Tag: small business

What I’m Listening To…Podcast Roundup

I love listening to podcasts. It’s such a wonderful way to pass time while doing other activities, and it makes it easy to be inspired and learn new things. You will be surprised at how your next great idea could come from a story about life-span longevity (TED Radio Hour) or Will Chamberlain’s underhand basketball throws (Revisionist History).
One example of an inspiring podcast is from the Malcolm Gladwell podcast: Revisionist History, the episode “The Lady Vanishes”. Gladwell introduces the concept of “moral licensing” in context of a famous female painter in 19th Century England, who was the first female to be included in a line up of male artists in a big art show. Her piece was chosen to be a part of a prominent collection Royal Palace. However, once she was selected the first time, the all male review panel chose to never accept her work again. The reason, Gladwell claims, is due to moral licensing. The male review panel felt that since they had included a woman once, they could no longer be claimed as sexist and they didn’t have to include a woman again. The woman, painter Elizabeth Thompson, eventually gave up showing her work and became resigned to a life of taking care of the home and kids never to paint again. Her painting? It still hangs in the Royal Palace! Lesson Learned: If you get a break, keep pushing forward and push hard. One opportunity does not ensure long-term success!
As you work your way through this list take a look at the last few episodes they have published and have fun!
PODCASTS

Human Interest


Business


Comedy!
I’d love to know what podcasts keep you happy, inspired and motivated. Please share in the comments below!
Syama Meagher is a retail strategist for brands and retailers. She helps entrepreneurs launch and grow fashion business through ecommerce, wholesale and brick & mortar. Syama is a former at Barneys New York, Gucci, AHAlife and Macy’s. To build your brand and create a profitable business check out www.ScalingRetail.com and email hello@scalingretail.com

The Ultimate Guide to Selling Wholesale

Its that time of the summer! Did you just show at the POOL Tradeshow or MAGIC? Maybe you are getting prepped for Capsule in NY or you just showed at NYNOW. Or maybe this season you have said enough! And will be doing you own buyer preview in house. With trade shows abound and buyers ready with their OTB (Open-to-buy), its an exciting time to be a brand. To ensure a selling season that sees results follow my ultimate guide to selling wholesale.

 

Syama’s Ultimate Wholesale Selling Guide!

 

