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If you're a small business owner like me, I know you probably dream of that moment where you've just made it. That moment where you've experienced "success." I put that in quotes because the definition of the word success is different for absolutely everybody.
We never quite see what goes into the back end
When we first started our business path 10 years ago in high school, I would sit awake almost all night long sometimes dreaming about the business we would build. Not the one we could build, the one we would build. I spent so much of my time following along stories of other business owners that had "made it" that I really admired. From the outside, It was easy to look at them and think that it happened quick because us, as consumers and customers only have access to so much information about what happens behind the scenes. We see what companies put out-whether on their site or social media but you know what we don't see? (and shouldn't because that would be creepy and invasive) is what goes into every single day to make all of that happen.
The most exciting moments I used to dream about were having our dream workshop and the day that we could host a grand opening party for our retail store. The day that Tanner and I could both go to the office together because we got to the point where we could both be full time and have it financially work was the moment I envisioned as a point of success. Thinking of all of those moments put so many butterflies in my stomach and I was determined to see all of those things through. Didn't always know just how but I was going to find a way to do it.
"Success" rarely ever comes as fast as we'd like
I (and like every business owner ever that I talk to) want success to come faster than it often does. Think of that moment of when you had your first idea, that moment you decided to start, that moment when you did start and that moment of when you started to grow. Think of how exciting every single one of those moments are and how much they fuel you to keep propelling forward. I remember the first event we ever did. We didn't sell a ton, but we sold things and I remember the drive and energy that came from that first set of sales that made me want to just keep growing. Turns out growing is a lot harder than most people will ever think.
While I was so excited to keep going after things and always would've welcomed the idea of "overnight success" it's by far the best thing for us that that never happened.
What actually goes on behind the scenes
With the business Tanner and I run together, Moore Collection-we keep pretty steady with sharing our updates with our following. Whether it's a new set of work or exciting milestones and everything in between, we're big fans of storytelling. Even with that, people have absolutely no idea what goes into every day.
People often see those milestones but often see the glamorous side. We try to share the non glamorous side too but are often so deep in the work that we just don't. People often have no idea that sometimes we are working until 11PM to get orders processed. Even more than that, they almost certainly have no idea that we spent years working close to 80 hours a week (not particularly recommended) to build our business with little to no pay in the way we needed to because we knew healthy growth would trump unhealthy growth. Sure, it was harder for many years but we're really glad we did it that way.
I drew this iceberg when I launched my first Taylor Made blog and it fits perfectly here again. By the way-think I should become our lead designer? 😂
Why overnight success isn't realistic
If you want to grow something sustainable and healthy, overnight success isn't going to be the answer to that.
Good things take time and they need to be nurtured. How do you think a tall strong tree grows? Think of how it starts and think of how many years it takes for it to plant its roots and build a strong foundation. Now think if that tree instantly grew tall without planting the roots. What happens when one burst of wind (or a pandemic) hits an unstable tree with no roots? It's gone, it's just gone. We don't want to be that tree.
Why overnight success isn't healthy
When you have quick success, you don't have time to do a process that I believe in and follow over and over again. When you grow too fast, you don't have time to just stop and think and pause. When you go too fast, your potential to have a really hard and devastating crash almost becomes inevitable. Think about driving a car to get to a destination. Wow, I am very into the metaphors here. Okay- If you take time, stop at the lights, look at the streets and so on then you will likely get to your destination safely and accurately. Now think about if you were speeding. You would not only be flying through stop signs, maybe dodging some obstacles by luck but you aren't reading the street signs because you are going too fast. At some point you will crash and burn and you probably didn't get to your destination because you couldn't think about where you needed to actually go.
So I'm going to choose to be like an old lady in the slow lane, because she knows what's up. I'm going to follow a very simple process that we do for literally everything.
Plan-What is it that you are going to be doing? Not just for one thing, but everything. I'll take product creation as an example here.
Long term-New products launching this year. We need to decide what we are doing, create a launch date based on when it makes the most sense to do so.
Short term-What are the immediate steps we need to take to create this product collection?
Create-Take the collection we said we'd launch and bring it to life
Release-Get people excited about what's to come, give them a hint of what it is, release it and be really proud of what you just did
Evaluate-How did it go? Did it do well? Okay why? Did it flop? Okay why?
Repeat-Do this same process for everything
Always think 10 steps ahead at the same time:
When we do anything that is in our immediate line of work, we are always looking at what's next at the same time. Not like literally the same time or we'd be a hot mess but let's just take a look at an average day for us.
