How to Handle Toxic Personalities in Business

As we all go through life and it’s many twists and turns, there is one thing that we will all encounter from time to time, and that is toxic personalities.

A few caveats as we dive into this discussion-first, for the purposes of this article I will stick to dealing with these types of people in business.  We all know, however, that we also deal with them in our personal lives, in our friends (frenemies) and family.  I’m sorry to say that I cannot address your Aunt Edna that comes to Thanksgiving Dinner every year with her passive aggressive “helpful” comments:

  • You’re so pretty (handsome), I wish you would lose those extra pounds.
  • You’re so smart, why can’t you get a better job?
  • You were such a good child, why can’t you get your children to behave better?
  • You have such potential, why can’t be more like your cousin – sister – brother – etc.?

Second, these tactics are reserved for the truly awful, thus my use of the word toxic.  The word “toxic” means:  poisonous, virulent, noxious, deadly, dangerous, harmful, injurious, pernicious.  Therefore, these tips are reserved for those people in your business life that meet one or all of these defining words.

Here are my top 7 tips for dealing with toxic personalities in business…

  1. Don’t waste your valuable time trying to figure out why a toxic person behaves the way they do. It is human nature to try to understand human nature.  You will go from scratching your head in wonder to lying awake at night trying to figure it out.  Here is the secret – you can’t, so don’t try.
  2. Keep all your interactions with a toxic person professional, on point and succinct. People like this tend to have their ups and downs, sometimes they are perfectly pleasant and easy to deal with, other times they turn into your worst nightmare.  Resist the urge to engage them further when they are “behaving”, it only takes a matter of seconds for them to revert to their toxic behavior, often with no warning.  If you keep your communications professional, bland and direct you will reduce the amount of times that you actually have to deal with their less than friendly side.
  3. Don’t take it personally. Your toxic person is likely the same with most, if not all, people in their lives.  This isn’t about you and although I won’t say take a look at your behavior from time to time to see if there is something you are doing wrong, don’t overanalyze or blame yourself.  It’s not your fault.
  4. Don’t get sucked into lengthy battles over email or social media. When toxic people misrepresent us or insult us, it is our tendency to want to fight back.  Trust me when I say, you won’t win any battles with this person, you won’t change their mind and you will likely be ending up making yourself look bad if you engage them in this manner.  On social media, it places your reputation at risk and onlookers will see you as unprofessional for calling out this person publicly.  On email, you can go back and forth and back and forth and back and forth again…  You will not change their minds and will only succeed in making you anticipate the next set of crazy that will be delivered into your inbox and stress you out.  Toxic people tend to be overly dramatic and emotional, their communication style is usually lengthy, all over the place and sometime vicious.  Don’t invite that into your life by engaging in a back and forth battle.
  5. Keep a record of your dealings. These people will often misrepresent things you have said or outright lie. If you keep a record of your communications, you will be able refute erroneous facts and help them with their faulty memories.  This can include things like, you promised me a big discount, you promised me that the shipment would be expedited, etc.  Even when you do “catch them in a lie”, resist the urge to gloat.  Simply point out what actually transpired and play it off as “that is not what we agreed on”.  When possible, keep your communications in a written format so that you have an indisputable record.  Do not expect, however, your toxic person to admit that they lied or be contrite, they will play it off as they misunderstood or forgot.  In other words, catching them in their lie won’t make dealing with them any easier.
  6. Know when it’s time to say goodbye. At some point, a toxic person simply starts taking up so much of your time that you need to send them packing.  How do you know it is time?  The answer is simple, they are costing you money.  This can come in the form of wasting your valuable time, stressing you out so that you are not as productive or straight out not paying you on time or in full.  If they are costing you money, it’s time for them to go.  End the relationship quickly, directly and professionally.  Whether they are an employee, a customer, a vendor or any other business contact.  Cut them loose, you will feel much better when you do.  Then you can get back to what is important to you.
  7. Once you say goodbye, never ever under any circumstances welcome them back into your business (or life). Once you have successfully eliminated a toxic person, stay the course.  Do not let them back in no matter how much they tell you that they will change, they may for a while but they will always revert back to their former behavior, it is who they are.  If you have small interactions with them, just be professional and polite but keep them at arms-length and remember what you went through to get them out.

Unfortunately, dealing with toxic personalities is a part of life and business, it is how you handle it that will ultimately determine how much heartache, time and money it will cost you.  Remember you can’t change people and how they act, you can only change how you react to them and how you handle your own emotions.  Applying these principles should take the sting out of dealing with a toxic personality.

