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Friday, August 19, 2016

Sales for August Pick Up After A Slow Start And A Wonderful 45th Birthday!

The past several weeks have been a blur. First the E-bay conversion. Then inventory. Then the financial statements and now the meetings with the bank and all our investors, as we try to secure the funding that we need to sustain us while we implement the rest of our business plan. We are finally coming to the end of this process, and the good news is that it looks very much like we will secure all the investor financing that we were seeking. We won't hear back from the bank until next Wednesday, and we are fully prepared for them to turn us down. If this happens, Steph and I have decided that we will give our notice and move anyway, even if that means that we have to rent for a while. Then, once we are in New Brunswick, we can establish a relationship with the local banks there. We may find that they are more inclined to approve a loan out there - especially if they really do believe that our business will create jobs for New Brunswickers. I had wanted to start the application process here in Toronto because I believed that from a psychological perspective, the amount we were looking to borrow is so low compared to what other people here borrow, that securing approval would be easier. However, I see now that this may not actually be the case.

I've had many comments over the last several months that suggest that some people do not consider our business viable because we aren't making enough after a year to support a lifestyle in Toronto. I can understand where these people are coming from, but I really do believe that these comments stem from not understanding the processes by which a business is built. The reality is that building businesses from scratch and getting them to a point where they can employ other people is incredibly hard work: hard in the sense that your responsibility is unlimited and in the sense that very few activities that you engage in, or tasks that you complete will yield immediate results. This stands in stark contrast to the situation that most employees have, where they complete a task and get paid - an instant result. Most of the things we entrepreneurs do only achieve visible results over time and it is often really tempting to quit on the grounds that what we are doing is not working. Take social media marketing for example. Does anyone really know how long one has to be blogging to generate sales leads from social media? Probably a lot longer than one would think. Does this mean that you should quit if you have blogged for a year and have a solid reader base, but no sales from the blog? I don't know. But what I do know from experience is that most things in business take time and developing good habits does yield results over time.

What are some examples of good habits? I can think of several:

  • Sending out orders in a timely manner - either the day they are received or the next day. 
  • Letting customers know when they can expect their item. 
  • Taking the time to personally thank customers for their business and elicit feedback from them that will enable you to serve them better in the future. You would be surprised how few businesses bother to do this. While most customers will not engage, and will ignore your communication, the ones who do will become loyal clients. Even the ones that don't will respect you for going to the trouble. 
  • Responding to questions from customers or prospective customers quickly, efficiently and within a day of them contacting us. 
  • Being thorough and accurate in our item descriptions. Again, most e-bay sellers in my field do not do this at all. 
  • Providing scans of both sides of a stamp where it is helpful. 
  • Sharing your knowledge of your field by writing and posting blog articles about relevant topics. This reinforces the perception that you know your field and that you are willing to share your knowledge. 
Not doing these things once, or twice has no noticeable impact on the business, but I believe that doing them all -consistently, over a long period of time is very powerful. 

Why do I mention all this? Because I believe that all the above is the reason why the experts say that it takes 3-5 years to make a business profitable to the point that it can pay salaries to its founder and other employees. The purpose of this upcoming move is to ensure that our funding will last long enough for us to build the business to this point. We can see clearly now that the customers are out there and that they like our product. But we just don't have enough of our inventory listed for sale, or enough customers for our sales to be large enough to cover salaries. We can also see that our sales are highly profitable, so the business model itself is completely sound. No, the issue for us is that we need time: time to develop our customer relationships and time to get our inventory listed for sale. 

Today is my 45th birthday, and it has been absolutely amazing! We started the day off with almost $1,000 of sales from one repeat customer, who has spent several thousand with us this past year. Steph made me breakfast in bed, Viktor was extra affectionate today and I am going out to my favourite steakhouse for dinner tonight. I was also amazed to find 165 birthday wishes on Facebook this morning. I have spent most of today responding to all these birthday wishes with thank-yous and comments. Now it is time for a well earned nap - I'm wiped. 

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