Top 10 Lessons In The Last 10 Years!

OTS 146 | Retail Tips

 

The road to success is never an easy one. However, all the challenges you face are meant to help you become a better and learned entrepreneur. In this episode, Tim shares the top ten lessons he has learned as an entrepreneur and talks about TLB Consulting’s tenth anniversary. Get insights as he shares some essential tips on retail, product packaging, and continuously pursuing your dreams.

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Top 10 Lessons In The Last 10 Years!

I know that it’s been a while. Somebody wrote to me and said, “Why did you stop your podcast?” It hit me that I haven’t put out a podcast in quite some time, long enough for people to think that I actually stopped doing it. I want to apologize for that. We didn’t stop the podcast. We couldn’t stop it. It won’t stop even if we wanted to. We got stopped. I’ll share with you that my mother passed away. If you’ve ever lost a parent, you’ll know what my sister and I are dealing with. It’s difficult to say the least. If your parents are divorced and so they’re each separate, then the kids are left dealing with that estate. It’s not being handled by my father. It’s being handled by my sister and me.

I spent about fourteen or fifteen days in San Diego, California working with my sister to get my mom’s affairs in order, all the time dealing with the loss of a parent. I think it’s weird if that’s the right word, strange maybe. I wake up every day and think that I have one less parent than I did. That is strange. It is weird. After my entire life of being lucky enough to be where I am at now and having both of my parents. My wife lost her father when she was much younger, so she didn’t get the benefit of having her dad there with her as long as I’ve had both of my parents. Even though I’ve been blessed, it’s still weird. It’s still strange to wake up in the morning and know that you have one less parent.

I used to call my mom when I would go out to get the family dinner if we were going to dinner from a restaurant or we were doing takeout or whatever. That time, I would generally use to ring up my mom and chat with her for a minute when I was on my way to and from to get dinner. I remember I was headed out to grab some dinner and I grabbed my phone to call my mom and it dawned on me, it hit me right then that she wasn’t there. I was never going to make that particular call ever again. What I did was I called my sister instead. If anything positive has come out of this particular tragedy, my sister and I are closer than we’ve ever been. We probably have spent more time together over the last couple of months than maybe our entire lives. As kids, we have lived different lives. We were interested in different things. We didn’t spend a ton of time together. That has changed. I see that as a huge positive and I’m enjoying it very much.

There you have it, Big Boxers, the reason we’ve been silent for however long it’s been. I hope you’ll understand and we can move forward. Since the last show, something epic has happened, something monumental, something crazy when I tried to think of it in my brain has happened. That is that my company, TLB Consulting, passed its tenth year. It started in March of 2009. As of March of 2019, we passed ten years. For all of you entrepreneurs out there, you know how epic that is, ten years. When you started something from scratch, you have an idea, you had a thought, you put it down on paper, you tried to sell it to people. You try to get people to see things the way you see them, then they ended up paying you for your time, your effort, your help or your product. It’s a big deal. We passed ten years in March of 2019 and I’m super proud of that. It snuck up on me. I didn’t actually see it coming if you want to know the truth. I was dealing with my mom and things like that. It wasn’t until somebody congratulated me on LinkedIn that I was like, “That’s ten years. That’s crazy.” That’s a long time to constantly reinvent yourself and have your own business.

In true On the Shelf fashion, I put together the top ten things that I have learned over the last ten years. I could have kept going. I’ve learned an enormous amount over the last ten years. I thought that these ten things were crucial to the people that I work with, the people that I consult with, my clients, the people that I do seminars for. These are key questions that everybody are thinking about taking a product to market or to retail has at some time or another. I don’t think that these are always things that you think about or even mull over. I wanted to bring them to light. If you’ve read every single one of the blog posts, you will undoubtedly read some of the same things because we’ve talked about some of these things, some of them we’ve talked about multiple times. Hopefully, this will be a no brainer for those of you who have listened to multiple podcasts.