  1. Create a smart outreach schedule. Implement project management apps like ASANA that will help you organize your calendar and to do list. You can delegate to team members and approve and share doc’s. If you want approval on your invites – stop sending them out on emails and share them with your team in a way where everyone can see eachother’s feedback. Every week for the 6-8 weeks around the buying season you should be emailing, calling and sending out postcards. No response is not a no.
  2. Check your email open rates. Tired of sending out well thought out emails to individual buyers and not getting feedback? They may not even be reading your emails. Implement Streak (my favorite tool) to see if your subject headers are having any results. If no one opens, its time to resend the same email with a different subject header.
  3. Build up your perceived value and tell everyone about it. Use your social media channels, your newsletters and your individual buyer emails to pump up your brand. Include your best press outlets, the influencers that love your brand and any important retailers that your audience would want to know about. You want to create the impression of “Wow, this brand is getting traction, I need to know about this”. Anytime something great happens think of the 3-5 places you can syndicate it out to.email
  4. Yes, numbers count. Your buyers, editors and influencers will check your social media numbers. If you are a new brand and just launching, it doesn’t matter. Most brands are building up their social media channels 6-12 months before they launch so they can get traction. If you are doing this supper last minute- which is not the preferred method- I suggest 1. Streamlining your social media channels to Instagram and Facebook 2. Front loading your channel with lifestyle, brandcentric and product images 3. Hiring a bot like (FastFollowerz) to help you with engagement and follower numbers. This is not the long term strategy simply because fake followers don’t care about your brand, they won’t buy and they screw with all your numbers (engagement, follower rate etc.) However, if you have not done the preparation to get your brand in great shape with social media you may not have a chance at market without a strong online presence. The alternative is that you can start building organic now and do your big push in Feb market. No need to rush something so important like you brand presence online.
  5. Get innovative with selling tools. Who says you need a full scale printed lookbook and linelist with all your products. There are so many ways to get your brand noticed. Some of my favorite ideas are custom USB sticks (email maxs@usbmemorydirect.com, for a free sample!). I also love the idea of using a smaller directional printed book- something that really just highlights the direction, mood and feel of the collection. You can always email the full stack loobook and linelist to the buyer. Another favorite idea is to do a 4-week postcard campaign with a different image from the collection on each one. What a great way to tell a story!
  6. Be cohesive. If your website is not in good shape, then why waste the time pitching? I always would check out someone’s website when I was a buyer and see how they present themselves. Are you echoing the same message on your social media channel? When you write your emails and create branded assets do they all have the same verbiage? Every email you send is a branding opportunity. If you do not brand yourself, you will be branded! You don’t need to spend a fortune on an amazing site, with careful planning and the right help you can get a full stack build out for $3k- its true. Look like you are funded, even when you are not.YouTube Video How to Create a Page That Sells
  7. Long-term game. No matter how seasoned you are you need to remember that buyers are people and want to build relationships, not just buy products. If your entire business rests on sales from one season then you shouldn’t be in this business. Better off to invest your time in another business, one that doesn’t require so much relationship building and time. There is no magic to hard work.
  8. Present with perfection. Yes, you need branded hangers. Yes, you need garment bags. Yes, you need stickers to add to boxes when you ship out samples. It’s in the details. When you are one of a thousand brands pitching and you get the opportunity to put your product in front of the buyer or to send them samples you have increased your chances to one of a few hundred. Why blow the opportunity by not making it the best darn presentation you can.show the clothes
  9. Pitch 365 days a year. Well, technically no, but you cann
    ot just communicate with someone when you need them. It’s like a friend who only asks you to coffee when they want you to lend them money. This is why brands hire showrooms and sales reps. since they keep the relationships warm all year round. You should be planning your off month communication so that when the official selling season is over you are still in touch. This way if you have any immediates (products with inventory on hand) or want to chat about exclusives or even next season you will have their ear.
  10. Know your Operations! This is a no-brainer. You have got to know what kinds of payment terms, minimums, shipping deadlines, EDI requirements, chargebacks, and logistical elements will be asked of you. Can you work on drop-shipment, cross-shipment, consignment? If you are not prepared with the backend, all the front-end work you have done and product development will have been for naught. If you are not familiar with the logistics and operations then educate yourself right away.

 

Best of luck this selling season! I know it’s difficult to sell your products to retail buyers. As a former buyer and consultant for brands, I have spent the last 15 years in this industry and have seen the rapid changes. Veterans in fashion don’t know how to play in the new landscape of wholesale, retail, popup shops, mobile commerce and social media. You need to arm yourself with a strategic plan to leverage the best of your brand and build from there. Your business model may be different from your peers, but finding the right model for you will help you with longevity and success. Here is to your successful selling season!

 

Syama Meagher is a retail strategist for brands and retailers. She helps entrepreneurs launch and grow fashion business built to last through ecommerce, wholesale and brick & mortar. Syama is a former at Barneys New York, Gucci, AHAlife and Macy’s. To build your brand and create a profitable business check out www.ScalingRetail.com and email hello@scalingretail.com

 

Video: Retail Roundup: Sears Click-to-Car App & Small Biz Innovation


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@ScalingRetail

Sears launched a new App that allows customers to purchase from their phone, drive to the store, and have a customer service rep come to the car and drop off the package. How can small businesses diversify their strategies? Watch on.

