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GOLD! I Built A Worldwide Business From Broke.

Xeon

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G'day @Xeon from Oz,

It's a pleasure to meet you.

How did we fund ourselves?

With great difficulty.

Remember. This is 24 years ago. Times were different.

The banks wouldn't lend to us. And wouldn't give us an overdraft. But a friend. Who was an accountant. Told us that the bank would issue a no questions asked credit card for a maximum of $500. Per person.

We were able to get 2 credit cards with a $500 limit. So we had a slush fund of $1,000 to work with. Which was a fortune to us.

All our orders were word of mouth. And cash up front. There was no Amazon Prime. Or eBay. That delivered the next day. Everything was mailorder. And people were prepared to wait 30 days to receive their order.

We would wait until the end of the month to see how many orders we had. And order enough fabric and accessories to fill those orders. So most of what we did came out of cash flow. We had no accounts. So these purchases were cash payments up front for us.

Face to face events and stocking up for them beforehand came out of the credit cards. Which we paid off at the end of every month.

Our marketing consisted of modest events. Which were mainly agricultural shows. And markets. That cost $10. To a maximum of $50. To attend.

We would leave our farmhouse at 2am to arrive at our destination by 6am. And arrive back at the farmhouse between midnight. And 2am. They were gruelling days.

We also did letterbox drops. We could do letterbox drops for 3 cents per letter. We produced the leaflets on my computer. And printed them off on our photocopier.

When we sold our possessions to pay off debt. We kept some things. My computer. Which was a bulky, boxy, CRT computer with a black screen and green lettering. No graphics. And our photocopier.

Victor, being an architect, was also a very good sketch artist. So our graphics consisted of his pencil sketches of the products.

We distributed the leaflets to rural areas only. Where rural women were still heavily into ironing. And were used to buying items mailorder. Also, it was rare to see a 'No Junk Mail' sticker on their rural mailboxes.

We did very well with those leaflets. And were able to build up a strong word of mouth business.

We lead a frugal life.

We only bought what we needed in the supermarket. No luxuries. No meat. We couldn't afford it. No chocolates.

We had a vegetable garden. And ate what we could grow.

We couldn't afford beer. Or wine. Or spirits. Neither of us smoke. We never so much as bought a cup of coffee in a cafe.

We didn't accept social invitations because we couldn't afford to bring a bottle of wine. Nor could we afford to reciprocate.

Those were hard times. But we had a goal. Which was to get out of debt. And we were prepared to make whatever sacrifices were required to reach that goal.

Regarding copy. All the copy was written by us. I know nothing about those books you mentioned. Or special words.

We just told our story. And described the products in great detail. And offered everyone a no questions asked money back guarantee if they weren't happy. And a twelve-month wear and tear guarantee. Meaning. We guaranteed that whatever they purchased, they couldn't wear it out in twelve months.

No one else did that at the time. We were a first. And that gave customers confidence when buying from us.

We included a black and white brochure, produced on our photocopier, to customers with every order. Including a handwritten thank you note. And mailed to them once a year with another black and white photocopied brochure. Telling them how much we loved them for choosing us over other companies.

That's how we built this business from nothing. To something. Purely on trust. And a willingness to have a special relationship with people who care enough to buy from us.

The only special words we use are . . . love . . . thank you . . . we hope you like what you've purchased.

And that's how we continue to build this business. By developing trustful, deeply personal relationships with our customers.

We don't need anything else.

I hope this answers your questions. And thank you for asking. ~Carol❤
Hi Carol, thanks a lot for your reply! This is so insightful and impressive to read. I must say you really have what the book Unscripted refers to as a productocracy where the product itself pulls in customers like a black hole, without needing much for funnels and gimmicks. All the best! :clap::
 

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JasonR

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Thank you for sharing. It’s people like you who share their stories that make me come back here. Ironing covers. Amazing. Rep transferred.
 
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Carol Jones

Carol Jones

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Hi Carol, thanks a lot for your reply! This is so insightful and impressive to read. I must say you really have what the book Unscripted refers to as a productocracy where the product itself pulls in customers like a black hole, without needing much for funnels and gimmicks. All the best! :clap::
G'day again @Xeon,

Thank you! Appreciated.

I do have a productocracy. And I'm aware of it. And admit to not knowing about the term until I read Unscripted.

This is the reason why.

My products are utilitarian. Each one solves a problem.

People don't come to my website. Or order from me over the phone. For any reason other than they're looking for a solution to a problem they can't find elsewhere.

And when they discover my products work. When others don't. They become very loyal customers. Because that in itself fills a need. Products that don't disappoint.

The fact that my products aren't sexy. Or trendy. But low tech. Rather than high tech. Works in my favour. I'm not a fad. But I'm very much a staple.

After 24 years, I'm now receiving calls from customers worried that I've retired and they wouldn't be able to order. And after being relieved we're still in business, they tell me before they hang up that they're worried I'll retire before the product they're now purchasing wears out.

It's a compliment.

This loyalty has much to do with the quality of what we offer.

But it also has much to do with the love and attention we give to our customers. They come back because they remember how warm and welcoming we are every time they order. That's an intangible that can't be measured. But when someone tells me they still have my note that came with their parcel a few years ago, it's not hard to realise that these intangibles are what makes us memorable.

Forget the gimmicks. And the tricky words. Offer products that solve a genuine problem. Then talk to your customers from the heart. It's a sure-fire winner. ~Carol❤
 
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Carol Jones

Carol Jones

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Thank you for sharing. It’s people like you who share their stories that make me come back here. Ironing covers. Amazing
G'day @JasonR from Oz,

Thank you! It's a privilege to have my story read by you.

Yes. Ironing board covers. Still used more than a 100 years after being invented!

And thank you for your generosity. Unexpected. And very much appreciated! ~Carol❤
 

Kristin R

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Feb 25, 2018
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Good morning from rural Australia,

In a nutshell, my partner and I design and make textile products that are simple solutions for difficult problems. We have 400,000 customers in 30 countries around the world who think our products are the best thing since sliced bread. The icing on the cake is that all our products are made with love and care in rural Australia by men and women who have a disability. We are renown for our simple solutions that work. When others don't.

That's the event.

The process is this.

