Monday, March 5, 2012

The role of a business owner

For most of us, it’s been a while since we sat down and asked ourselves big questions about our business.   I’m not talking about the kind of questions like, am I going to make payroll, I’m talking about strategy, your customer, and last but now least, are you happy doing this?  I recently read a blog post on about the three simple questions to ask yourself to validate your start up idea, but I really think some of these thoughts also apply to existing businesses and are important to think about at least once a year.


I hate the saying: you need to work on your business not in it.  Probably because this was one of my biggest downfalls at my first company, Kate Boggiano.  Owning my own clothing line was great, but because of lack of funds, I wasn’t able to staff it like I should of which meant I was the designer, lead sales person, technical designer, production manager, and would even ship packages.  Looking back on it now, these things were totally necessary for me to do in order to get things done, the traditional way.  Sometimes in an industry, the traditional route isn’t the one that is most profitable or accessible to you and your situation, and THAT’S OK!  There is no “right” way to go about making a profitable business – but there might be a “right” way for you.  Case in point, when I started Kate Boggiano, I was determined to produce a tight 2 season line that had some of the best blouses in the business.  Many years, stores, and sales reps later, I ended up designing a HUGE line that I didn’t really believe in anymore because I listened to what everyone else was saying and I thought I needed to have 40 SKU’s/season in order to sell into enough stores.  With a staff of 3, this made life unbearable and I burned out as did my staff.  I think we would have been more successful, believed in the brand more, and done an all around better job if I would have had the courage to do things differently, kept the line small but kick ass, and believed in the power of supply and demand.  In an industry as old as fashion, things will change eventually.  We are seeing it now with the new mobile technology especially with the era of the internet upon us.  Soon, customers will be able to walk into a store, take a photo of a clothing item, and be able to compare prices against everyone else on the internet.  Scary but it’s coming!  The Stock Flock is addressing this problem from an inventory point of view.  By giving stores the most up to date inventory availability, we are allowing the store and the brand to take advantage of the internet before the end customer is able to.  My advice is to take some time and really think about ways in which you think you could make a change and add an efficiency or decrease the amount of steps needed to complete a task.  You’ll be amazed how much taking time to strategize will save in time and money which will equate to a bigger contribution to the bottom line.

Your Customer

In fashion, we are really good about painting a picture of who our “girl” is.  I can’t tell you how many design meetings I’ve been in where we’ve painted an elaborate picture of what our downtown, 20 something, brunch loving, gallery opening, friend influencer is doing at the exact moment when she finds our must have blouse hanging in the coolest boutique on her vacation to Sonoma, CA.  Sound familiar?  The funny thing about these moments is that who much time do we spend thinking about how many of these “girls” there actually are and exactly how are you going to interrupt their life to reach them in a way that will make them buy your awesome blouse instead of your competitors.  On the flip side, having generic looking clothes that anyone can find anywhere is targeting a market that is too big and hard to reach because you have created very little differentiation between your brand and the others hanging on the rack.  As a small or medium size company, knowing who your customer is, how many there are, and how to approach market penetration of this customer will be some of the best thought out strategy sessions there are.  After all, if you’re looking for the girl in the example, do you really want to spend a lot of money at a Midwest tradeshow?  Probably not.

Do you wake up on fire about your business, everyday?

This is tricky but important to think about.  Owning a business is one of the bigger commitments in life and liking your business and the industry in general is very important.  Most likely there will come a time when you find yourself really disliking something you are doing.  For me, collecting money from my late paying stores was the absolute worst.  I found that for me, it strained my relationship with my stores, made me feel poorly about the state of the business, and I found myself wasting a lot of time in preparation to make those tough phone calls.  After a lot of thinking and researching outsourcing, factoring, and ACH, I decided to train someone else to do it within our company and it made all the difference.    If there is something you know you don’t look forward to and it’s disrupting your work flow, figure out a way to get it off your plate.  Sometimes the anxiety it causes is not worth the money you save by doing it yourself especially if the anxiety can stack up in such a big way that it changes your overall feeling about your business.  Additionally, your strengths as a business owner are most likely well developed and your time will be better spent performing these strengths as they will be the differentiation between you and your competition.

While owning a startup, small, or even medium size business is fast paced and exciting, it’s very important to take yourself out of the day to day and strategize.  Afterall, you are the leader of the organization and not only do you need to figure out how to get things done, it’s also important to see things coming before everyone else.

Happy Leading!

No comments:

Post a Comment