Audio Only:

 

Hi, and welcome to Scaling Retail, this is Syama Meagher. This week, I’d like to chat with you about some new retail technologies. In particular, Sears launched a new mobile app by which they allow their customers to participate in something called “click to store.” In fact, it’s more like “click to car.” What does this app allow you to do? Well, in essence, you can place an order over your app and drive to the Sears store, stay in your car, and someone will come out and deliver your product to your car. Now of course, there are a lot of different things that might make this a little bit more challenging.

Can you imagine if you’re driving to the parking lot, and your customer is coming out there and looking for the product? And then you have a sales associate running around all over the parking lot, trying to find you? This might make it a little bit more challenging, but it is a very interesting concept to think about, especially as you as a small business, take a look and find all the different ways in which you can start to service your client better. How can you make the shopping experience more seamless, and how can you provide them different ways of taking home your product? Now of course, during the holiday times, you see a lot of free same day delivery, free shipping, courier services and things like that. Or even free international shipping. Most of those things can start to be expensive, when you start to take a look at the number of orders you’re getting, and how it’s really eating into your margins.

What I would suggest doing is trying to find certain points during the year, that perhaps a larger retail chain of stores aren’t necessarily doing these promotional activities, and finding ways of tapping into your customer. So, for example, we all know the big guys do things around Labor Day, President’s Day, and other types of big holidays. But what if you as a small business, initiated your own holiday, and your own opportunity to do these little perks? You know, this will absolutely set you apart from your competition, and also provide you with a different way of communicating to your customer on those days, when they’re not necessarily bombarded by larger retailers.

So, hopefully, the Sears program goes well, and they find that customers are responding well to that technology. But think critically as a business owner, and as a small brand. How can you communicate more effectively to your customer, and what are the things that you can offer from a technology standpoint – whether it’s an app, whether it’s free shipping via the app. How are you starting to drive people to purchase through you, in more innovative ways? All right, I hope you have a great weekend, and I’ll talk to you soon. Thanks. Bye.

Video: Retail Roundup: Small Biz Tech- FlixStock & Celery


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www.ScalingRetail.com
@ScalingRetail

Small businesses have many options to choose from when looking at technologies for your fashion business. Today we discuss FlixStock (www.FlixStock.com) and Celery (www.trycelery.com). As this is a hot topic we will be discussing many options over the next few episodes of the Retail Roundup.

Hi, and welcome to Scaling Retail. This is Syama Meagher. This week I’d like to chat with you about fashion retail technologies. So you’ve heard a lot about eCommerce start-ups, dozens of businesses that are launching on eCommerce. But did you know that there are tons of businesses out there that are there to help make you do your job better, easier, and faster? A couple of these companies might surprise you, but you’ll find, and through doing a lot of due diligence and research, that ultimately you’ll be able to save money and hopefully keep your eye on the bottom line, which is sales.

First company I’d like to chat with you about is called FlixStock. Now, FlixStock is pretty innovative and kind of something you might have already thought about once upon a time when trying to get products up on your website. As we all know, to have a really efficient eCommerce presence and to be able to pull together LookBooks and other types of marketing collateral we need to have images that are easy and ready to go.

Lifestyle images, images to scale, and how do we find the time and the resources to pull together a photo shoot, hair and make-up, and the like. Well, FlixStock has come along and made the process a little bit easier. Through them you are able to send them your still images front and back and the side angles and they will go ahead and scale those images to you to the size that you need showing scale. So, of course, if you’re selling a handbag you want to be able to show the handbag to the scale of let’s say a lipstick or something where your customer really gets an idea of how big the product is.

In addition, they’ll be able to take your products and help you get those on models. So what does that mean? You get to choose from hundreds of different types of models as well as lifestyle shots and they’re going to go ahead and superimpose your images of product onto those models. They do it through seamless technology and they do it in a way that actually helps you get your product faster and it’s so much easier than going through tons of different graphic designers and trying to find the right editors. We’ve all seen some different flub-ups when it comes to Ann Taylor and some of the other brands who unfortunately done a terrible job at editing and Photoshopping, but through them you actually won’t have to worry about doing those things on your own.