In 1992, my partner and I lost everything in Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating's 'recession we had to have'. We closed down two businesses. My partner's 12 year old architectural practice. My market research consultancy. We farewelled 16 loyal and supportive staff. We sold our home of 22 years. Two cars. And our personal possessions. To pay off what debt we could. And made a scheme of arrangement with our creditors to pay off the remaining debt.

Poor as church mice. We left the city lights of Sydney Australia. For a rural life in a remote village with no internet access. No email. Not even call waiting. But it met our most important criteria. We could live in a farmhouse whose rent we could afford to pay. The village was heavily affected by a severe drought. And the house was not a desirable place to live. But it was our safety net.

We made a decision to find our way back by utilising simple solutions. Our skills were in design. And research. So we reinvented ourselves as designers and makers of textile products. Our first product didn't capture the hearts of the marketplace. But our second product did. We redesigned the humble ironing board cover utilising a low tech solution to make sure it was firmly anchored to an ironing board. So it never moved. Which is what makes people hate ironing.

If you make one good product. Customers want more. So we designed 6 more textile products. And today we have more than 400,000 customers in 30 countries. Without any retail distribution. And all done online today. But in the beginning, it was all mail order.

We've been down dark alleys. Wondered if we were certifiably mad to keep doing what we were doing when ironing board covers are not top of mind with most people.

But we discovered they are very top of mind with men and women who must iron.

Even though the subject is not sexy, our products, and our story, have been written about in every major publication in Australia.

We've been featured on mainstream TV. Interviewed on radio. Included in two books. The latest being 'Hunch' by international best selling author Bernadette Jiwa. I'm the 'Ironing Whisperer' on page 73.

The process of working every day is what got us to where we are today.

We did what everyone said we couldn't do. We built a worldwide business from broke. On a remote rural property. Before the internet and email came to our rural village.

I'm here to mix with like minded men and women. I have 35 years of business experience to share. I've done the hard yards. And would love to be of help to those of you who can't see the light at the end of the tunnel.

And. I want to travel further along the road to wealth.

It will be a pleasure to meet you. ~Carol❤

Hi @Carol Jones ,

My husband suggested that I read this post, and I have to say... I am blown away. I am new to the forum, so I am still snooping around trying to find people who I can relate to/whose stories I can learn from, and you are a great inspiration!

In short, my husband and I are starting a business in performance-enhancing altheticwear and, like you and your partner, we are trying to be wise with our budgeting decisions. That said, I have a few basic questions for you:

1. Why did you start off with mail-orders only?
2. When and how did you know that it was time to call it quits on the first product?
3. How did you spread the word about your product in the early days?

(I apologize if some of these were answered in previous comments. I am trying my best to read everything while at my 9 - 5 in my lovely cubicle... gag).

Thank you!
Kristin
 
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Carol Jones

Carol Jones

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Good morning @Kristin R from Oz,

A big thank you to you and your husband for taking the time to read such a long thread! I'll answer your questions in as much detail as possible.

And no. You're not repeating yourself as no one else has asked me these questions before.

In short, my husband and I are starting a business in performance-enhancing altheticwear and, like you and your partner, we are trying to be wise with our budgeting decisions. That said, I have a few basic questions for you:

1. Why did you start off with mail-orders only?
2. When and how did you know that it was time to call it quits on the first product?
3. How did you spread the word about your product in the early days?
I'll answer question #2 first. Because that relates to my answer to question #1. And then question #3. Because that also relates to question #1.

2. When and how did you know that it was time to call it quits on the first product?

My partner, Victor Pleshev, is an architect. Although the building industry was demolished in 'the recession we had to have'. He still had a strong desire to design.

So we turned to product design.

We knew nothing about product design. Which is why we chose to improve already existing products with his simple design solutions.

Our first product was a dog collar. Called 'Dashing Dogs'.

We noticed that all the dog collars on the market were heavy. And stiff. And cut into the neck of one of our dogs. Who had short hair. A cheeky and gorgeous Dalmatian. Rescued by us after being dumped in our rural patch.

Because Victor understands strength. And tension. He designed a collar made of soft leather. Where two pieces of leather are crossed over each other at certain points. The crossover reinforced with a rivet. To make a whole collar. It was not only very strong. But very elegant.

This was 1993. Shortly after we left Sydney and moved to the rural property we were renting.

We sourced the leather ourselves in Sydney. From a tannery on Botany Bay. Tanneries are a very dirty, highly poisonous place to work. And pollute the waterways on which they're located.

But it was still legal to operate a tannery in Australia then.

We had the leather tanned to our specifications and cut by laser to Victor's design.

And the leather pieces were then given to a company who braided them together into the collars. This company was run by an old-style business gentleman. Who was 78. The writing was on the wall that he wouldn't be in business in the long term.

Victor and I come from the service industry. Architecture. And me from the market research industry.

We knew absolutely NOTHING about getting products into the marketplace. We were the blind. Leading the blind.

We focussed on retailers. Who. We discovered. Were monumentally uninterested in these collars.

The pitifully few retailers who did stock them, had them ridiculed at the time, by the leader in dog collars in the pet industry. Their representatives, upon seeing the collars on the collar rack, telling the retailers they were not only too expensive, but were inferior quality dog collars. That would break in an instant. And beloved dogs who strain at the collars would be breaking free and running into traffic. Getting killed.

They really whipped up the horror stories.

All but one retailer returned stock. And asked to be reimbursed. The problem was, we had already spent the revenue we earned from those sales. And had no money to reimburse these retailers. So we told them, on advice from our solicitor, who was also a family friend, that as we hadn't signed any agreement regarding 'sale or return', we weren't legally obligated to reimburse them. And returned the collars to them. COD postage.

There was a glimmer of hope with veterinary practices. Which were just starting to sell pet accessories. Vets could see how good these collars were. And placed orders. And reorders.

Distributors to veterinary practices weren't interested in our product. So we had to contact vets ourselves. Which was very slow.

And.

Financially. We couldn't service them.

To secure orders, we had to send a free sample to every veterinary surgery. When we calculated how much this would cost. And what our expected return would be, we couldn't see how we could afford to do this without borrowing. And we couldn't borrow to develop this business.

On the plus side, pet shops paid on delivery of product. Long before we had to pay the tannery. The laser cutter. And the collar maker.

