A lot of the times when we hear entrepreneurs talk about their business, we hear them talk about how much revenue they are bringing in or all the things they did right. While that is great and everyone should celebrate their successes, we should also look at our failures and lessons learned to find ways to improve and help others avoid those same mistakes. This post will focus on some of my failures and lessons I’ve learned in business. My goal in this post is to help you in your business venture.
I know this will be a common mistake for entrepreneurs, but my first mistake was estimating the amount of time it would take to start/run a business. I remember thinking it would take me no more than a few months to get Franklin Morrow off the ground. Fun fact: it took nearly two years. This was due to me wanting to get everything perfect before bringing this business to the public. While I think this was a great strategy in terms of product quality, I wasted a lot of time second guessing myself in terms of my business plan, branding my business, social media posts, etc...With the exception of product quality, I view action as far more important than perfection. I can always change things if needed, but it’s more important to get things done than second guessing yourself along the way and wasting valuable time. I now always assume something will take three times as long as I assume it will.
My second biggest mistake was assuming I’d never have production or shipping delays. I had done my homework, so why should I worry about those things (naive thinking, I know)? I had researched everything I could about the production of socks and shipping times, but my first large order was three weeks later than expected. This means customers were expecting orders that arrived almost three weeks late and in the world of Amazon, three days seems like an eternity. Our hold up on that shipment was two-part. The first part was a production problem. Multiple pieces of equipment in our production facility had gone down for several days. This caused delays that resulted in over a week-long delay in the production of our socks. The shipping of that order was delayed an additional few days due to an issue with paperwork I had filled out. Needless to say, I figured out quickly how to fill out the appropriate paperwork for shipping. Things like this will happen in business and sometimes there is nothing you can do about it. Keep reading below to see my lesson learned from this.
This lesson learned goes somewhat hand in hand with the shipping and production issue mentioned above. When we had those issues, I did a poor job communicating those delays to our customers. It was because I was embarrassed. I thought because things were delayed, it would look like I was not capable of running a business. After some conversations with other business owners, I determined over communicating was going to be my winning strategy. From that point forward, if there were going to be any delays or issues with any order, the customer was the first to know. I’ve found that people are understanding when you are upfront and honest with them.
It’s important to say here that if you are in the social media marketing and marketing field you deserve a raise immediately. This was one of my biggest struggles as a new business. I assumed I could post a nice picture and include some hashtags and my post would be seen by people trying to buy socks. This was not the case. It takes massive and consistent action to build a social media presence. This is an area I’m still trying to master, but one item that has really helped me grow my knowledge of how best to utilize social media was interacting with other social media posts in a genuine and authentic way. I try to spend at least 5 minutes a day encouraging people and commenting on other businesses and individuals posts. I’ve found that this does a couple things. Selfishly, it boosts my mood because I’m encouraging people, and who doesn’t like to do that? It also leads people to come check out my page and interact with me!
I’m sure when other entrepreneurs read this there may be some disagreement with this next one, but I’m going to say it anyway. After almost four years in business I’ve come to realize how important processes are to your success. You must keep to your processes no matter the cost. Obviously that sentence should include the caveat that those processes have to be successful. At times, I’ve had clients ask me to break our processes in order to better fit their needs. I’ve done this three times because the order was huge for Franklin Morrow and hard to turn down. However, after agreeing to the terms of the deal, I had run into new issues because I was operating outside of my normal protocol. This ranged from an upfront financial burden on me, large increases in the use of time per order and larger delays due to design changes at the last second. I always try to be accommodating as possible, but you should trust that your processes work, even if it means not landing a big deal.
If these paragraphs had titles this one would have the title “the pandemic”. I’m not even sure where to begin here, or if an explanation is necessary. We all felt the hardships of a pandemic. Let’s be honest, socks aren’t a necessity when everything else around you seems to be falling apart. Businesses are deciding on whether to let go of employees or shut their doors, not rewarding their employees or clients with custom socks. The stores our socks were in were closed for months and when they reopened, it wasn’t the same for months after that. To be honest, it was a rough year. I think I had all of the emotions in the book through the last 18 months. Fear of the unknown, to sadness for what we saw every day. However, If there ever was a silver lining to the pandemic, it gave us the opportunity to retool and rethink how we can best serve our neighbors. This led us to new partnerships and lasting relationships. It helped us reimagine what Franklin Morrow could be and how best to get there. The pandemic made me even more thankful for the store owners where our socks are sold. They were always open, honest, communicated regularly and cared about the entrepreneurs in their stores.
If after reading this, you’re thinking, “Man, Alex made a bunch of mistakes starting/running a business,” then you’re right. It’s definitely been a learning experience and I’ve been presented with some unique challenges, but I wouldn’t change any of it. It’s helped me grow into a better business person and a better human in general. Of course there are more lessons learned than I could fit into a blog post, but these have been a few that have stuck out in my head. In a future post, I’ll talk about some of the successes of Franklin Morrow and what I’ve learned from those wins, but for now I wanted to make myself vulnerable and let aspiring entrepreneurs know it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes you have to fail before you grow.