Now the other company I’d like to chat with you about is called Celery. Celery’s pretty new. I recently just found out about them, but what I thought was so cool is that what they’re doing is allowing designers and brands to pre-sell their items in a very easy, easy way. So what does that mean for you? Well, if you’re working on a new collection and you’ve secured manufacturing, but you want to get an idea of the markets and if the products going to go, you go ahead and sign up through them and you can put your product on there, put the copy and start testing.

This is extremely valuable for you because, of course, you want to get an idea of what customers want. How can you refine your assortment and edit that process before you take it to buyers and before you start approaching boutiques? Of course, there are tons of other fashion retail brands out there and lots of retail tech companies. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough time this week to chat about more of them. However, if you have any questions or want to talk more please feel free to email me, Syama@ScalingRetail.com. And I look forward to seeing you next week. Have a great weekend.

Startup Cheat Codes: 7 awesome cloud-based tools that destroy unnecessary business expenses, wasted time and frustration.

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Post by Ryan Gilbert:

Startup Cheat Codes: 7 awesome cloud-based tools that destroy unnecessary business expenses, wasted time and frustration.

Juggling 1-8 different roles as a small business owner can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. 

Web apps have become powerful business tools over the past few years, sight unseen, right under the noses of entrepreneurs.

While building my own business, I discovered these online resources that saved me thousands in outsourcing fees and working hours. They’re all accessible by internet, intuitive and best of all, free (with 1 exception).

Website creation

Strikingly.com

Strikingly makes it really hard to come up with a good excuse for not having a professional website. They feature free, amazing templates that you can quickly personalize using their intuitive interface.

Stats

Time efficiency: high
Time cost: 1 hour to create a professional website, portfolio or product page
$ Savings: $100-$1,000 depending on your previous website design plans

Drawbacks: You have to upgrade to premium to use your custom domain.You’re limited to 1 site from the start.

Graphic Design

Canva.com

Canva is a Godsend if you don’t know Photoshop. Anyone can use this cloud-based graphic design tool to make near-professional designs. You get access to Canva’s free library of icons, designs and drawings; higher-quality photos start at just $1.

Stats

Time efficiency: medium
Time cost: 30 minutes-2 hours to create a design, depending on you experience in the field
$ Savings: $100-200, compared to hiring a graphic designer
$50/month compared to Adobe Creative Cloud with Photoshop

Drawbacks: If you’re using Canva, you’re probably no Picasso. You can make good graphic designs on here, but it takes some time. Still, it’s considerably less time than learning photoshop or explaining the project to a consultant that lives across the world.

Management Dashboard / CRM / Sales

Insightly.com

Insightly is the best free control center for any business in regard to sales, leads and administration.  Look no further for a CRM solution.

A free membership on Insightly.com offers:

  • To-do lists, contacts storage
  • Lead and project tabs for team-based tasks
  • Email alerts and reports
  • Syncing with Google Apps & Email

Stats

Time efficiency: medium/high
Time cost: 1-2 hours to set-up
$ Savings: $65/month, compared to Salesforce Professional package (similar to Free features on Insightly)

Drawbacks: Lacks some of the neat, Premium Salesforce features

Management, outsourcing

Fiverr.com

“One of the top 10 reasons for entrepreneurial failure is not delegating the “intelligent grunt work.”
-David Newman

Fiverr lets you do just that: outsource your work- for cheap. Freelancers on the website offer specific jobs and name their price. Work is sold by the ‘gig,’ which always costs $5.

The amount of work for $5 will buy you varies with each freelancer, but here are a few examples of things that cost $5:

  • Logos
  • Infographics
  • Site traffic, marketing, SEO optimization
  • User feedback, testimonials

You can also request a specific job to be done and multiple freelancers will come to your aid. The website’s review and workflow system makes it easy to stay productive and find the best bang for your buck.

