The year that was
IT’S BEEN A YEAR!
It’s been a year, I have to say it again to believe it. I still remember waking up last August 22nd, extremely nervous, excited, overwhelmed and somewhat scared. I had just spent a year working on my business ready for launch, and I had shared the lead up with many people as they watched it go from an idea on paper to a product ready for market.
Nothing is guaranteed in life, and if you want to achieve something, you have to be prepared for anything and work relentlessly. I woke up on the 22nd of August knowing how much work I had put into my products, but didn’t know how well it would be received or where it would go.
This past year has been a constant test. Every day brought about new challenges, some much harder than others, but through them I have learnt that if your heart is in the right place and you truly believe in what you’re doing, everything will work out. There is no other way.
I want to share with you the 10 elements that stood out for me over the past year, with a no bullshit approach towards business thinking. Some of them may help you with where you’re at now. Maybe you’re about to start your own business, maybe it will help you deal with your approach to every day tasks. Either way, if you can take anything away from my experience, I’ll be a happy man.
Before I talk about these points, I would like to note some of the things achieved in the past year.
1. Shipped beard oil to customers in 58 countries!
2. Sixteen stockists came on board, with 3 being international (London, San Francisco & Switzerland).
3. A complete rebrand and redesign of the packaging.
4. Launched 4 new oils in June, a total of 8.
5. Started development of my next product, a total of 12 months work and soon to be released.
6. Worked with charities such as Homeless of Melbourne, donating funds and stock for grooming the homeless community of Melbourne.
Of course, every single day in business has small wins, but my biggest achievement was getting to know the people who supported my business. Without you, my business doesn’t exist, and I am extremely grateful for the support I received over and over.
EBB AND FLOW. A NORMAL PROCESS.
I was extremely fortunate on launch day to receive orders. I put that down to starting my social media channel early and allowing people to come along for the ride. Customers were invested in the brand, before it really was a brand. If you can start your social channels early, and build up a network, it will serve you well.
This isn’t the case for every business. It’s okay if you launch your business and it doesn’t gain the traction immediately. That’s normal! Accept that every business in every field experiences ebb and flow. Some days you’ll be running around and have so many orders and tasks to fulfil. Other days, you’ll experience the loneliness and silence of being a business owner.
In the beginning, I use to be somewhat panic stricken on quiet days. I would worry. However, I have learnt that quieter days are the biggest blessing. These are the days where you should take the opportunity to review the business, plan for the foreseeable future, reflect and be re-inspired. Most importantly, take a break. I also worked a full time job while starting the business, it isn’t unusual for me to work around the clock. I cover all aspects of the business from pick and pack, customer service, marketing, social media management, oversee manufacturing, design, product development, and the list goes on.
Over time as the business grows, you’ll find these quiet days are few and far between, and it’ll all make sense. Make the most of it, and relax. Everything will be fine.
IT’S NOT A RACE!
One of the biggest problems with new business owners is their constant worry that they may not be tracking as well as they thought. Running a business isn’t a sprint, it’s a long walk. No two businesses are ever the same, so don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Trust your instincts, go with your gut and take your time. Everything will fall into place and go where you want it to go. Trust in time.
It is also important to not be swayed by opinion. You know your business goals. People will provide endless opinions, and it’s important to listen and take on board what you can, but also know whether it will take you off your path. Don’t sway.
FOCUS ON YOUR OWN BACKYARD!
Stop looking over the fence into your neighbours backyard. The more you worry about what everyone else is doing, the more time you lose. This time could have been used strengthening your brand and market position.
They say imitation is a form of flattery, and it isn’t. When someone takes the work you’ve put countless hours and sleepless nights into, it’s annoying. Customers, however, pick this up quickly and can see when someone has imitated a brand and I have had my fair share this past year. Whether that be beard oil formulas, website content and copy, tone of voice marketing or social media strategy, you can’t let it bother you. Learn to move on fast and remain focused on the bigger picture. You are your brand, and no one can take that from you.
TRADEMARKING – FOLLOWING ON FROM ABOVE.
As a startup, we don’t stop to think about the possibility that there may be a conflict when it comes to Intellectual Property. We trust that everyone has good intentions, but in business you soon realise some people don’t. Protect yourself early on, it’s a huge investment that will save you a lot of heartache in the future. It isn’t cheap, but neither is dealing with a legal matter. Start trademarking what you can and where you can. Whether that be domestically first and covering yourself internationally. It goes back to investing in your brands future.
Many businesses first test their idea to see whether it is worth trademarking, which is a smart thing to do because of the cost to trademark. Get onto it early.