Veterinary practices paid in 60 days. So we were always owing money to our suppliers before we got paid. With nothing left over to develop the business.

So we called it a day. Which was always going to be on the cards anyway.

Shortly afterwards, Our tannery was forced to close down because of air and water pollution problems. They rang us wanting to know if we would like to buy their leather at a factory closing down sale.

And our maker of collars died. And no one was interested in continuing his business.

How strong were these collars? Our Dalmatian was still wearing his when he died 11 years later.

3. How did you spread the word about your product in the early days?

After our experience with retailers, we concluded they know little. Or nothing. About the products they sell. And are rarely interested in selling something that's different because 'me too' products, that require no explanation, are much easier to sell.

And. To be honest. They weren't a group of people we could develop a personal relationship with.

They were mainly interested in how much money they could make from each supplier. They weren't really interested in us. Or in most of their suppliers. And would cut short most telephone conversations. There was nothing in it for them to develop a personal relationship.

We had no money for advertising, so we hit the road. Spruiking about our products anywhere we could set up a microphone. We demonstrated why our Fitz Like A Glove™ Ironing Board Cover was different to everything else on the market. And told our story loud enough for passers-by to hear. Who rewarded us by buying our products.

I had never spruiked before. Was horrified at the thought. But an experienced gal in the agricultural show business stopped at our stall. Showed me how to do it. Convinced me sales would soar if I got the attention of passersby. And on my first spruik, I scored a sale of 3 covers from a passerby! I was hooked. And never looked back.

From 1994 to 2008, we travelled at least 60,000kms per year. Spruiking. And selling.

Because I have a history with direct marketing, I was educated about the value of a name and an address. (No internet. No email. In 1994). I asked everyone who purchased if they would like to become part of my mailing list. To keep in touch. And had forms available for them to fill out their details. A surprisingly high 80% said yes.

1. Why did you start off with mail-orders only?

The above is why. And how. I started my mailorder business.

As soon as we returned from an event, I wrote a handwritten thank you note to everyone who gave me their name and address. It was a simple note. Saying how much I loved the fact they chose us above everyone else. I also included a photocopied brochure. Asking them to save it for future orders. Or to pass it on to a friend or family member.

And once a year we mailed a brochure, run off our photocopier, to these names and addresses. And built up a mailing list that's in the tens of thousands today.

When the internet arrived in our rural village in February 2001, we were ready. And launched our internet site on day 1. With the help of marketing students from Charles Sturt University in Bathurst NSW. Our closest regional centre. They were happy to take us on for free as a class project. And we benefitted from their enthusiasm.

By 2008, our internet business had grown to the stage where we were receiving more orders online than the volume of product we were selling at events. The internet was international. Events were local.

So we hung up our car keys. And the wheels of our car did a little jig!

May I say first, Kristin, if you already have funds to start your business, you're so much further ahead than we were. We had nothing.

How you spend them is dependent on your goals. What you want to achieve in the short term. And the long term.

I know nothing about the market for athletic wear, but I'll ask you some questions.

What are your long-term goals? And short-term goals?

Do your short-term goals segue into your long-term goals?

Does your athletic wear need to be explained? Or are the benefits obvious?

How different is it to other athletic wear? And why?

Why did you develop it? What need are you addressing that other athletic wear doesn't? Or can't?

Do you want to wholesale to on-sellers?

Or do you want to develop personal relationships with customers one-on-one?

It's hard to have both relationships.

On-sellers view your own retail site as competition. And they will often discount your product. Leaving you vulnerable in your one-on-one relationships. Customers today shop around. Voraciously. They know where the bargains are. Which is why no one else sells my products except me.

As far as helping you further is concerned, I only know about my business. And how to run it.

My values are not often aligned with the values of other people. In the short term, I'm more interested in building love and loyalty. Because I know the money will follow that. It's not the priorities of most people. And may not be a priority that you can afford to indulge in right now.

When it comes to your next step, there are members of this forum who are eminently more qualified than me to give you advice. And I'm sure there will be an abundance of good advice proffered.

It's been a pleasure to meet you, Kristin. I'm touched that you would ask me these questions. And I wish you and your husband only the very best. ~Carol❤
 

Kristin R

Contributor
Feb 25, 2018
11
89
24
30
Chicago
Good morning @Kristin R from Oz,

A big thank you to you and your husband for taking the time to read such a long thread! I'll answer your questions in as much detail as possible.

And no. You're not repeating yourself as no one else has asked me these questions before.



I'll answer question #2 first. Because that relates to my answer to question #1. And then question #3. Because that also relates to question #1.

2. When and how did you know that it was time to call it quits on the first product?

My partner, Victor Pleshev, is an architect. Although the building industry was demolished in 'the recession we had to have'. He still had a strong desire to design.

So we turned to product design.

We knew nothing about product design. Which is why we chose to improve already existing products with his simple design solutions.

Our first product was a dog collar. Called 'Dashing Dogs'.

We noticed that all the dog collars on the market were heavy. And stiff. And cut into the neck of one of our dogs. Who had short hair. A cheeky and gorgeous Dalmatian. Rescued by us after being dumped in our rural patch.

Because Victor understands strength. And tension. He designed a collar made of soft leather. Where two pieces of leather are crossed over each other at certain points. The crossover reinforced with a rivet. To make a whole collar. It was not only very strong. But very elegant.

This was 1993. Shortly after we left Sydney and moved to the rural property we were renting.

We sourced the leather ourselves in Sydney. From a tannery on Botany Bay. Tanneries are a very dirty, highly poisonous place to work. And pollute the waterways on which they're located.

But it was still legal to operate a tannery in Australia then.

We had the leather tanned to our specifications and cut by laser to Victor's design.

And the leather pieces were then given to a company who braided them together into the collars. This company was run by an old-style business gentleman. Who was 78. The writing was on the wall that he wouldn't be in business in the long term.

Victor and I come from the service industry. Architecture. And me from the market research industry.

We knew absolutely NOTHING about getting products into the marketplace. We were the blind. Leading the blind.

We focussed on retailers. Who. We discovered. Were monumentally uninterested in these collars.

The pitifully few retailers who did stock them, had them ridiculed at the time, by the leader in dog collars in the pet industry. Their representatives, upon seeing the collars on the collar rack, telling the retailers they were not only too expensive, but were inferior quality dog collars. That would break in an instant. And beloved dogs who strain at the collars would be breaking free and running into traffic. Getting killed.