Stats

Time efficiency: High
Initial time investment: 1-2 hours to register, find the right Freelancer, and provide directions for their work
$ Savings: Pennies on the dollar compared to similar freelance jobs on other sites; no fees for the buyers

Drawbacks: High demand drives up wait queues for work anywhere from 1-14 days.

Marketing, A/B Testing, Landing Pages

Unbounce.com

UnBounce is a free marketing tool used to create landing pages, sales pages and test marketing strategies. You still have to plan your marketing strategy well and ensure your landing page generates conversions. That being considered, it’s an incredibly cheap and effective way to analyze useful data.

Stats

Time efficiency: medium/low, depending on experience in marketing
Time cost: 2-3 hours to set up an account and landing page
$ Savings: $500, compared to hiring a website designer or marketing specialist

Drawbacks: Larger learning curve, unless you’re already experienced in online marketing

Accounting, Finance and Budgets

Waveapps.com

Wave Accounting can give you the productivity of a CFO with the requisite knowledge of Accounting 101. Wave can track all business expenses via linked bank accounts. Premium starts at $9/month, based around increased customer support.

These features come standard in the free version:

  • Financial snapshots and graphs of your business
  • Invoices, receipts, bills, accounting
  • Multiple users, auto-generated accounting reports

Stats

Time efficiency: Very high
Time cost: 1-2 hours to set up financial accounts and adjust balances or transaction categories (which you’ll likely need to do)
$ Savings: Compared to QuickBooks, $50-200

Drawbacks: I can’t think of any significant cons! Please let me know if you’ve spotted any.

Automation, Administration

IFTTT.com

IFTTT is an automated web system that runs on simple recipes which make it execute tasks throughout the internet.

It can perform administrative work but can also save you a significant amount of time.

Stats

Time efficiency: high
Time cost: 1 hour to set up a few good recipes that will save you tons of time in the long run
$ Savings: $0- unless you decide to fire your administrative assistant

Drawbacks: Can be distracting and superfluous for many tasks.
You might find yourself automating systems you don’t use all that much because it’s just so much fun.

“You don’t need to have a 100-person company to develop that idea.

– Larry Page, Google

And you don’t need a team of full-time employees to pursue your business, product or blog. Free resources can be leveraged to offset smaller profits margins from small operations or increased competition. It’s not about learning the algorithms or advanced techniques behind these tools. When you’re starting out, it’s about utilizing what you can to move forward as quickly as possible.

Ryan B. Gilbert
linkd.in

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Video: Retail Roundup: Amazon Kindle POS & Small Business Fashion & Retail


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@ScalingRetail

With the launch of the Amazon Kindle POS system its a great opportunity to talk about new technologies in the POS (Point of Sale) space for small businesses. How do small retailers & brands choose the right system? Watch on.

 

Hi, this is Syama Meagher from Scaling Retail. I’d like to welcome you to this week’s retail roundup. This week we’re going to discuss the new Kindle POS system that Amazon is launching.

You know, if you’re familiar with POS systems, and you’re a vendor or small retailer, chances are you’ve spent quite some time agonizing over which systems to use. Potentially, you’re working off of an iPad, or maybe you’re working off your iPhone and using such applications as Square, or even Paypal. With so much recent technology being introduced into the market of POS for a small business, it often times leaves someone thinking, “Where should I start? Where should I go? What’s going to be the best use of inventory management for me, and how can I best take advantage of all these new products in the marketplace?”

Well, of course you’re going to take a look and see all the return on investments, not only how much you’re going to spend for initial setup, because obviously you have to buy the technology, but also looking at your continuing operating costs. How much is it going to cost you to manage that inventory and manage that type of system month after month.

Now, with all the recent additions, I’d have to say that one of the ones I’m the most excited about has to be the POS systems that integrate online and offline. Imagine being able to have your brick and mortar store, as well as being to have your online inventory for your ecommerce business, and being able to work on both of those in terms of being able to build up their sales strategies, but having those inventory be pulling from the same place. Because, of course, if you’re a small business, chances are you don’t get all the luxury to be able to allocate a certain amount of merchandise particularly for ecommerce, and then another amount of merchandise particularly for brick and mortar.