First, our days are almost always planned through a calendar so we know what's on the pipeline for us or else we would be too overwhelmed all the time. When I plan, I almost instantly become less stressed. Then we come in and work with our hands to make our physical products. After a nice lunch with our hardworking team, Tanner and I walk through our current set of work as well as what's next in the pipeline. As we continue to plan out our future weeks, we work in both long term and short term things across the board.
Things change, that's business. But if you can be on top of your shit, you can find a way to manage these shifts in a way that isn't overwhelming.
While I don't think overnight success exists, I do think many companies hit a point where after a period of slow and steady growth, they often see a snowball effect happen. There's often no point in telling when it will happen or if it will happen but I personally believe that once you build that solid foundation, you will be more well equipped to deal with the snowball effect when it happens.
When spend your time perfecting your systems and processes and getting all of your ducks in a row, you can be ready for growth when it hits as opposed to being hit with mad sales but no true way to know how to actually work through them in a way that isn't chaotic.
We've started to see our snowball roll. Not insanely fast, but fast enough to keep us on our toes
The last 2 years, despite being in a global pandemic and battling through a real hard chapter-we experienced the largest period of growth we've ever seen. Last year we grew our retailer accounts from 50 to 260. Want to know how long it took us to get even 50? About 6 years but then suddenly in one year we saw exponential growth and added more retailers than we kind of ever thought was possible for that amount of time.
When we made the announcement about how exciting it was to grow from 50 to 260, we had so many people reaching out being like okay tell me your secret sauce. Like what sales method did you put in place? People were in awe and wanted to know how we could pull off growth like that. They thought it just happened.
My only answer to their questions was actually quite simple. There was no crazy sales formula that we figured out. Instead it was 10 years of thinking, doing, testing, staying committed to high quality design and service and letting our business grow slow and steady for many, many years. Until one day it just started growing at a much faster rate.
That first chapter of building our first set of 50 retailers required a lot of putting ourselves out there, convincing retailers why they should carry our products, putting them on consignment for many years to test the sales in their stores, building positive relationships, creating more product lines based on feedback, attending market after market and trade shows consistently and doing all of the millions of things simultaneously that would take me 10 hours to list.
When we got to that point of having 50 retailers, we started to see that our concepts and products were proven to be doing well so we knew the potential that we had in different markets. As a store owner in Colorado sees a shop in California they respect carrying our brand, they want it too. When they see that other stores have had positive experiences with our brand, they become excited to carry them too. When they stumble across our brand and see the story we've told, they are excited to support another small business. As more people see these things, the more people start to buy and that's where we see this snowball effect come in.
When you see other companies growing really fast, it's usually in this phase-unless it's moving in an unhealthy crash and burn kind of way-which is entirely possible. It's when they've put years into growing everything and where all of those years of trying start to pay off. This is where that illusion of overnight success comes into play because we hardly ever see what it took to get to that point of where that snowball starts cruising down that slope.
That pre snowball phase is probably one of the most frustrating places to be
That pre snowball phase is probably one of the most frustrating places to be because you feel like you have put so much into what you've been building but have yet to see all of it truly feel like it's paying off. This phase for me made me contemplate if putting this much into growing a business was truly worth it. If you are in this phase or approaching this phase, I encourage you to keep going after what you believe in if that's still what you want.
So what's the secret sauce to growth?
Grit and determination.
Patience and persistence.
Purely giving a shit to keep seeing it through
That's the secret sauce.
Growing a business can be really defeating at times-i've been there more times than one. We have seen so many business owners give up or shut their doors within a few years and one of the biggest reasons why is because so many people think that "success" should come faster than it often does. If you can be dedicated to creating a healthy and sustainable business with the idea of long term growth in mind, you might be surprised when your snowball suddenly starts rolling down that hill.
Some days it can feel like your hard work isn't getting you very far but remember that all of this is a part of building something extraordinary. Remember that you need to assemble the rocket ship before you can send it off to space and you need to do It right so that it can actually land itself in space, in one piece.
While I am sitting here preaching long term, slow steady hard work to grow your business in a healthy way-I want to also emphasize and not neglect how important it is to take care of yourself at the same time. When I worked 80 hours a week regularly, the burnout became very real. When I put my oxygen mask on first and made burnout prevention a top priority, I could keep approaching things with a clear and motivated mind. Balance is necessary and needed-keep that in mind.
Take care of yourself and keep kicking ass. That is all.
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