Need more help handling negative feedback? Check out Issue 5 of the Cut to the Trace eZine, where we discuss handling negative feedback from customers professionally.

5 Things Your Local Handcrafter Wants You to Know About Their Products

We’d like to give a little love to the customers that make the handcrafted soap and cosmetic industry go round this week; without these customers, this industry would not exist, so thank you!

If you are in the market for new and incredible bath and body products, you might have a few questions for your local Handcrafter, and we want to help clear up a few things so that you as a consumer can take the sweet-smelling leap into the world of handmade fabulousness.

 What does “handcrafted” mean?

Handcrafted can mean different things to different people. Making a handcrafted soap and/or cosmetic requires a lot of time and effort, and all of the moving parts are determined by the maker. These moving parts include formulation, packaging, production and much more. Depending on the methodology of the individual, some of these steps are done by hand using a pre-fabricated base to express a creative vision, or all of the steps might be done by hand with raw ingredients from scratch. The HSCG considers a product to be handcrafted if:

A majority of the time, energy and processes used in its creation by the handcrafter are “by hand”, and

A minimal use of mechanized equipment is employed, and

The product manufacture is overseen manually, not by an automated system.

As you can see, creating a handcrafted soap and/or cosmetic is a labor intensive process that involves a blend of science and creativity; trust that when you are picking up a handcrafted product, countless hours have been dedicated to the final, refined item you hold in your hand.

 Does handcrafted soap go bad?

We see you, recipient of gifted handcrafted soap who insists it is “too pretty to use” and uses it as a decoration instead of a fabulous bath experience. Whether a soap “goes bad” and how quickly it does so is really dependent on the ingredients used in the soap’s formulation. In the handcrafted soap and cosmetic world, you’ll hear the term “D.O.S” used to describe a soap gone bad; this stands for “Dreaded Orange Spots”. These soapy chicken pox are caused by oil rancidity, and may have an unpleasant odor. Though your soap will be a little less lovely, it is still usable-but we hope you’ll start using your soap before it gets to that point. A good rule of thumb is to ask your local Handcrafter what she or he used to make the soap, and get an idea of their timeline for use. They will be only to happy to guide you-after all, they want you to use the pretty soap!

What makes a bath bomb fizz, and is it harmful?

The only thing explosive about bath bombs are the metaphorical fireworks it creates at bath time! The fizzing reaction you see is a result of a chemical reaction between the water in your tub and the citric acid and baking soda (or bicarbonate of soda). Fizzy carbon dioxide is the result of this reaction, and a fabulous smelling bath is the end result of you + a bath bomb.

Are handmade products really safe?

As with any product, the safety of the item depends on three things: the manufacturing process, the label and the consumer. Although handcrafted soap and cosmetics are often dismissed because they are handmade, and not produced in huge factories, the vast majority of handcrafters are even more meticulous than their automated counterparts. Formulation and handling are crucial to a Handcrafter-after all, a small business owner is completely responsible if a product is poorly made, and will not risk their own personal reputation.

Safety also depends on the accurate labeling of the product. Now, those of you that regularly follow our blog are bracing yourself to be smacked with the Labeling Stick again, but it’s so important! As Handcrafters we have the responsibility to market products fairly and accurately-stick with reputable sellers and stay away from people who make fantastic claims to avoid being sold a product that isn’t up to par.

Lastly, the customer has a responsibility to know their allergies and sensitivities. If you know that you are sensitive to a certain fragrance and your Handcrafter does not list their specific fragrance on their package (as many will not, this is proprietary), don’t be afraid to ask if a specific ingredient is present in the product. Your local Handcrafter doesn’t want you to have an unpleasant, preventable experience!

I thought soap making was a Fight Club thing.

Making handmade soap is real, and business is booming. There are an estimated 300,000 Handcrafters located in the United States alone! It’s not nearly as dramatic as Hollywood makes it out to be…save for one enterprising artist who really did put his soul into his soap. Or, at least, a few pounds of unwanted fat.

What did I just read?

In 2013, performance artist Orestes De La Paz decided to put his recently removed extra pounds to good use and made 20 bars of soap that eventually went on display at Miami’s Frost Museum. At a price of $1,000 per bar, we don’t suspect you’ll be purchasing any of this particular soap at your local market any time soon!