Now, how does this work if you’re a vendor? Well, if you’re a brand, hopefully you’re taking advantage of all the new ways that you can access your customer. Meaning, with the integration of having a POS system that you can work with online and offline, you can manage your inventory and take advantage of things, like pop up shops, trade shows in terms of immediate selling, as well as taking a look at things, such as trunk shows and other types of events.

So, it’s important to think about your long-term strategy and having introduction of this Kindle POS system definitely begs us to think about how cheap are these types of things going to be. Obviously, when you have so many products to market, things start to get a little more competitive, so as a small business, you’re definitely in the advantageous position here. A lot of brands and companies are going to be vying for our business, and it’s really up to us and you to be critical in terms of where you spend your dollars. Hopefully, you’ve found a good POS system, and if you haven’t, definitely take a look at some of the ones that I’ve mentioned. Have a wonderful weekend.

Video: Retail Roundup: Warby Parker, Offline Strategies & Small Ecommerce Businesses

This week we look at Warby Parker and their offline marketing strategies. We discuss ways in which small businesses can implement similar strategies.Audio Only:

Hi and welcome to the Retail Roundup. This is Syama from Scaling Retail.

This week I would like to talk to you about a recent interview given by the CEO, Warby Parker at the NRF’s retail big show. In this interview, it was really fantastic. He was illustrating the different offline opportunities
that they were able to capture last year.

One of them being a mobile salon of eye glasses that they were able to have their customers try on new products and take photos in them and ultimately
build some social campaign and awareness around that. The important element to realize here is all marketing efforts kind of come with a return on investment, if you will.

So when you’re a small business and you’re looking to really get the word out there what you are selling, take a look at all the different channels of opportunities for you to access your customer. If you are e-commerce
only look for other touch points outside of the online world that your customer can be found.

Last year the mobile platform that Warby Parker launched was stationed here in Los Angeles, in Venice. I had an opportunity to give it a check out, try on some glasses, and ultimately what they are able to get from me was my email address. And also a bounce back to their site and this is extremely valuable when you are looking to build your customer acquisition process. How can you make it engaging, fun, and really will have your customers walk away with a really good experience and also this word of mouth that is so, so important.

Of course, following up all types of marketing, innovation, pushing things out to your social media channels, and ultimately being able to take the conversation full circle is really important. Now when you are doing these different channels, looking at your return on investment, and projecting that out can be somewhat challenging. How do you know how much money you need to invest? How do you know what channels are actually worth it?

Well, that can really come through some careful execution and starting to look at best practices across other channels. What we can see and do now is that there is a rising trend of all of these fashion trucks, of course, food trucks but really mobile ways of getting to your customer. So definitely take a look at these different platforms. Find out if there is a way for you to team up some other brands, other retailers, or other designers to collectively get your products shown in different market places.

You will find that it attracts a whole new customer base, you can share your costs in that way and hopefully you will be able get some more customers that are bouncing back to your site. Always make sure there is a call to action and all of your online and offline marketing channels and that your customers know how to find you. Perhaps there is an incentive at 20% discount or something else that you can offer to them to really get them back into your funnel.

Remember if an event sounds like a great idea, all these different types of pop-ups seem like a great idea but without having a great execution and strategy in mind of what you need to get out of it, you might be just wasting your dollars. So please evaluate all the opportunities that you have before going ahead and making a decision to go for it. Alright. Hope you have a great weekend. Talk to you soon. Bye.

Retail Roundup: Accenture, Big Data & Small Businesses

 

Audio Only:

 

This week we look at Big Data. How can small businesses look at data in meaningful ways? We offer a both a customer centric and sales analytics approach.