They really whipped up the horror stories.

All but one retailer returned stock. And asked to be reimbursed. The problem was, we had already spent the revenue we earned from those sales. And had no money to reimburse these retailers. So we told them, on advice from our solicitor, who was also a family friend, that as we hadn't signed any agreement regarding 'sale or return', we weren't legally obligated to reimburse them. And returned the collars to them. COD postage.

There was a glimmer of hope with veterinary practices. Which were just starting to sell pet accessories. Vets could see how good these collars were. And placed orders. And reorders.

Distributors to veterinary practices weren't interested in our product. So we had to contact vets ourselves. Which was very slow.

And.

Financially. We couldn't service them.

To secure orders, we had to send a free sample to every veterinary surgery. When we calculated how much this would cost. And what our expected return would be, we couldn't see how we could afford to do this without borrowing. And we couldn't borrow to develop this business.

On the plus side, pet shops paid on delivery of product. Long before we had to pay the tannery. The laser cutter. And the collar maker.

Veterinary practices paid in 60 days. So we were always owing money to our suppliers before we got paid. With nothing left over to develop the business.

So we called it a day. Which was always going to be on the cards anyway.

Shortly afterwards, Our tannery was forced to close down because of air and water pollution problems. They rang us wanting to know if we would like to buy their leather at a factory closing down sale.

And our maker of collars died. And no one was interested in continuing his business.

How strong were these collars? Our Dalmatian was still wearing his when he died 11 years later.

3. How did you spread the word about your product in the early days?

After our experience with retailers, we concluded they know little. Or nothing. About the products they sell. And are rarely interested in selling something that's different because 'me too' products, that require no explanation, are much easier to sell.

And. To be honest. They weren't a group of people we could develop a personal relationship with.

They were mainly interested in how much money they could make from each supplier. They weren't really interested in us. Or in most of their suppliers. And would cut short most telephone conversations. There was nothing in it for them to develop a personal relationship.

We had no money for advertising, so we hit the road. Spruiking about our products anywhere we could set up a microphone. We demonstrated why our Fitz Like A Glove™ Ironing Board Cover was different to everything else on the market. And told our story loud enough for passers-by to hear. Who rewarded us by buying our products.

I had never spruiked before. Was horrified at the thought. But an experienced gal in the agricultural show business stopped at our stall. Showed me how to do it. Convinced me sales would soar if I got the attention of passersby. And on my first spruik, I scored a sale of 3 covers from a passerby! I was hooked. And never looked back.

From 1994 to 2008, we travelled at least 60,000kms per year. Spruiking. And selling.

Because I have a history with direct marketing, I was educated about the value of a name and an address. (No internet. No email. In 1994). I asked everyone who purchased if they would like to become part of my mailing list. To keep in touch. And had forms available for them to fill out their details. A surprisingly high 80% said yes.

1. Why did you start off with mail-orders only?

The above is why. And how. I started my mailorder business.

As soon as we returned from an event, I wrote a handwritten thank you note to everyone who gave me their name and address. It was a simple note. Saying how much I loved the fact they chose us above everyone else. I also included a photocopied brochure. Asking them to save it for future orders. Or to pass it on to a friend or family member.

And once a year we mailed a brochure, run off our photocopier, to these names and addresses. And built up a mailing list that's in the tens of thousands today.

When the internet arrived in our rural village in February 2001, we were ready. And launched our internet site on day 1. With the help of marketing students from Charles Sturt University in Bathurst NSW. Our closest regional centre. They were happy to take us on for free as a class project. And we benefitted from their enthusiasm.

By 2008, our internet business had grown to the stage where we were receiving more orders online than the volume of product we were selling at events. The internet was international. Events were local.

So we hung up our car keys. And the wheels of our car did a little jig!

May I say first, Kristin, if you already have funds to start your business, you're so much further ahead than we were. We had nothing.

How you spend them is dependent on your goals. What you want to achieve in the short term. And the long term.

I know nothing about the market for athletic wear, but I'll ask you some questions.

What are your long-term goals? And short-term goals?

Do your short-term goals segue into your long-term goals?

Does your athletic wear need to be explained? Or are the benefits obvious?

How different is it to other athletic wear? And why?

Why did you develop it? What need are you addressing that other athletic wear doesn't? Or can't?

Do you want to wholesale to on-sellers?

Or do you want to develop personal relationships with customers one-on-one?

It's hard to have both relationships.

On-sellers view your own retail site as competition. And they will often discount your product. Leaving you vulnerable in your one-on-one relationships. Customers today shop around. Voraciously. They know where the bargains are. Which is why no one else sells my products except me.

As far as helping you further is concerned, I only know about my business. And how to run it.

My values are not often aligned with the values of other people. In the short term, I'm more interested in building love and loyalty. Because I know the money will follow that. It's not the priorities of most people. And may not be a priority that you can afford to indulge in right now.

When it comes to your next step, there are members of this forum who are eminently more qualified than me to give you advice. And I'm sure there will be an abundance of good advice proffered.

It's been a pleasure to meet you, Kristin. I'm touched that you would ask me these questions. And I wish you and your husband only the very best. ~Carol❤

Thank you so very much for going into this explicit detail for me. The story of your dog collar endeavor was very helpful and interesting. I bet your sweet dog loved his collar as did others whose owners made the purchase. It’s too bad that the chips fell as they did, because it seems like you really did create a valuable product. Obviously, things turned around for you though!

The interactions that you have had with retailers are very eye-opening. I will definitely keep your experience in mind to avoid similar conflicts in the future…

How awesome that you were approached by someone who helped you spruik! I don’t even think I’ve ever heard of that word, but I can infer what it means by the context. :) The idea of spruiking is not very appealing to me, either, but I do think that it could be a tool for @Greg R and I in the beginning.

How did you end up getting the attention of passerby’s? I have done something like this once, and I remember feeling so awkward trying to get people to notice my booth.

We have started to tap into online advertising, which has the potential to grab the mases. Still, I do like the idea of a little face-to-face promotion. There is definitely something to be said for creating relationships and showing the consumer a tangible item that they can interact with it. Perhaps we will try a healthy mix of both online and in-person…

Long term, we want to be endorsed by a major female athlete.