Final Thoughts 

Handcrafted soap and cosmetics raise the bar on luxurious self care products by blending quality ingredients that you can pronounce with the care and knowledge of a member of your community. Make the switch: check out our Handcrafter Directory here: https://www.soapguild.org/consumers/find-soap-cosmetics/search.php

All About Charlene: Meet the HSCG’s New President

Spring is in the air here in Saratoga Springs. Nestled in the Art District, HSCG Headquarters is surrounded by blossoming flowers, lush green trees and the smell of renewal. Driving around town, you can see signs of the season everywhere; from yard sales to eager graduates looking to the future, everyone is experiencing a renaissance on some level. It’s only fitting that the HSCG is experiencing its own renaissance of sorts, with the recent election of Charlene Simon as the President of the HSCG.

Making a President 

To understand what makes a person great, it’s somewhat necessary to take a peek at their origin story-Charlene’s is just as inspiring as you might imagine.

Growing up near the Mississippi River, Charlene learned the importance of fiscal responsibility early on. Only a child herself, she was responsible for the management of her childhood home and faced many challenges in doing so. At just 15, our already independent future President met the love of her life, and they were married in Kentucky by the end of the summer.

Shortly after their first daughter Mackenzie was born, Charlene’s husband Justin joined the Navy, and the family was on the road again. Leaving the familiarity of her childhood behind her, Charlene embarked on a new journey as the matriarch of a submarine family, at times only seeing Justin for 4 months out of the year. From the ages of 17-23, Charlene was a single parent; she says, “That solitude taught me a lot about family, and a lot about myself”.

At 19, Charlene began to make soap. She recounts the moment she first realized that she wanted to make soap. “I walked into the soap shop and fell in love with the fact that somebody made the soap” she says. You can tell this is a favorite memory of hers; she laces her fingertips together and covers her heart with her palms and tells me, “something inside of my soul was like, this is what you’re meant to do.”

Curious about the process, she approached the shop owner and asked her to share how the soap was made to which she was given the curt response of “it’s proprietary”. This didn’t dissuade her though; in the days before the internet made information readily available from the comforts of home, Charlene brought her kids to the library and checked out every book she could find about the process. She says, “I’d soap at night after the kids would sleep and I continued that as a stress reliever throughout the next 10 years.” She used soapmaking as a therapeutic hobby of sorts for a decade before she and her family moved to Hot Springs, Arkansas; that’s where her dream of making beautifying products full time turned into a reality. And truly, she revels in the joy of making a product that makes people feel beautiful and happy, not to mention that she has an artist’s streak that is clearly visible in her creations.

In 2008, Charlene opened Bathhouse Soapery with that artist mentality. She loves the creative process behind the products, of how that very first soap shop visit made her feel-“happy, joy, beauty; those are the things it made me feel. I do this for the art form of it.” She continued this philosophy as she opened more locations, and the rest is soap and cosmetic history.

Face Time with Charlene Simon 

Fast forward to present day. Sitting with Charlene, you get what the kids these days are calling a “vibe”. She positively hums with energy, like a shiny bumblebee that has a lot of flowers to visit, but that doesn’t mean she’s distant. She’s present and ready to lay down some soap law.

Relatable to many of our Members, Charlene tells me that she first joined the HSCG for the insurance-but she quickly realized the organization is about much more than that. Her first conference was in Portland and she glows when she talks about it. “It was the people, networking and talking to other soapmakers and cosmetic makers that was like putting puzzle pieces together.” Right there, she hits the most magical part of the conference square on the head. We all love the food, the awards, the classes and the exhibitors, but there is something about the Annual Conference atmosphere that turns Handcrafters into open books.

That personal time is what makes the event truly special, and Charlene tells me, “I came home with a totally different way to do business. It was inspiring.”

Industry Talk 

“This industry is growing so rapidly,” Charlene says as I ask her how her perspective has changed since moving from HSCG Member to HSCG Board Member. “Five years, ten years ago people were just starting to get the concept, but now there’s YouTube and social media, and it’s growing so fast.” The handcrafted soap and cosmetic industry has been growing, with an impressive estimate of over 250,000 Handcrafters living in the United States alone. This growth and expansion is the key reason why Charlene believes that providing more educational opportunities for HSCG Members is more important than ever.

