on The January List!"

It's catchy and fun to say, but the name may have outlived its utility.

At this point in Q&A's life, January is no longer the sleepy time of year it once was. Nowadays we have lots of stores reordering to replenish low post-holiday inventory, distributors who order on a different schedule than retailers and just more overall sales during the first quarter.

January also is when the Winter Fancy Food Show lands every year, which has become both more important and more work over the years. It used to be that I would go out by myself for a few days, walk the show to gauge trends in the industry and maybe see a few accounts along the way. But these days, we sponsor and have a booth The Cheesemonger Invitational, have a booth at the Good Food Mercantile and have many more people that we need to meet with and talk to at the Fancy Food Show itself. It's morphed slowly from a relaxing two day affair to four day all out frenzy of activity. And then there's all the follow up work, which typically takes three to four weeks of work to get through.

What's interesting to me as I look back on the past few months is that it's not so much the volume of work that's been making me feel like I can't get on top of things. It's more that my conception of what the start of the year is like at Q&A is outdated. I still think of January as this relaxed, easy time of year where my inbox stays empty and I can catch up on everything I put off during December. But that hasn't been true for several years!

Humans instinctively don't like change. It's hard work. And while I like to think of myself as more tolerant and even excited about change than most, it's still never easy. With a business like ours, things are constantly in flux. Everything is a moving target - food regulations change, culinary trends come and go, Amazon buys Whole Foods - and it can be a bit exhausting at times.

We have to be willing to be flexible and adaptive to all these changes out in the world. When we were a smaller operation, we were more insulated. We only sold to a handful of stores, so no one would really notice if we went dormant for a few weeks. But that Quince & Apple doesn't exist anymore. And the world doesn't just magically stop on December 31 so we can leisurely get caught up on our blog writing.

What I've realized is that it's not just Q&A that needs to be open and responsive to change, but also the way I think about it. I need to be more aware of how of my internal assumptions about the company are affecting the way I work and the decisions I'm making. And I especially need to be aware of when those assumptions are no longer relevant or correct.

And so, it is with that new found awareness that I am giving a fond farewell to The January List. You served us well little buddy but it's time to move on. This one's for you:


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