Short term, we want to generate sales from active females of all kinds. I can go into further detail in a private message if that’s okay with you!

The product is self-explanatory, but there may be some variations that will need to be explained, which we plan to do on our website and in ads. We are creating something that is different than anything currently out there. We consider the product to be a unique improvement on an existing product.

When it comes to wholesale versus direct-to-consumer, I THINK we are leaning towards more towards the direct-to-consumer path. It is definitely something to evaluate. I sincerely appreciate that you have taken the time to answer my questions. Your answers have sparked a lot of thoughts and questions in my head, and I am very grateful for the information.

I hope to report back to you in the near future with new developments!

Cheers,
Kristin
 

garyfritz

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I can't abide rudeness. Bad manners. Abysmal customer service. Deceit. Disloyalty. People hurling verbal abuse. And violence towards children.

And I will quickly change from Dr Jekyll into Mr Hyde. I take a stand. And I have been known to reduce grown men to tears.
Oh I would PAY to watch that!!! :rofl:

Maybe a new business opportunity for you, Carol: a subscription service to a video channel of "Carol eviscerating some evil rude stuffed shirt who richly deserves it!" LOL !!
 
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Carol Jones

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G'day again @Kristin R from Oz,

It's so nice to connect the dots between you and @Greg R. I'm a fan of Greg. So it's a privilege to get to know his significant other.

I do like the idea of a little face-to-face promotion. There is definitely something to be said for creating relationships and showing the consumer a tangible item that they can interact with it.
When starting out, it's imperative that you do face to face events. Not so much to sell. But to get the reaction from the interested public as to what you're presenting to them.

If you are prepared to ask the right questions, rather than launch into sell mode, this is where you will learn what to tell visitors to your website about your product.

Questions to ask are. And you always start out with their story first.

What active wear do they currently have?

What do they like about it?

What don't they like about it?

How did they find out about it?

Is it comfortable?

Whatever else you think is important. These questions will evolve and change as you become more experienced in selling your product.

When assessing this information, then ask them if you can show them your product. And ask for feedback.

Do they like it?

Exactly why? What are all the features they like?

What are the benefits to them?

How do they think they will feel wearing your range? (This is the emotion you want to elicit. Emotion is what sells.)

Why not? Can they elaborate as to why not?

And go from there.

At the end of all this, you will either sell to them at your event. Without having to ask. Or you won't. But if you don't, you will know why. Which most businesses never know. Why someone doesn't buy. And it's rarely ever about price.

Long term, we want to be endorsed by a major female athlete.
That's a plus. But expensive. They never do this for free.

The downside is. What happens if they run foul of drug testing? Or something else that finds them at the mercy of the shark hunting media?

When it comes to wholesale versus direct-to-consumer, I THINK we are leaning towards more towards the direct-to-consumer path. It is definitely something to evaluate.
Direct to consumer is a harder road to travel.

Wholesaling means you're selling to establishments that already sell to your customer. It's not personally rewarding. But for many, it's lucrative. And not as time-consuming.

On the downside, if an establishment drops you, there goes your income from them. And then you have to scramble to replace it.

Finding your own customers. Like we did. Is much more difficult. And means you are constantly looking for new markets.

But that, to me, is the challenge of being in business.

I've spent more than 15 years looking for a key to unlock a door that was akin to breaking into Fort Knox. I finally found it. And find myself in the position of being able to offer my product range - exclusively - no competitors - to a membership list of 36,000 men and women who iron. It's the equivalent of a captive audience.

I am so very excited.

What was attractive to this organisation is that I've no presence in retail stores. So what I'm offering their members is the ability to buy products that are not readily available to their members elsewhere. And once they purchase my ironing board cover. There are 5 other products they can also purchase.

That is what excited the directors of this organisation.

Businesses walk on both sides of the street.

Wholesaling.

And selling direct to customers.

How you get your product into the marketplace is totally dependent on what is personally the best fit for you. And what sort of relationships you want to build into your business life.

I'm delighted I was of help, Kristin. And please keep me in the loop. You can contact me anytime with a personal message. Many people in this forum already do.

Best wishes for your journey along this particular Yellow Brick Road. ~Carol❤

PS. Thank you for your generosity. Loved seeing it! And am surprised as well.
 
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Carol Jones

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Oh I would PAY to watch that!!! :rofl:

Maybe a new business opportunity for you, Carol: a subscription service to a video channel of "Carol eviscerating some evil rude stuffed shirt who richly deserves it!" LOL !!
G'day @garyfritz from Oz,

My partner, Victor, often wants to just walk away from me when I turn into Mr Hyde. But he feels obligated to stay. Without interfering. Just to stop me from being arrested.

When we first started out, we were working with a company on our first product.

When we arrived to pick up the finished product, it was a complete stuff up.

The owner of the company, which was a relatively small company, took no responsibility. He simply blamed the problem on an employee.

I snapped. Got up on my soapbox. And pointed out to him that as the owner of the company, the buck stopped with him. And how dare he be spineless and accuse an employee. When he assured us he would be in charge of quality control.

That was just for starters.

I actually don't remember the rest.

Victor told me I was so angry, he was ready to pull me off the owner. Just in case it was necessary.

When he could get a word in edgewise, the owner assured us the problem would be fixed by 3pm.

When we returned at 3pm, Victor politely asked me to stay in the car. Which I did.

When he met with the owner, the owner looked around. And asked where 'she' was. Victor assured him 'she' was locked in the car. For his safety.

He then proceeded to commiserate with Victor about having to deal with a 'sheila' like me every day.

We found another supplier.

It's a pleasure to exchange stories, Gary. Until next time! ~Carol❤
 
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@Carol Jones

I appreciate the time you took to write up the latest posts here.

I am constantly debating with myself on which distribution path to go (b2c, b2b, both?), and you provided some valuable insight into what goes into making that choice.

It has given me more to think about.
 
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Carol Jones

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@Carol Jones

I appreciate the time you took to write up the latest posts here.

I am constantly debating with myself on which distribution path to go (b2c, b2b, both?), and you provided some valuable insight into what goes into making that choice.

It has given me more to think about.
It's a pleasure @amp0193 to have been of help. Thank you for letting me know.

Nothing is ever written in stone in business.

