Wednesday, 27 April 2011

I'm Fired!

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!

Much obliged,

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  1. Good for you! I sell my jewelry in 8 different shops and it happened because I was willing to put myself out there. A few things I learned: Always speak highly of your work. Have your prices firmly in your head and always follow up to all of the shops your visited. Even the ones that said "no". Good luck.

  2. Congratulations on the shop orders!

    I find it interesting that the bright stars who disappear after a while have the former, obnoxious style you mentioned whereas people who take the long view of slowly building good relationships steadily seem to be the ones with longevity.

    I find that if I have a choice between a cheaper product with a crappy or impersonal service and a more expensive one in a shop that makes the customer feel comfortable and valued, I'm more than happy to spend the extra £'s.

  3. Thanks guys - I'm doing the best with what I have and trying not to expand beyond my reach.