Small business: Mike and Linda Geers - Art by the Sea

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Linda Geers and Mike Geers at their Devonport Gallery, Art by the Sea. Photo / Paul Estcourt
Linda Geers and Mike Geers at their Devonport Gallery, Art by the Sea. Photo / Paul Estcourt

Mike and Linda Geers, owners of Art by The Sea Gallery in Devonport talk to Gill South about the financial sacrifices they have made while running their business.

In 2001, after 16 years in a highly paid but highly stressful graphic design business, Linda and I decided it was time to do something more holistic and fulfilling.

Together with a partner, we had initially built a business out of nothing and followed the archetypal accelerated growth pattern that many New Zealand businesses fall prey to. This took its toll on myself and my family in many different ways and we agreed to sell to my partner.

Unfortunately that did not work out as promised and in order to realise our dream of opening an art gallery, we had to sell the family home and move into a rental. With a young family of three this was not a decision to be taken lightly but we were convinced that the health benefits outweighed the financial concerns.

Buying a business

From past experience we realised that any new venture had to "hit the ground running" from a cash flow perspective in order for us not to have to sink every penny we had into it. With this in mind we were encouraged to purchase a going concern which already had an existing premises and client base.

Getting prudent advice from a friend in the insurance industry proved fortuitous as within three weeks of taking over Art by the Sea the pipes from the restaurant above burst sending raw kitchen waste into the ceiling and down the walls. This was one of the many instances where we realised the importance of good insurance cover. Around 18mths ago a car drove through our front window causing $40,000 of damage.

Getting good advice

Of equal importance and an essential part of all business survival in tough economic times is good quality, sound business advice at regular intervals. We are guilty of not always adopting this principal and have learnt lessons the hard way.

Our current business advisor has helped us to focus on certain key foundation blocks of our business, for instance, cash flow, communication with creditors, marketing, diversification of products and services, debtor management and so on. Our insurance broker is Ian Atkinson from Paramount Insurance and our business mentor is Mike Stobbs.

Keep your ideals

We recognise it is very important to revisit the original vision of the business as this can sometimes get lost in the cut and thrust of everyday business survival. Most businesses, I think, start out with idealistic dreams and that's not a bad thing. After all if we were all accountants we probably wouldn't start any new ventures. It pays to keep those ideals within reach so as to keep you focused on your initial dream especially when times are tough.

Helping others

Art by the Sea gallery has a mentoring program that assists artists with realising their own dreams. We try to give them one-on-one critiquing of their projects and give them clarity of vision within their chosen field. We also assist in business advice and marketing and presentation. We strongly feel this benefits us as well as the artist and ultimately the art as a whole.

Having a balance

In our case we sacrificed our family home but we maintained our children's schooling. At times we have gone without holidays but then saved up to take one big family holiday - a recent trip to Europe was funded this way. We hope we have shown our children alternative possibilities in life.

That it is possible to move on from a negative experience and start again, what you gain in a new experience may completely outweigh what you have lost in the past, and that until you take that risk you will never know. Our children are very involved in our business and through engaging and meeting a diverse range of people they have gained a wider appreciation of art and artisans, literature, commerce and hopefully themselves.

What's in a name? The name you are going to give your business and your products is crucially important. Chances are, you'll be explaining how you went about the naming process to customers and staff for years to come. Tell us how you went about coming up with your company name and how this relates to the name of your products. Email me, Gill South, at the link below:

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