INVEST IN YOUR BRAND AND ITS FUTURE!
This one is critical to the success of your brand. So many times you see businesses not reinvest in their brand. Sure, it’s not easy as a start up when you have limited capital (trust me, I know), but as you grow your sales and business it is vital that you reinvest to improve the offering to your customers. Six months in, I rebranded simply because I saw an opportunity to improve the brands image and it has been nothing but positive for me. I lined this up with the release of four new oils to build awareness of the change, and I’m glad I did this early on instead of later on down the track.
I started this business with a small amount of money, and a small personal loan. I was never worried because I believed in the investment in the brand and my idea. I also have a tendency to be very fussy, and every detail has to be right (which costs). This isn’t a bad thing. Being pedantic is important, and customers appreciate the small details and it’s those small details that have helped gain traction.
SHIT TAKES TIME! PLAIN AND SIMPLE.
This is one of my favourite learnings. Shit takes time! That’s ok! This is more in relation to the development of new products for my business. There’s always pressure to create new products, and The Groomed Man Co. has no intention on being a one product company. Unfortunately, when you’re developing new products properly and going through all the processes of development and manufacture, it takes time. A very long time. Learn to accept that, and know that the end result won’t be compromised.
BE MOTIVATED FOR THE RIGHT REASONS.
So often you see successful entrepreneurs doing great things, making a lot of money in the process. However, very rarely are they motivated by money. That is a fact. When you truly believe in what you’re doing, the product you’ve created, the service you’re offering, money is irrelevant for the most part. Except the part where you need it to pay bills.
Being motivated by money results in poor decision making as your focus is always on that, instead of how you can improve your brand and also exceed customer expectations. Of course it plays the role in growing the business, but be aware of your motivations. People can see when a business owner is passionate and genuine, and that’s contagious.
BE PREPARED FOR ANYTHING!
Planning is important, but often plans change, so adapt fast and be prepared for things to change. Whether that be for better or worse, learn to adapt and accept. Entrepreneurs are constantly evolving. If you can see every challenge as an opportunity, you will thrive.
Be prepared to make sacrifices. An entrepreneur is someone who is willing to sacrifice without worry, because you know it’ll come full circle. See every sacrifice in a positive light, because it’s all part of a bigger picture.
IT’S OKAY TO FEEL OVERWHELMED. KNOW WHEN TO TAKE A BREAK!
Over the course of the year I have managed to run the business which has been a full time job in itself, and also work a full time job to support myself so I could use the business funds to develop the brand over the long-term. This has been extremely overwhelming. Know when to take a break and don’t put the pressure on yourself to do everything you wanted to do that day, on that day. Every task you complete moves you one step closer to growing your business, so reward yourself for the small wins and accept not everything will be done today. Ask for help, you can’t do everything (I think I can, but every time I received help, I realised I needed it).
A tip I have that has helped many of my friends is focus on 5 – 6 goals you would like to achieve in the next 90 days. You get so much more done when you narrow down what’s important and park things to the side that can be dealt with later. Not every opportunity that pops up is a good one, so be aware of your goals and review constantly. Some are opportunities are major distractions.
CUSTOMER BEFORE COST!
I get it, you’re in business and need to turn a profit so you can continue to operate. However, when every decision you make puts cost before the customer experience, the real cost is possibly lost customers.
Dealing with people, whether they be customers or not, has always been my favourite part of the business. My customer is the critical factor that determines the success of my brand going forward, and every decision I make has them as the top priority. Don’t do things cheaply if it compromises the customer experience. You can still provide a premium and be profitable.
Whether that be stronger packaging, faster delivery services and rates, an improved website experience, rewards, going above and beyond, your focus has to be on the customer experience.
I knew that my product had to be the best it could be. I sourced the best people in the field with decades of experience, using the finest ingredients available worldwide, and had them manufactured in a TGA approved clean room. This does cost a considerable amount compared to if I made it myself at home, but the experience wouldn’t be the same and the product wouldn’t be as strong as it is.
I also made sure to not state ridiculous claims, and wanted my brand to grow solely by word of mouth in its first year. I know my point of difference, but I wanted my customers to experience it and not just read about it. My customers had to make the call, see the difference, and decide whether or not they would come back. They did, and I am fortunate to receive a lot of great feedback.
‘The best investor, is your customer – Esther Dyson’
Lastly, I would like to thank everyone again for supporting The Groomed Man Co. This has only touched the surface and I could write for days about the experiences I have had, but hope it’s given you an insight to how the year has unfolded and what to expect if you’re to go into business. I look forward to sharing the next year, and many more, with you!