If one path doesn't work out as you wish. There are always other paths. And forks in the road.

Opportunities are everywhere. The trick is to recognise them as opportunities.

And thank you for your generosity. Unexpected. And so very much appreciated by me!

Best wishes ~Carol❤
 

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A few folks pointed me in the direction of this thread. Wow - what a story.

I love the way you talk to everyone here - I can almost picture you picking up a pen and fresh piece of paper, thinking for a moment and writing a personal note to them. Just amazing :)

You have a great story and I'm so happy you're here sharing it with everyone.
 
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Carol Jones

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A few folks pointed me in the direction of this thread. Wow - what a story.

I love the way you talk to everyone here - I can almost picture you picking up a pen and fresh piece of paper, thinking for a moment and writing a personal note to them. Just amazing :)

You have a great story and I'm so happy you're here sharing it with everyone.
Good morning Jason @JAJT from Oz,

Thank you!

You're very insightful. I don't pick up a pen and paper. But I do think. And explore links to the person I'm replying to. So I can find out more about them. Before I post my reply.

I've looked at your Kickstarter campaign. Your website. And your Instagram account.

It's all as you say. Extraordinarily talented artists. Producing works of art for jigsaw puzzles.

What a fabulous. And simple. Idea.

How did you come up with the idea for the puzzles?

And how/why did you choose the name Bone Owl Puzzles?

No! Don't tell me. I'm at page one of your thread. Where you're 'down and out'. I'm already hooked. Let me read it all. And find out for myself!

A pleasure to meet you, Jason. I'm sure we'll stay in touch. ~Carol❤

PS. Thank you for your generosity. Always appreciated.
 
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Carol Jones

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No! Don't tell me. I'm at page one of your thread. Where you're 'down and out'. I'm already hooked. Let me read it all. And find out for myself!
G'day again Jason @JAJT from Oz,

What a small world it really is. Up until you dropped in yesterday to say G'day, I had no idea who you were. Or what you did.

I've read about half of your thread and stopped. So I could share with you where I am with puzzles.

I'm an amateur photographer. With - fortunately - a very good eye. I can quickly frame a photo and know it's going to be a good shot. I also have an exceptionally good long range, superzoom digital camera. Which you need when you're photographing wildlife in the distance. Which are always on the move.

I live and work from my remote 54 hectare (135 acres) beautiful rural property that's located in the hill country of a very picturesque part of rural Australia. On the east coast.

Every morning at sunrise, I talk a walk on my property. With my camera around my neck. Photograph what I see. And choose one photo every morning to post to my social media accounts.

Because we emphasise that we are a rural business, I also use my photos on my website. In all my newsletters. And in my emails to customers and prospects.

I've been taking these photos since 2012. And have hundreds of thousands stored on my desktop.

I receive enough compliments on a regular basis regarding the photos, to know they're very appealing to people. And are often asked the following:

Can I purchase one as wall art? No. I don't have the facility to produce them. Nor do I want to.

Will I do a calendar? No. The online world is awash with calendars.

What about a book of your photos? No. Too expensive.

Tea towels? That doesn't really excite me.

Fridge magnets? No. I can't see that being a good market for me.

Cards. That's a maybe. But how many people send cards these days?

What stopped me in my tracks this February was a customer. Who told me that every time I post a photo of the kangaroos that roam my land, her grandchildren, whom she looks after 3 days a week while their mother and father go out to work, are mesmerised by their images. Being an artist, and a dedicated grandmother who is besotted with her grandchildren, she asked me if I had ever thought about turning my photos into puzzles for young children.

Especially as the wildlife that I photograph - kangaroos, exotic birds, wild goats, sheep that my neighbour agists onto my property, my neighbour's horses - are rarely seen by children in the city.

That idea excited me! Because. I'm a jigsaw puzzle fan. Have been since my parents gave me a jigsaw puzzle as a child.

It's also an excellent way to use my photographs. And a different way to generate revenue from them.

I already have a cultivated market for grandchildren. My customers. Who are mature. Many of them grandparents. Who could see them as a perfect gift for their grandchildren.

I'm 3 weeks into this venture. And this is where I am at right now.

We are dedicated to having everything we offer to the public made in Australia. Our quality. And made in Austalia. Are major selling points for us.

I didn't think that puzzle making was a big venture in Oz. But my partner, Victor, did a quick scan of Google and found several pages of makers here.

Most of the puzzle makers do one-off personal puzzles. They will turn any photo into a puzzle. Your wedding. Favourite photo of your child. A special event. Becomes a puzzle.

What an eye-opener that was for us.

So that was hurdle number one jumped.

My interest in photography is in the morning walk. And the taking of the photos. And posting them to my social media accounts.

I'm not particularly interested in curating my photos. But Victor is very interested. He's been at me for several years to do something constructive with them. When he sees an exceptionally good photo, he says, 'that's one for the wall.'

And he's also excited by the puzzle venture.

He's talked to several puzzle makers. And has chosen one he thinks is more suitable for us. Especially as they specialise in puzzles for children. They make puzzles for the Department of Education for young children.

They can make puzzles that are 30 large pieces. Or 60 smaller pieces. They also make 500 piece puzzles. And 1000 piece puzzles.

And they also have no minimum purchase requirement. One puzzle is fine for them.

It's a husband and wife team who showed more interest in our venture than the other puzzle makers. And are more than happy for Victor to send them a photo. Which they will make into a puzzle. And send to us as a sample.

Because we don't know if this will be successful or not, Victor wants to offer the puzzles on our website as custom made-to-order only. So we're not holding stock. Customers can choose their puzzle from 'X' number of photos.

This puzzle maker has a guaranteed 2-day turnaround time per order. And is happy to mail direct to our customer. Which means we're eliminating one cost. Which is the Australia Post charge to get the puzzles to us. And then us to mail to our customer. Australia Post is one of the most expensive postal services in the world. And double posting is dead money.

Whether we do that depends on how the product is presented when we open the parcel. I'm very fussy about the fact that when customers open a parcel from me, it should be akin to receiving a gift in the mail. So we'll see about that one.

Victor has cast his architect's eye over the photos. He's also a very talented pencil artist. So his eye is more critical than mine would be. Has chosen about 50 that he thinks will work. And is ready to send a photo to the puzzle maker. For us to receive a sample.

