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This week on #Smallbizchat LIVE, our show featured three guests: How to Grow a Product-Based Business with Amber Malcom, @shabbychickcleaners, How to Prepare Your Business for Digital Transformation with Andrew Au, @InterceptCanada, and How to Raise Smallbiz Kids with Tamara Zantell, @tamarazantell.
I pulled three of the best questions from each of them to share with you. Every third Wednesday of the month, Smallbizchat LIVE is broadcast on my SmallBizLady Facebook Page, YouTube channel, and on Twitter @SmallBizLady.
Amber Malcom, JD is CEO of Shabby Chick Natural Products. She started the company after a personal quest to find 100% natural cleaning products. Today she sells over two dozen household products made from all natural ingredients. She has a 65-hundred square foot state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Duncan, OK, where she lives with her husband and children. Her products have been featured on the Home Shopping Network, and they are sold all over the country. For more information www.ShabbyChickCleaners.com
SmallBizLady: Once I get my product out there, how do I land big clients, like HSN or QVC? And is it worth it?
Amber Malcom: I have found a great way to grab the attention of buyers. Look for contests, like pitch contests for new products. HSN and QVC occasionally run pitch contests. Look for these, as they are often attended by the buyers themselves who are looking not just for products, but they also look for people who are good at selling their product. In dealing with HSN, you need to watch out for unexpected costs. The “hidden” costs were flights, hotels, car rentals traveling to film, hiring a firm to set the stage, and preparing props. If I didn’t want to fly to Florida, I was responsible for hiring a Television Host. It was fun, but I didn’t make money.
SmallBizLady: How long is the typical buying cycle with a large retailer?
Amber Malcom: Follow up is key! Many large retail buyers take months, if not over a year, to complete the first purchase. Set a schedule to email/call the buyers regularly to follow up. And be sure to follow up as soon as you get home from a trade show, generally with a handwritten thank you card. Then keep going, send some more. Persistence is everything.
SmallBizLady: What is it like negotiating with big buyers?
Amber Malcom: The biggest lesson I can share is READ THE CONTRACT. Everything is negotiable, just make sure you know what all needs to be negotiated! Watch your bottom line. Big buyers don’t always mean big profits. Watch for buyback clauses too. I’ve heard horror stories of small businesses having to take back thousands of dollars’ worth of product that doesn’t sell or is damaged in transit. Make sure you can afford to do business with a large retailer. There are many hidden costs from big buyers—freight, pallets, wraps, inspections ($2500), special shipping boxes, advertising, display stands, and special pricing. Read the contract. (Wait, let me say that slower. Read. The. Contract.)
Andrew Au is the co-founder of INTERCEPT, a strategic management consultancy based in Toronto and Boston. When companies like Microsoft, FedEx, and 3M want to accelerate their digital transformation journey, they call Andrew. Referred to by Forbes as a “millennial expert,” Andrew offers custom research studies for a diverse set of organizations including Microsoft, Harley Davidson, Intuit and a wide variety of trade associations. For more information: https://interceptgroup.com/
SmallBizLady: Every company can benefit from digital transformation, but that doesn’t mean every company should change in the same way. How do you see digital transformation for small businesses?
Andrew Au: Small businesses need to first understand how they need to transform their organization. Today, most organizations are undergoing a digital transformation. Businesses are rethinking how they operate, how they empower their staff, and how they engage their customers.
As customer expectations evolve, so must our approach to customer engagement. Marketers are hungry for new tools that can enable hyper-personalized, on-demand, and omnichannel customer journeys.
Everything can’t happen at once, and a slow transition to newer digital methods tends to work best. I say prioritize the things that need to be transformed, i.e., a POS system in a restaurant or a new server system for a small office. Then move on to what might be considered the smaller things like new devices.
The most important thing will be to consult an expert. ‘Digital transformation’ is still relatively new, and it’s easy to get caught up in moving things along. It’s better to get it done right the first time, so be sure to work through it with someone who’s been there before.
SmallBizLady: You can’t change everything at once, do you suggest starting small or using a multi-year approach to tackling technology initiatives?
Andrew Au: It is best to set priorities and tackle each, one by one. You can be most effective by focusing on each item individually and then moving on to the next thing.
I’ve studied a lot of workplaces and, in particular, have a pretty thorough understanding of the millennial market. Phasing digital transformation into your business slowly will give your team the time they need to ask questions and to learn about the new processes and tools. This will ensure you don’t lose or lower team morale throughout your transformation.
I often talk about ‘building your marketing tech stack.’ My suggestion would be to start with a Data Management Platform (DMP). A DMP is a central hub for your customer data collected from first- and third-party sources. Data empowers personalized customer engagement. It is the most important part of the marketing tech stack, as it informs your strategy and refines your execution. As more data is generated and collected, a strong DMP becomes increasingly important. Since customer relationships and making customers happy are the primary and critical component of a business, starting with a DMP and building from there is the key to success.
SmallBizLady: How should a small business prioritize what business systems to upgrade?
Andrew Au: This isn’t something we can generalize. I’d say it comes down to first, changing the things that will help the business run more smoothly, faster. If you need new laptops, but an overhaul of a server system means your team can work more effectively, then the devices can wait. Again, consulting with an expert who’s undergone a similar transition in the same industry will give small businesses the insights needed to be able to make the right decision.
Tamara Zantell is the founder of Raising A Mogul, LLC and the CEO of RAM Brand Management, a strategic brand management & consulting firm The mission is simple, give parents the confidence, knowledge, and tools they need to Raise Young Moguls. For more information raisingamogul.com
SmallBizLady: What do you think it’s important to teach kids about business ownership?
Tamara Zantell: I believe we must teach our children about entrepreneurship because the benefits are enormous. The goal should be for young people from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds to experience entrepreneurship as it teaches our children to think outside the box and nurtures unconventional talents and skills. In addition, it creates opportunity, ensures social justice, instills confidence, and stimulates the economy. Unfortunately, this is something most schools don’t include in their curriculum.
SmallBizLady: What advice do you have for parents who have identified the gifts and talents within their child and want to help develop them in their child? Where do they start?
Tamara Zantell: It’s important for them to identify what resources are available within their local community that will support the child’s talents and dreams. Exposing your child to as many opportunities to learn about their passion will provide an invaluable amount of training upfront. This will offer the child options before you waste time and money on something they may not love or want to continue. Lastly, they should join the Raising A Mogul Community to learn more about how they can gain the confidence, knowledge, and tools required to raise a mogul.
SmallBizLady: In the era of helicopter parents, what advice do you have for standing back and making sure it’s actually the child’s business?
Tamara Zantell: I love this question because this is a real thing. In our quest to ensure a successful future for our children, we as parents, at times can get a little carried away. When it comes to “managing” our children’s affairs and wanting them to be the best, there is a fine line when it comes to being a parent vs. manager. Just like in life, we have to allow our children to blossom, but initially, we have to root them in our family values. We must create opportunities for them to learn the ins and outs of their industry. We have to make sure they have access to information that will position them as an expert. Once that work has been done, parents can trust that their young mogul is prepared to do business.
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