Hi, welcome to the Retail Roundup. This is Syama from Scaling Retail. This week we take a look at data. Big data, small data, and how, in fact, that
can be useful to your business. Now we all know big retailers use brands like Business Intelligence Software, SAP, all different ways of analyzing
their business. But how do small businesses actually take advantage of being able to operate by looking at sales and metrics and forecasting in
the same way that a large business does?

You know, recently Accenture came out with a report stating that 63 percent of their customers that they analyzed from one study done by Globis, which is a huge international retailer. They have 37 different locations. Huge in terms of numbers of SKU’s and product assortment And they found out that, in fact, customers are more likely to purchase when you can suggest an item, when there’s some sort of customer history database, and 53 percent of the customers were interested in some type of loyalty program or discounting that’s catered specifically to them shopping with you.

Now as a small business, it’s really complicated. You know, how do you keep track of all your customers? How can you take a look at your sales reporting and analytics? And it’s really important that even though you maybe you’re managing your business on a day to day basis, that you actually sit back and take a look at all your reports on a weekly level as well as monthly level and a seasonal basis. This will provide you with a lot of trends and insight that you might not normally have when just engaging with your customers day-to-day.

You know, one example in the study, the author was talking about doing a study on the Grand Bazaar and Istanbul and how the rug merchants are, in fact, employing different types of big data techniques to really help influence their purchasing and how they’re catering to their customer. So,
some things I would think about are, you know, how are you engaging with your customer, what types of questions can you ask them before you make your next buy? So, perhaps there is a really nice combination here between looking at your data analytics as well as having insightful customer engagement, so that you can really find the best assortment to cater to your customer season after season.

Through analyzing your customers and through keeping small databases, and perhaps using something like a ShopKeep POS or some other type of CRM
software or even a simple Excel Spreadsheet, you will be able to see trends within your businesses as well as hopefully find that your customers start to see the assortment more reflective of what they want. Because obviously your job is to become a number one expert in your customer. All right, have a great day. Bye.

 

Four Ways To Scale Your Business Responsibly

Interesting post from Open Forum. Partnerships are incredibly important when identifying resources and growth opportunities.

“This article was originally published on The Huffington Post.

With a third of entrepreneurs making growth a top priority in 2013, small business optimism is a bright spot amid ongoing economic uncertainties. Entrepreneurs’ confidence rose to 86 percent in the third quarter, according to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

For sustainable growth, however, that confidence needs to be supported by careful and strategic planning, experts say. Many growing businesses falter because they expand too rapidly, and lack the resources they need to meet growing demands.

Companies can grow responsibly without over-hiring by keeping an eye on trends in their particular industries and communities to understand the most relevant customer traffic, says Tameka Montgomery, Associate Administrator of the Office of Entrepreneurial Development at the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). It’s also important to consider long-term impacts of those trends rather than reacting to short-term impulses. “If you can be forward-looking and strategic in your approach, as opposed to just being harried and frenetic, you can have better long-term sustainability,” she says.

Be Consistent

One danger of expanding too fast is inconsistent service delivery. “One factor that makes a small business successful is its ability to provide high quality service to its customers,” Montgomery says. Companies that aren’t prepared for fast growth and can’t consistently deliver quality goods and services will challenge customers’ confidence in their business, she adds.

Richard Lewis, Founder and CEO of Denver-based RTL Networks, Inc., has turned down contracts that his technology and energy solutions business couldn’t successfully fulfill. “I’ve never shied away from growing too fast, but I’m always aware of the limitations of our delivery infrastructure,” he says.

“We don’t want to be in a situation where we win a contract and can’t get everyone on board by the start date,” Lewis adds. “My advice is to have honest introspection on the ability of your company to deliver.”

Think Scale

Lewis turned his 11-year business into one of the country’s fastest growing companies by considering his future growth opportunities from day one. “From the very first contract and the very first employee, I constantly looked at everything as how will it work when we have a hundred contracts or a hundred employees,” he said.

