Learning to say No
While seemingly simple in theory it may become one of the hardest things you should learn to do, just say NO. When you first begin a business, it appears you want to please everyone no matter what it takes. Even when it cost either more time or money than it should. My husband and I have been in business less than six months at this point and already learning were going to have to say no. Uggghhh I wish it were not this way. The truth of the matter is you’re never going to make everyone happy. You can, however, earn respect if handled correctly.
It is not that customers try to make life difficult they simply want what they want. For me, this can be a major problem. As a handcrafted soap and lotion maker, the array of fragrance and essential oils is endless. So, it is very simple for a customer to ask can you make a lotion in this or that scent? Each scent comes in a minimum size, therefore, you end up with enough scent to make at least 10 batches of lotion. If the scent is unpopular with the masses it’s simply tossed away when the shelf life ends. We did this a lot in the beginning. How did we fix this problem? We are learning to ask customers what kind of scents they like floral, fruity, designer, or warm mild scents. Once they pick a category I show them what we have available in that array. If asked for something we do not stock, we simply say not now but we may carry it in the future if we get more interest.
Wholesalers even though in business for themselves and knowing the pains that come with it can simply forget it is not always as easy as they may think to keep them happy. In our business, it is all about time. Soap takes time to cure and with that, we need notice for large or specialty orders. If they want fifty bars of pumpkin spice soap for October we need to have that order in August. Adequate notice is the difference between being able to fill the order or not. We cannot make soap cure quicker than it does. Specialty labeling, we have found to be amongst our largest thorns. We no longer offer specialty labels.
Friends and Family
This is the hardest category for me. No is not an easy word for me never has been. However, when it comes to friends and family it is so much harder. Our accountant very nicely told us “your family is going to put you out of business before you even get started”. Free product is only free for those who receive it. I did not really think about that at first. For every bar of soap or bottle of lotion we have money and time invested. They have nothing invested. So, while we still give specialty pricing to family and a gift from time to time with an order the come pick out what you want attitude is officially over. It must be if we want any chance of success. You will notice when you stop the freebies some of those “friends” and “family” stop using your products.
While we love giving to our community we have learned we cannot give to every organization for every event. We donated more than we made our first few months in business. While it’s great to give back you may not be able to if you give too much. Give too much? We love our community and our friends we always want to help out when we can. Whether donating eggs for pancake breakfast down at the American Legion or Supplying gift baskets to the local police department raffle it is all good to do. Organizations just like these helped us out when we fell upon hard times when we were very young. Give, donate items, donate time, or whatever you can. However, make sure you’re not giving away every profit your company makes.
Business can be ruthless and emotionally draining. When you begin making special accommodations for people they will expect it to continue. They will also continue to see how much more they can get out of you. The earlier you learn the word no the better experience I believe you will have. Setting boundaries right from the start is what we should have done. Now it makes us feel twice as bad when we must let someone know that the rules are changing. Yet, I am so proud of what my husband and I have accomplished. There are many bumps and growing pains along the way, if it were easy everyone would do it. You can check us out at Millermicrofarm.com