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Building a Successful Business; It's Not All Sheets and Gigglesby@bmoskwa
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Building a Successful Business; It's Not All Sheets and Giggles

by Branden MoskwaSeptember 16th, 2022
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In 2020, Sheets & Giggles was one of six small businesses recognized by Amazon for meeting customer needs during the pandemic. CEO Colin McIntosh wanted to make $3000 a month, "so I could pay my rent, eat pasta, tell everybody else to \*bleep\* off, and be totally independent” McIntosh’s one recommendation to fellow entrepreneurs is to revisit their initial goals throughout their careers. The underlying definition of success will cut through the noise and hype, and can form the enduring identity of your company.
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Where is Your Finish Line?

Colin McIntosh, CEO of Sheets & Giggles, began his company with rather modest hopes. In his own words,


“I wanted to make $3000 a month, so I could pay my rent, eat pasta, tell everybody else to *bleep* off, and be independent.”


Before he realized what happened, the company was seeing seven-figure sales monthly. In 2020, Sheets & Giggles was one of six small businesses recognized by Amazon for meeting customer needs during the pandemic. On Black Friday of that same year, it was featured on Good Morning America and placed 309 on INC. 5000 list in 2022.


Through McIntosh’s leadership, it is clear that Sheets & Giggles has vastly exceeded his initial expectations. Despite completely blowing his fledgling measure of success out of the water, his one recommendation to fellow entrepreneurs is to revisit their initial goals throughout their careers.


As your business grows and as the world changes, remembering why you’re in business will often make the path clear. Incorporating new advantages and unforeseen obstacles into those goals will have them shift accordingly, without sacrificing the spirit of your venture. In McIntosh’s case, aside from the boss-free, pasta-rich world he sought, he wanted his company to genuinely give customers a fantastic experience while embracing humanity and intuition in place of strict adherence to data and automation.


What Can Bend Without Breaking?

Establishing sober, realistic goals are crucial for providing much-needed clarity in murky situations. Currently, the world market is in turmoil. Two years of supply chain problems have crunched the margins with price escalation. Interest rate increases are strangling investments. Unforeseen lockdowns, wars, and other disasters are causing second, third, and fourth-tier disruptions. DTC and e-commerce businesses aren’t the only ones being clobbered, with big-name retailers feeling the pinch of a recession that is hitting everyone. Companies are buying six months of material to avoid shipping delays, straining the already weakened supply chain. People are projecting less spending for the rest of the year, despite many businesses needing a lucrative holiday season in Q4. It is nearly impossible to anticipate every contingency. As McIntosh says,


“All you can do is map out your game theory matrix and choose your dominant strategies and put your company in the best position, no matter what the outside factors are.”


Due to this volatile environment, a short-term adjustment that McIntosh and his team implemented was a focus shift from growth to profitability for Sheets & Giggles, reducing gross spending and eliminating activities with low ROI.


Long-term goals can help define what it means to be successful, whether it’s to make a ton of money, increase profitability, educate people, or change the world for the better. The underlying definition of success will cut through the noise and hype and can form the enduring identity of your company, such as branding and customer base.


The Customer Comes First

“Just because you emailed somebody back right away; A list of your FAQs, you didn’t actually email that person! You didn’t actually listen to what they had to say, you didn’t actually help them, you just brushed them off and hoped they’d go away.”


McIntosh’s quote captures the necessity for genuine interaction with customers, to establish a loyal base of repeat purchases. Unfortunately, when businesses grow, it is easy to relegate clients to mere numbers. Technology and data can’t account for that emotional connection, and it is a difficult thing to index. People quickly realize when they are simply factors in a math equation, and it makes it very easy to turn away.


“A lot of people try to automate away their whole payroll, and you just can’t do it.”


These words, from McIntosh, further show he understands that the only source of humanity that can be harnessed is humans. He made it a top priority to hire a premier public relations expert, to be the living voice for the company. Their humor-based outreach specifically targeted like-minded consumers, where those like-minded consumers congregate. Through advertising on comedic social media pages, podcasts, and websites, Sheets & Giggles has successfully connected with countless people, through the power of laughter. This gives the fantastic impression that the company is operated by living, breathing people, who want to offer an experience, not just a product.


“LOGIC IS THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM, NOT THE END.” - MR. SPOCK

Just as good customer interaction is a product of embracing a little humanity and valuing intuition over strict, soulless dedication to data is another goal that has enabled McIntosh to guide Sheets & Giggles to success. Not to throw caution and logic to the wind, some of the works of Malcolm Gladwell are evidence that intuition has tangible value, although it is difficult to quantify. Gladwell quotes like,


“Did they know why they knew? Not at all. But they knew!”


and


“We learn by example and by direct experience because there are real limits to the adequacy of verbal instruction.”


encapsulate the value which McIntosh has used. He states that hiring good people, who are A Players, will exceed the returns from simply investing in software or technology. People will be able to adapt and learn in ways that inanimate assets cannot. Software can be a great tool to analyze trends and customer habits, generating useful data. However, data can be replicated, making it difficult to stand out in a field of rigid, unimaginative competitors. Data can cause tunnel vision when observers don’t account for the intangibles and simply look for correlations.


It was intuition and experimentation that created the successful, customer outreach program mentioned earlier. They initially tried more orthodox approaches, like spending $50K on direct mail before they realized it didn’t work. The harsh lessons from trial and error failures encouraged his trust in his gut feeling, and not blindly following data or established norms.


Ask Yourself, And Then Ask Again

McIntosh says to take a sober look at what you want to achieve and stick to those goals. Frequently, reviewing your plans is key to keeping your business’s development on track, whether times are good or tough. Some goals should be unwavering, such as ideals and the ultimate definition of success. Some goals should be fluid, such as corrective courses of action or capitalizing on unexpected opportunities. By continuously asking himself what it was he wanted to achieve, McIntosh was able to establish, lifelong, ideological objectives for Sheets & Giggles. He wanted a company that valued excellent customer experiences while ensuring that intuition and humanity are not sacrificed for the sake of hard data.


These concepts have guided him and his team through the day-to-day, as well as year-to-year issues that plague every business. It has enabled them to navigate both calm and choppy waters, without losing sight of what Sheets & Giggles is intended to be.