If I was doubtful before I read your posts. And I was. As we all are when we start a new venture. I'm not now. Your thread has convinced me this is a genuine opportunity. And I'm looking forward to receiving the sample.

Being in this business for 24 years, I also know that disappointment is just around the corner regarding companies who make things. And I hope this puzzle maker doesn't disappoint. Because then we're back to square one.

I was particularly taken by your comment about puzzle dust. And is definitely something I will be looking for.

Thank you, Jason, for your thread. It's been very enlightening. And encouraging. I'll finish reading your thread by the end this week. ~Carol❤
 

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Sounds like a great idea :)

With your experience I'll probably even learn a thing from you along the way!

Glad I could inspire you. Do let me know if I can help along the way (if I don't respond to @ mentions just PM me - I often miss mentions, mistaking them for likes).

I'm very hopeful for my new puzzle venture and I wish you all the best of luck with yours!
 
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Carol Jones

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I'm very hopeful for my new puzzle venture and I wish you all the best of luck with yours!
Thank you, Jason @JAJT from Oz,

You're much further ahead than I am. And more ambitious. And have a more urgent need for your project to succeed.

This is product number 6 to add to my range. So I have time to develop it. And get people used to seeing it on the site. And to learn what is the best story to tell them.

Many years ago, when we added our Best Boy Pressing Cloth to our website, hardly anyone purchased one. It languished for about two years. Today, 50% of my orders include a pressing cloth.

Because I had time to listen to people who purchased them. And found out why.

Over time, I adjusted my story on my website to include the 'whys'. And boom. One day it suddenly became an important part of my package.

Helped by the fact that many of my new customers are men who iron their own work garments. And they value a pressing cloth for pressing their suits and trousers.

So here's to future success in the world of puzzles. For both of us! I'll share what I discover with you. Even though my market is totally different to yours. ~Carol❤
 

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REP+ again @Carol Jones,
How much equity do you need to be my adviser? ;)
Thank you, Jason @JAJT from Oz,

You're much further ahead than I am. And more ambitious. And have a more urgent need for your project to succeed.

This is product number 6 to add to my range. So I have time to develop it. And get people used to seeing it on the site. And to learn what is the best story to tell them.

Many years ago, when we added our Best Boy Pressing Cloth to our website, hardly anyone purchased one. It languished for about two years. Today, 50% of my orders include a pressing cloth.

Because I had time to listen to people who purchased them. And found out why.

Over time, I adjusted my story on my website to include the 'whys'. And boom. One day it suddenly became an important part of my package.

Helped by the fact that many of my new customers are men who iron their own work garments. And they value a pressing cloth for pressing their suits and trousers.

So here's to future success in the world of puzzles. For both of us! I'll share what I discover with you. Even though my market is totally different to yours. ~Carol❤
I'm fully expecting you to create a progress thread for your new venture @Carol Jones!
 
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Carol Jones

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Good morning @Greg R from Oz,

How much equity do you need to be my adviser? ;)
Thank you for your kind words.

But.

There is a big difference between me sharing stories about my business. How I do things. And what happens in my business. Which I know intimately after 24 years.

And giving advice to someone whose business I don't know at all.

Everything I know is based on my experience inside my business. And what I read in books. In the media. In conversations with other people. And what I learn through my online courses. Which are all geared to helping me develop the skills I need to run my business.

There's so much I don't know about how other businesses are run. That I could never travel the path of being an adviser. Advising other people is such a huge responsibility. I just don't have that broad breadth of experience.

I'm fully expecting you to create a progress thread for your new venture @Carol Jones!
It never occurred to me to do that, Greg. It's such a small venture compared to what @JAJT is achieving. I'll give it some thought though.

I love how you stay in touch. It's always appreciated! ~Carol❤
 

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@Carol Jones

I just wanted to thank you, as something in this post originally brought me to the Fastlane Forum via a random Google search. More importantly I face a crossroads in my life similar to what you and partner faced many moons ago. My takeaway from your first post was that relocating outside the city allowed you to keep your expenses down, which was paramount to you both being able to "weather the storm?" By providing some living expense relief did you feel that you were better able to focus? Thanks again for sharing your story and insights
 

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Carol Jones

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G'day @itsemdub from Oz,

We had no option but to leave Sydney Australia. We had no means to support ourselves other than the tail end of an architectural project that Victor had to finish. Sydney just wasn't an option. We needed to sell our house to reduce debt. And everything to rent was just too expensive.

Leaving behind everyone we knew was a blessing. We got rid of personal excess baggage.

They were our friends. And relatives. Who had expectations as to how we would dig ourselves out of our predicament.

What were their expectations?

Get a job. They couldn't understand there were no architectural jobs on offer. The industry had just imploded. We were accused of not trying hard enough. Which was true. We didn't want jobs. We didn't want to work for someone else after working for ourselves for 12 years.

Moving away from these friends and relatives meant we could reinvent ourselves in a place where no one knew us. Or our background.

We were free to become whoever we wanted to become. Without external pressure. Or expectations.

The fact that it was also cheaper meant we had space to breathe financially. Not much. But we knew we could afford the rent. And the owner of the farmhouse was so desperate to have it rented in the midst of one of the worst droughts ever, there was no chance he was going to increase the rent.

Did it help us weather the storm? Yes. It did. We were in a new environment. And had little time to reflect on what we'd lost.

It's a pleasure to meet you @itsemdub. I hope this helps you. And welcome to the forum. You'll meet many people here who you will learn from. It's a place like no other!

What do you do now? And what do you hope to get from the forum members? ~Carol❤
 
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Carol Jones

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Carol, bless your story and process. This quote stuck out to me like a blooming orchid in a field of dandelions. Thanks for giving the Fastlane community and the world tremendous value :)

G'day @Tri Pham from Oz,

Thank you! And welcome to the forum!

Never be afraid to make a mistake. We learn more from our mistakes. Then we do from our successes.

Doing nothing always gives you the same result. Nothing happens.

It's always better to do something.

Doing something gives you the chance to Act. Assess. Adjust. From 'Unscripted'.

And you learn from doing something. You learn what works. What doesn't.

You learn how to refine what doesn't work. You change. You re-try. You refine. Until one day you have a modus operandi that works for you.

