Are you prepared for success?
The question generally evokes an emotional response. Heck yea! Bring it on! This is what I’ve worked for!
But are you really prepared for success?
A prepared for success story. Or not.
Back around 2010, I signed a one-year contract to manage public relations for a fitness-related product. During the second month of the agreement, we wrote and distributed a press release to key fitness and health writers and editors in newspapers around the country.
The success shocked everyone. Florida, for some reason, went big time for the press release.
After a couple weeks, I sent the owner of the company a report with our media hits. No response. About a week later, I sent an updated list. The hits kept coming.
Then I got the call. He was not prepared for success.
The inventory had sold out.
I asked when new inventory would arrive and he wasn’t sure. It would take six to eight months to manufacture and ship from China after he placed an order, which he had not. He wanted to tinker with the design of the product before re-ordering.
He admitted he didn’t expect to sell out. In fact, and little insultingly, he admitted he didn’t really expect any sales from my efforts. So he was pleasantly surprised.
But, at least temporarily, he was out of business with nothing to sell, and I was out a client 10 months early.
It never occurred to me to ask what his inventory levels were. Or how long it took to receive new product. Or what exact number of sales increases was he shooting for. Or, on average, how long it took to receive new product.
It became an import inquiry though, after that. Do you have the capacity, inventory, bandwidth, and/or infrastructure to handle success? Are you prepared for success?
To this day, I don’t know if he was wanting to generate sales, interest, or if he had a motive to perhaps prove concept and sell the company. The product is still around, but I’m not sure it is the same owner.
How it usually worked
Working at a public relations firm, the account Aria focused on car audio electronics. The company manufactured speakers, amplifiers, and similar products for car stereo systems, which they sold through independent retailers.
Several magazines served the aftermarket car audio industry. Titles such as Car Audio and Electronics and Car Sound dominated the category and two staples were the “installation” story and the product review.
The magazines are now defunct, but they had hundreds of thousands of readers in the 1990s. However, through them, we were able to establish a national reputation in a slow and steady way by placing product reviews and stories of cars with elaborate car stereo systems – sometimes worth more than the car itself!
Over time, through these types articles and other methods, developed a strong national reputation. High quality speakers at a reasonable price. The growth was slow and steady, and I promise they never ran out of inventory that way.
What I changed
I added some exploration of inventory and ability to handle success. If you receive an order for 10,000, 50,000, 100,000 units, do you have the inventory to fulfill that order in a reasonable amount of time? How is your item manufactured? Do you have a local plant? An overseas vendor? Do you make it in your garage? What are you timelines and turn around times.
If a major electronics retailer comes and wants 15,000 of your units, can you get them to the retail chain?
A 2019 study by UPS indicated a few points worthy of consideration:
- 82 percent of 17-24 year-olds will pay extra for accelerated shipping.
- 60 percent of businesses expect their deliveries in 1-2 days.
- Heck, 20 percent of clothes buyers buy multiple sizes so they can try them on, then return those they don’t want.
Can your business afford to have its inventory tied up in “try-ons?” If you get 50 orders for something today, can you pick, pack, and ship for 1-2 day delivery?
There are a lot of businesses who struggle to fulfill when success hits.
Being prepared for success means different things for different people and a key aspect is understanding your resources and capabilities.
If someone came to me today saying they wanted to give me their account but I need expertise I don’t have and a couple hundred hours per week, but it is going to make me a millionaire, do I take it on? Can I cover the upfront costs? Can I scale up, hire the right people, and get them into place, fast enough?
“Money twitter” will tell me to do it and figure it out. If I can’t figure it out, just refund the money.
I get it and I believe stretching is important. Stretching leads to growth. But I also believe in being realistic. I’m not going to tell you I can generate $10,000 per month extra if I manage your Facebook ads unless I know I can do it.
The guy who sold the fitness gear was an acquaintance. We attended the same church and the same men’s group at church. We sort of knew each other. When he cancelled the contract and explained why, I asked a simple question. Why did you sign a 12-month contract knowing you only had a few units and it would be – very best scenario – six to eight months before more arrived. He didn’t answer and never spoke to me again. Kind of odd. Awkward worship services.
Makes me wonder. Did he think the campaign wouldn’t work?