We’re all no doubt familiar with the basic concept of the international T.V hit the Apprentice. A group of bizarrely confident people in suits are tasked by Sir Alan Sugar (or for the American reader, Donald Trump) with selling items to the public, or to shops or to industry experts. It’s great Television, that’s not to say that I couldn’t imagine the majority of participants mugging members of public with a pool cue to garnish their bottom line whenever they’re off camera.
The sociopathic underlying nature is the central folly of most contestants; all brushed aluminium androids in Armani who see nothing inherently wrong with saying things like “Everything I touch turns to sold!” – “I am a brand!” – “I’m not here to make friends!” I mean come on guys… it’s nice to make a friend sometimes.
The reason I mention all this is that now I find myself in a similar situation to the candidates; I too am now approaching shops with the hopes of them stocking my fine products. I immediately dismissed the bullish, sales focused demeanour that I observed in my Apprentice contemporaries (one contestant demanding a storekeeper waive V.A.T on his purchases, dismissing the storekeeper’s protestations that it was “Tax evasion” and “illegal”)
I find that if you are insistent and rude then people are less likely to respond favourably to you, dismissing you as a “fool”. However, if you are polite, knowledgeable on your wares and willing to listen to shop-owners concerns and, where possible, make concessions, people are far more likely to engage with you and show an interest. When someone gives me negative feedback on my product I try to take it on-board and revise either the product or the packaging (within a degree of pragmatism) I am not the Alpha and Omega, I am but a humble soap maker and with each shop I approach I learn a thing or two (yesterday’s lesson: I need to help shops display the soap, to that end, if they order 15 bars or more then we’ll provide a free wicker basket that thematically suits the BarSoap range)
To that end, I have received orders from two shops and have received interest from two more which I will follow up in due course. Four shops seems to be plenty given that the majority of my soap production still takes place in my kitchen and I’m still can’t remember the difference between gross and net profit (someone should make a rhyme about it for businesses like the one children use to learn how many days are in the month…)
Anyone care to share any tips for the aspiring entrepreneur? I’m not too big to ask for help and advice… Good God I need help and advice!
Friday, 8 April 2011
“Keep your feet still!” This is not an ambiguous phrase; it is a very clear imperative. If someone told you to keep your feet still, you would most likely have a very good idea as to what they were getting at. However, in pursuing my goal of becoming England’s premier soap-salesman I’ve had to finally learn to drive and, due to a highly specific form of mental degradation, I don’t seem to be able to grasp this concept of keeping my feet still.
Basically, my clutch control is appalling.
My clutch control is so bad some police came round to question it in a series of unsolved, grisly murders; my clutch control is so bad that a soiled nappy left out in the sun phoned to complain about the smell; my clutch control is so bad Chancellor George Osborne blamed it for stalling the economic recovery of the U.K... I just can’t keep my feet still.
Unfortunately, the mountain will not come to Mohammed so It’s looking more and more likely I’ll have to drive my soap to potential customers/distributors and, far from the liberating experience I’ve so often heard it described as, thus far I’ve only observed hassles, heartbreak, expense and a gamut of stupidity in other drivers that can only be described as fascinating. Hell, thy name is Manchester’s one way system.
Needs must though; fiscally, it’s a misnomer to have 2 people going to craft fairs for relatively slight returns (last weeks combined man-hours for 1 craft fair: 12, not including journey times) especially when one of those people is a highly qualified solicitor.