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I feel like I could write a book - a big one - on what's really involved in running a small business. We're basically fire fighters. Probably not as brave (and almost certainly not calendar material) but every day there's some kind of fire that needs to be put out - and letting it extinguish itself naturally is never an option.
Yesterday felt like a quintessential 'day in the life of a small business': Highs. Lows. Big problems. Creative solutions.
For your consideration, I present: January 23.
The morning started off with a big purchase from a brand new retailer. We spent a good portion of fall, 2012 speaking with this retailer, inspiring confidence in Pacific Shaving's line of shaving products. In the end, they made the smart decision, punctuated by yesterday's great opening order.
Before the team at Pacific Shaving could spend a moment patting ourselves on the back, we quickly realized a problem. We did not have enough product on hand to fill the order - we were just four cases short. Normally, our inventory management would have been timed perfectly, but this new purchase order just arrived a couple of weeks earlier than expected and that threw everything into a potential panic. Having more demand than product is a good problem to have, but as anyone who runs a business that involves manufacturing will attest, it is a very real problem, nonetheless. Especially on the first order of brand new business.
All of a sudden finding four cases became like a treasure hunt. We couldn't find it anywhere. We came very close to heading out to our local retail partners (Whole Foods, Raley's, Lucky's, SaveMart, Bed, Bath, Beyond) and going through the (costly!) process of needing to buy our own product off the shelves to fill out this new PO. [Note to budding entrepreneurs: buying your own product off the shelves to then resell to others is a great way to lose money, fast.]
Then CC remembered Amazon. Amazon! Amazon sells our products too - and they had six cases on hand. We hate being out of stock anywhere, but if we had to make the tough decision, that was the place to be temporarily out. Unfortunately, a quick call to Amazon's Fulfillment Center informed us that they could ship back product from their warehouse, but the fees they would charge us to do it would make this a costly mistake/lesson learned. Still, we didn't have much choice and were ready to open our checkbooks. But there was still a deal breaker - it would take at least seven days to arrive. Even with the fees, it would take too long. We needed it in two days.
And there was the epiphany - two days. We need it in two days - and we subscribe to Amazon Prime! Instead of shipping our product out of Amazon's back door at a big expense, let's ship out their front door - for free! (Cue Ocean's Eleven music here.) Plus, as an Amazon distributed product, we have the ability to run promotions on our products. So for five minutes in the middle of the day, we set a promotional price (for anyone!) to $0.01 - then we bought four cases worth! An Amazon Prime click later and with minimal fulfillment fees, we had our product on its way, shipping expedited 2-day - and for free! Fire extinguished.
If you've got the stomach for it, days like yesterday are the ones that are actually fun and make you feel great about running your own business. Unfortunately, you just need to survive until the end of the day to realize it.
Hopefully tomorrow we'll just have to deal with a kitten in a tree.