The past week has been incredibly inspiring. We’re hearing makers across the country say, “I am ready to take my business to the next level. It’s game time!” And not to sound sappy, but that is the sound of a person who has a dream and is ready to do the work to claim it — and that is what gets us up in the morning.
But if there’s one thing we know about makers, it’s that they’re not interested in screwing around with stuff that doesn’t work. So we decided to put together a list of the small tips we’ve seen be particularly impactful for makers growing wholesale. Think of them as cheats — not necessarily the foundation of the whole endeavor (we talk more about that in other posts, on our calls, and in the Starter Series that new WIAB customers get). These are simple things you can do, to get disproportionate results.
They’re also things that will help you experience less stress, struggle, and drama in the process. Feeding two birds with one scone, if you will.
Our 5 tips for growing your wholesale business in 2016 — without quite so much stress and struggle:
- Create a mechanism and get into a rhythm.
A friend of mine raised his siblings from the age of 12, grew up in a one-room apartment in a tough neighborhood, and went to a pretty dicey high school. His dream was to create something different for himself while continuing to care for his family — and he did. By the time he was 24, he had gone to an elite college and become a financial advisor, making beaucoup money but with the time and energy to spend with his loved ones. I was so amazed by this that I asked him straight out one day: how did you succeed? And he answered with only a brief pause. He said, “I created mechanisms that kept me moving towards my goals, even when I would lose focus on them.”
In his case, he created routines, support systems, accountability structures, coaches, and things that would happen automatically in his week — so even if he lost hope, focus, or energy for a time, his life had the momentum and mechanisms to keep him on track. Wholesale In a Box works because it is a method — a tool and a support team — that keeps makers moving towards wholesale even when they lose focus. But you can do this for yourself. The specifics depend on the individual, but you might consider things like timers that remind you to follow up with stores; a maker buddy to do store outreach with every Monday afternoon; a coach that checks in on you monthly; setting up a calendar for the month with the wholesale-building stuff you intend to do; or creating periodic review periods for linesheets and product photos. You will lose focus at some point — so plan for that now.
- Stop fidgeting.
Pretty much every time I go to yoga, I get some business insight that leaves me using savasana for business planning. My yoga failures aside, I did learn one thing recently that crystallized something I’ve been seeing as a HUGE thing in my business, as well as in the businesses of the makers we work with. Stop fidgeting and stand in your power. The yoga version of fidgeting is fixing my hair, tucking in my shirt, or gazing around the room. The business version of fidgeting is coasting on Instagram, compulsively checking email, and doing unnecessary tasks. It may feel intense or uncomfortable — but do what moves the needle on your goals, and be still otherwise.
- Do an inventory and get your key assets to a place of “good enough”.
Makers tend to fall in one of three groups when it comes to their wholesale “assets” (linesheet, product photos, website, email template, etc.) Some makers bump along for months or years with assets that they know need a lot of work — and that can hold them back because they’re not representing themselves well. Another group of makers polish and polish every tiny thing, while their business atrophies. The ideal is the third group do a mental inventory of your key wholesale-building tools — and then identify what you would need to do to get each one just good enough to move forward.
- Manage the emotional part.
Building a business is scary in general. And actively connecting with stores — putting yourself out there on a daily basis — is even scarier, and can be discouraging. Over time (and with the inspiration of books like The War of Art and The Icarus Deception), I’ve come to believe that managing this fear is probably the single biggest difference between people who succeed and people who don’t. The reality for most makers we work with is that, out of 20 stores they connect with each month, they get “crickets” from most, rejections from some, and an order from 0–2. It is really hard hearing “no” from stores you love. But your choice is to see those no’s as progress towards the yes’s because there is no way to get orders from stores without getting a bunch of no’s. Be as faithful to building as you are to delivering.
Running a handmade business is about delivering on promises to customers. You produce and send orders and respond to emails on a daily basis because that is your promise to the people who have bought from. The final shift that is crucial to growing your wholesale business is this: treat promises to yourself as seriously as you treat promises to your customers. I have never met a maker that thinks it’s ok not to send out an order that a customer paid for. But I meet makers all the time who don’t keep promises about business-building to themselves. To be fearless is declaring what you want for yourself and your business — and clear about what you will do to get that. Then, be faithful in keeping that promise.
If 2016 is your year to get serious about your wholesale goals, then we are here to help. Even if you never plan to use Wholesale In a Box, we are super-happy to jump on the phone with you if it will help you build your business. So if there’s anything that feels like an obstacle — linesheet questions, pricing woes, line refinement, store selection — schedule a call with us and we’d be thrilled to talk it over.
You can sign up for a free wholesale check-in call here.
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