Information is free flowing from a myriad of sources on the internet, but traditional wisdom applies; you can’t believe everything you read. Charlene believes that by offering dependable and trustworthy educational material, culminating in the Certification Program, the HSCG can help fledgling and seasoned Handcrafters grow their business with the right information. And, if Handcrafters are armed with reliable sources, that will boost the integrity of the industry as a whole, which is a win for everyone involved.

The Handcrafter Village 

From left to right: Cyndi Carrasco, Cheryl Mitchell, Tina Roberts and HSCG President Charlene Simon.

One of Charlene’s favorite parts about the HSCG is the feeling of comradery she feels when she attends the Conference or posts in the Member’s Only Discussion Group. She explains that in person, sometimes Handcrafters can be a bit wary of sharing all of their trade secrets, but not so in our discussion group or at the conference; she says, “it’s more like, let me dive in and help you. You’ll get a response from four or five people that are big names in the industry.” This is important in more ways then one.

2017 HSCG Advocacy Day

Legislation is one of the ways that a big Handcrafter family is powerful. The HSCG works with legislative advocate Debra Carnahan to make sure that the collective voice of the industry is heard, but there is strength in numbers. Of being an HSCG Member, Charlene says “you are helping to add to our voice, and in turn, helping the entire industry.” Of course, sometimes legislation can be difficult to understand, or sometimes entrepreneurs can be too busy to keep up. Charlene says, “If you can’t or don’t want to keep an eye on legislation, we are.” She emphasizes that the HSCG will always stay on top of new legal developments to better serve the industry as a whole.

Presidential Hopes and Dreams 

“What is your goal as President of the Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild?” Charlene pauses for a moment after I ask this question, and I can almost see the gears turning. “My goal is to bring awareness of the HSCG to makers out there looking for help and community, while continuing to be a major resource for our current members.” The plan for a content rich organization with inclusive resources and benefits for all levels is an exciting one. Videos, podcasts, articles and conference changes are all on the slate for the coming years.

But that’s not all. Charlene also wants to bring on a more relatable vibe, and her vision for the content is for it to “be more candid and real, to connect on a personal level with members.” She wants to focus on reviewing the programs and services that the HSCG currently offers and tells me, “in the Strategy Meeting, we said here are the current programs and services that we offer, and we went through each of them one by one and asked, how can we make this better?” While enhanced education through content and discounts for Members is a definite future plan, she won’t reveal everything-she does tell me that there is a very big, very exciting project in the Guild’s future that will serve to highlight members in a big way. What exactly that project is will be revealed in due time, but the future of HSCG content and development looks very exciting!

Charlene switches gears and we start to really talk about the membership. Her vision is to draw attention to HSCG Members and educate the public on the mission of the Guild and why we exist. She envisions Members being viewed “similar to belonging to the Realtor Association-you can be a licensed real estate agent, but you can’t just be a Realtor. It’s a prideful designation showcasing the next level of agent.” She imagines this same differentiation for HSCG Members, and, along with the Board, will be exploring the best ways to educate the public so that they know HSCG Members are educated and reliable.

Final Thoughts 

“Summarized in one word, what is your view on the industry as a whole?” I ask.

In the interest of keeping this article G-rated, we’ll skip to Charlene’s second try; “#sofreshsoclean” she jokes. But, then she smiles. “Competitive, but in a good way.” She explains that the industry is competitive, but that this inspires creativity and diversity-like a soapy fingerprint, no two businesses are alike. This is what truly separates the handcrafted soap and cosmetic industry from any other; original, creative products that serve a variety of purposes.

Before we wrap up the interview, I ask Charlene what advice she would give to a soap or cosmetic maker who is getting ready to take the leap from hobby to business. She says, “Don’t look at other people in the industry and think, if I’m not them, I’m not successful. You need to look at your life and how you want your life to be, then model your business around that. Think of creative ways to sell that aren’t the same as everybody else, and don’t compare yourself to someone else.” In essence, she says, measure your success by your own standards. Just because a Handcrafter you respect opens a retail store and is successful does not mean that your success will only come if you follow suit. Innovate and your success will come.

As I finish writing down a few notes, Charlene smiles. “I just have to say, being in this position for me is unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. Being able to give back to the industry and really, this organization that has helped me get to where I am is unprecedented-I’m still trying to understand the feels of it! I am thankful for the position and that the membership put me here.”

Charlene Simon and the rest of the Board along with HSCG Staff are very much looking forward to the coming years. New content, new benefits and exciting new opportunities for Members to shine are just a few of the incredible things we have in store for you!