The decade is wrapping up. It’s been a good one. Personally, I got married, had 2 kids, started a company, hired my first employee (and second, third, fourth…), saw my Spurs win a NBA championship, and got to be a part of seeing dozens of retailers become successful.
With all the good, I’ve also had my share of difficulties and learned lessons. What I’d love to do is share a few of those in hopes that if you’re facing an of the same problems, you might find some encouragement and learn from what I’ve gone through.
Build a company you can get excited about, not what you think you’re “supposed” to build.
When we first started Streamline, it was part POS implementation and part IT. When we transitioned to only doing retail consulting, I kept the kept the ideas of an IT company in deciding how we should operate. What kind of value does an IT company provide? Availability. Whenever something goes wrong, they’re available to help.
The problem was that we had shifted in the work we were doing. We had gotten more strategic and consultative. Our value wasn’t in our availability, it was in our focus and advice. I “thought” I was supposed to be a support company, but that ended up being something we hated doing.
As a retailer, you may feel like you’re supposed to cater to one customer group because that’s who you know. In reality, you get to pick your customers. It may be painful as your existing customer base quits shopping with you, but if you can execute on a plan to market and buy for a new customer base, one that you can get excited about serving, you can grow into what you want to do.
Avoid the “we also”
For a long time, we kept adding service after service to our list. We’d work with any POS, and eCommerce platform, and any type of retailer. If you offered to pay us, we’d find a way to do it. If your business needs were out of our norm, we’d still help.
What was meant to be a service turned into being less valuable to our customers. When we finally started saying “no” to things outside of what we’re really good at, we were able to offer an outstanding service for the few things that we do: eCommerce design/development + POS consulting and training.
For you, this might mean not carrying a type of line that you don’t think your customers need or want (despite them asking for it). It might mean not going online if it doesn’t fit your brand (or going online, even if your “consultant” says it’s a bad idea).
Prioritize what is most important
Obviously, one of the main reasons I started this business was to support my family. Well, a few years in, it had quickly become something that was robbing me of time with my family, particularly on nights and weekends.
Everything changed when one weekend, I had a support ticket come through from one of our regular weekend ticket-submitters and I found myself watching a group of people cheer on my 3-year-old son in a soccer “game” (we can’t really call those game, let’s be honest) while I stood 100 feet away taking care of something that could easily have waited until Monday.
That next week, we put better boundaries in place to allow myself and my team to engage our families and friends better while still providing excellent service to our customers. It’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
For you, this might mean saying no to checking your email after hours. Maybe you turn your facebook notifications off and respond to things the next day. Chances are, whatever you think is incredibly urgent isn’t all that urgent.
Marketing is king
You can outsource a lot of things but it’s a mistake to outsource your marketing direction. You can outsource the execution of that marketing direction (like getting someone to run ads for you) but you have to decide that.
For me, I discovered a few people who have had a significant impact on my business over the last few years. Those include Russell Bruson (Experts Secrets is literally my favorite business book ever), Gary Vaynerchuk, Dean Graziosi, Rachel Hollis, Tim Ferriss, and a handful of others, who have helped in learning the foundations of finding the right customers and engaging them in a way that creates loyalty with our brand and service.
For you, find whoever it is that speaks to you and that you can learn from. Read everything they’ve written, go to conferences, listen to podcast, but most importantly…. Execute. Don’t just learn from these people, put it into practice.
On to 2020
I’m beyond excited for the next decade. We have some amazing stuff in store for 2020 include a new web agency, a new version of our Manifest Mastermind for beginner retailers, and much more. Whether it’s your first time here or you read often, thanks for being a part of the journey.