Professionals understand this process.

Doctors study for 'X' years before they're allowed to treat a patient. Under supervision.

Ditto for lawyers. Architects. Geologists. Archaeologists. Nurses.

For some reason, men and women think they can hang a shingle out that says . . . 'I'm in business'. And be an expert within 24 hours.

It doesn't work that way.

After 24 years in my business, I'm still learning. And refining.

And I have a better business because of it. And I'm a better businesswoman because of it.

It's a pleasure to meet you. What do you do? And what do you hope to learn from the members of this forum? ~Carol❤
 
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Carol Jones

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Wish your business will going smooth.
G'day @Alicesu from Oz,

Welcome to The Fastlane Forum.

Thank you! That's so sweet of you to wish me well. It's so very much appreciated.

And the same to you.

I hope all your dreams are helped to fruition by the members of this forum. You're in the right place. ~Carol❤
 
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Carol Jones

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I'm fully expecting you to create a progress thread for your new venture @Carol Jones!
Good morning Greg @Greg R,

I thought about your request for a thread about my puzzles. I didn't consider it to be important at the time, as it's not a big venture.

But when I was writing my thoughts about the steps needed to get this up and going. I realised that although it's not a major venture, the steps involved are still the same. Just less stressful.

This is the link Jigsaw Puzzles By The Paddock Paparazzi.

And thank you for the nudge. Very much appreciated. ~Carol❤
 

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Thank you @Kerin.

I would never deal with Amazon. I don't share their values. I care about how people who work for a company are treated. And Amazon has the same reputation as Apple under Steve Jobs. They burn people up. And treat them poorly. And there is nothing about Jeff Bezos personally that I admire.

This is also why I don't have my products in retail outlets. Retailers are more interested in their bottom line. Than they are in the people who help them earn that bottom line.

It's harder to do what I'm doing. But the warm relationship I have with my customers is so rewarding. I just love the feedback. My Fitz Like A Glove™ Ironing Board Cover is going to travel the world as the ironing board cover of choice on an $8 million yacht that hosts 8 guests at a time as it cruises Australia and New Zealand. The owner placed the order yesterday. And told me how excited the crew is knowing it will be ironing on the best cover in the world.

Butlers and housekeepers in BIG houses in Australia buy my cover. And we've formed very warm friendships. Butlers are amongst my biggest referrals.

I also count celebrities. And members of the BRW Rich List amongst my customers. They're not looking for me on Amazon.

Earlier this year we covered all the boards at the new prestige MacQ01 hotel in Hobart, Tasmania. The hotel group which manages the hotel chose us, even though we were the most expensive cover. Because of our quality. And they love that it's made with love and care in rural Australia by men and women who have a disability. After they received their order, they asked me to thank the men and women who make the cover. And to tell them how much their dedication to quality is appreciated.

We all have reasons as to who we choose to do business with. And why. I choose not to travel the route of businesses who have no vested interest in me personally.

I'm alone in this viewpoint, Kerin. My friends think I've got a screw missing. I don't. I instinctively know not to build a business on rented land. Where the rules change at the whim of the landlord. Which is why I don't cultivate Facebook. Amazon. Or any other platform like them.

I'm interested in long-term loyal customers. Who aren't distracted by what else they see when looking at my product range. Which is why I spend my time cultivating them on my land. But. Again. It's a harder road to travel.

I don't have children. But have many friends who do. It's natural to be distracted by your child. They need to be nurtured. And focussed on. That's what makes them. And you. Happy. And confident. You'll know when it's time to reignite your fire for your business.

Please keep me in the loop. ~Carol❤
How inspiring. You’ve built a business around your values, and a business that is now a vehicle to deliver more of those values to the world.

One of my favourite questions is:

“If money was no object, what work would you be doing?”

You’ve made me realise that we shouldn’t just think “what” work we’d be doing, but also “why” we’d be doing that work, and “how” we’d be doing it too.
 
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Rural Australia
www.interfaceaustralia.com
Good morning @Andy Black from Oz,

“If money was no object, what work would you be doing?”

You’ve made me realise that we shouldn’t just think “what” work we’d be doing, but also “why” we’d be doing that work, and “how” we’d be doing it too
Thank you for your kind words. And your generosity.

We all have different reasons for being in business.

And every business is different. Including similar businesses. Franchises may have the same decor. Same food. Same products. But the ambience is always determined by the people who own the franchise. Some are warm and friendly. Others not so much.

It doesn't matter what kind of business a person owns - I'm not talking about being an employee, but an owner with control - they are in command of why they own the business. And how they will run it.

And in 99% of cases, money is always an object!

Most businesses are created to be cash cows only. The owner has only one objective. To make as much money as possible. This was the mantra in the 'greed is good' era of the late 1980's and 1990's.

Which put an end to those companies who still cared about the welfare of their employees. And their customers.

That mantra still prevails today.

There was a time when the way I run my business was the norm. Now it's an anomaly.

The caring company is making a comeback. But when I talk to customers about how they're treated by most businesses, it's not happening quickly enough.

And most employees are of the opinion that their employers are $#%! Very few employees feel valued by the company they work for. Maybe the upper echelons might feel some appreciation. But most employees lower down are treated as if they're expendable.

Really small businesses are the exception.

Medium to large businesses have a disconnect between management and non-management.

Which is why so many people want to leave those conditions to create their own work environment. And become an 'entrepreneur'.

I'm a giver. And never did well in companies. I was always told I spent too much time with customers. Even though, in the last company I worked for, I brought in 1/3 of their total revenue in new business. I was the only one in sales targetting new business. And I brought it in because I spent time with people. And showed them how much I cared about them.

I'm happy with my lot in life. I would never in a million years willingly start a business selling ironing board covers. But I managed to turn this accidental business into a business that allows me to do so many things that I love to do.

All of us who own a business are in control of how and why we do what we do.

I often make sacrifices to run my business the way I do.

I've pulled out of joint ventures when I realised the other party has no vested interest in me. It cost me financially. But in every case, it was worth it. And by having to restructure my business, I have a better business.

I also have good instincts. I'm good at saying no, I won't go there. And a spine of steel. So when I say NO to an offer. Most people know I mean it.

Here's to you, Andy, doing what you know is worthwhile. And rewarding. For you. ~Carol❤
 

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