RTL recently grew from 85 to 135 employees with the launch of the company’s new energy division. Today, as RTL considers contracts involving 20 to 30 employees, it still relies on business processes learned from Lewis’ experiences working for big corporations and the military to make successful growth decisions.

“It’s one thing to win a contract,” Lewis says. “It’s another thing to win a contract and have a system or process to measure how far that contract gets you toward a goal.”

Spend Wisely

Obtaining funding is essential to any growth strategy. But it’s just as important to spend the right money on the right types of investments, says Jim Blasingame, President of the Small Business Network, Inc., and host of The Small Business Advocate radio show.

“Make sure that you’re spending money in the right way and getting it from the right source,” he says, whether that’s cash flow from operations, retained earnings, or debt.

Consider the most strategic way to finance a long-term investment, such as new equipment, rather than raiding short-term operating cash, Blasingame explains.

No matter how much they grow, small businesses should always remember the relationship between cash and growth, Blasingame says. By extending credit to customers with terms that don’t meet the time limits you have to pay your own accounts, “you can succeed yourself right out of business,” he adds.

Have Good Relationships

Build good relationships with bankers and investors so they understand your business, and have regular meetings to let them known what opportunities your business is pursuing, Lewis says. “You want to keep them informed the whole time so they’re in it with you,” he said. “The relationship piece is incredibly important.”

Building partnerships with other businesses and consultants in your industry can also help you stretch your company’s resources until you’re ready to hire, says SCORE. The group’s experienced volunteer counselors can provide free advice on questions about growth or other small business issues.

The SBA’s regional development offices also help businesses assess whether or not they’re ready for growth by looking at their locality, industry, market share and internal capacity, adds Montgomery. “I honestly believe that the way business owners work through this is not to try to figure it out by themselves but to seek out an advisor or a mentor,” she says. “You’re not alone.”

Photo: Shutterstock

https://www.openforum.com/articles/four-ways-to-scale-your-business-responsibly/

Retail Roundup: Patagonia & Reverse Marketing


Audio Only: 

Hi everyone. This is Syama from Scaling Retail. And this week I’d like to

talk to you about the new Hi everyone. This is Syama from Scaling Retail. And this week I’d like to talk to you about the new Patagonia “Be Useful”
Campaign. This campaign was launched, where they have their customers showing that they are mending their products, showing second life, or use out of Patagonia products. And it’s something that they like to call that’s kind of reverse marketing. As opposed to showing people purchasing new products or showing how they can get extended life out of them.

This is a great marketing technique. It’s something that you as a small business can also take away from and apply to your business in the next
coming months and years.

Now essentially what you want to think about here is, what are they creating for their customer? They’re looking at a value proposition of education. They’re showing their customer that they in fact can buy their product, and use them for a long period of time. By reinvesting and taking care of your current items in your wardrobe, you can get a longer life span, as well as decreasing the cost of having to keep purchasing an item over and over again.

Now how can you apply this to yourself and through what media outlets? Well, by taking a look at things like video content online, as well as writing blogs and newsletters, you can search and find ways of communicating to your customer, the value of what you sold to them.

So for example, if I am a boutique clothing store, and I specialize in selling basic knit wear, and let’s say my customers have purchased some cashmere sweaters. Well do my customers actually know the best way to take care of their sweaters? Do they know about the special laundry detergent, or the ways that they can actually increase the life and longevity? Perhaps once or twice a year you can send out an email that gives them suggestions on adding cedar blocks or buying special cashmere shampoos and things like that.

These are not only ways of up-selling, because of course you’re showing them additional products that maybe you do or don’t carry, but you’re showing an interest in value into your customer’s purchasing history, as well as the items they currently have in their closet. This establishes you as not only a resource for them to go shopping to, but also a partner, in terms of their wardrobe and really adding value to their life in general.

Hopefully that was helpful guys. See you next week. Bye.