Consistency is the key to winning. Click To Tweet

Let’s get into number one and get down through this list. I’m going to tell you, in celebration of my tenth year, I want to hear anything that you guys have learned from the 146 episodes that we’ve put out, anything that has hit home for you. I would like you to comment on anything in the comment section. Anything that has resonated with you that you’ve learned from the show. Here’s my top ten. Number one, if you don’t start, you’ll never get there. These aren’t in any particular order, so I don’t know why I’m telling you the reason I put this as number one. It just came to my mind first. I think it’s probably the most important. I have people ask me all the time, “I’m not quite ready. I’m not quite ready to start. When this happens, then I’m going to get started. When this is in place, then I’m going to get started. When I have this much money or I have this much product or I have these many ideas.” What I’m trying to say here is that you can always start doing something.

If You Don’t Start, You’ll Never Get There

Start preparing now. Start getting things going. If you don’t ever take that first step, you’re never going to get there. You have to get the ball rolling. If you’re thinking about doing it, do it. If you’re wondering about doing it, do it. Don’t wait. The longer you wait, the easier it is for you to blow it off. The chances are great that somebody will come along with a product just like the one that you were getting ready for. Interestingly enough about things that you think about and then somebody else does it, about a few years ago I was in the car with my daughter and we were on our way to ice skating. I said, “I think that it will be cool if you could actually have people invest in your future earnings and you could use that money to put yourself through school. Meaning somebody would give you the money for going to Harvard, let’s say, then you would pay them a percentage of your earnings for a period of time once you got out of school.”

I told that to maybe ten or fifteen people and everybody looked at me like I was putting people in chains and torturing them, “That sounds barbaric, paying a percentage of your salary.” I didn’t think it did. I thought that sounded like genius to me. I could go to a top-rated school, therefore I’m probably going to get a decent job. If I pay 2%, 3% or 4% of my salary over the course of twenty years and this person makes a profit off of that, that’s to me a great deal. My daughter and I were sitting in front of the TV and what came up on Good Morning America was that exact thing. What I’m trying to say here is if you’re thinking about it in your brain, somebody else is already executing on that. You’re already behind, so get moving. If you don’t start, you’ll never get there, number one.

Consistency Is The Key To Winning

Number two, consistency is the key to winning. Over the last ten years, I have seen so many people give up. Many people stop because they felt like it was never going to happen. Nobody was ever going to say yes, nobody was ever going to bring their product in. They give up or they give up on a portion of their strategy. Over the last ten years, I can honestly tell you, the people that get their products into retail are the ones that don’t give up. I’m not saying go for a losing strategy. I’m not saying just blindly keep going forward when you’re losing hundreds of thousands of dollars. What I’m saying is don’t stop with what you want to do. If you think it is still valid, if you think you’re still right, keep going. You might tweak your strategy here and there. You might make changes along the way here and there, but don’t stop.

Consistency is the key. If you’ve ever heard me tell that story about the composting, I had that composting product that I sent to the buyer at Bed Bath & Beyond probably every other week or every month for a year. I didn’t ever hear anything back. Not like, “Thanks. We’ll keep this in mind.” There was nothing. One day I was out by my pool and my phone rang. It was a buyer at Bed Bath & Beyond, “We’re interested in composting and we wanted to talk to you about your product.” I know what happened. I know that she was in a meeting and probably her boss said, “We’ve got to get into this composting thing. Go back to your desk and see if you guys have anything on that.” She looked up composting and she probably had 50 emails from me. That’s what came up first. That’s why I got the call. That’s why it happened. Consistency is key. Stay in the game. Change the game if you need to but stay in the game.

OTS 146 | Retail Tips
Retail Tips: If you don’t ever take that first step, you’re never going to get there. You have to get the ball rolling.

 

Have A Complete Strategy

Number three, you have to have a complete strategy. I know that this can mean a lot of different things, so let me explain what I think that it means. You can’t just have one thing that you’re doing. I know a lot of you, Amazon sellers out there, are making good money on Amazon and that’s your strategy. That strategy is going to start to wane at some point unless you continue to add to it like new items, new things, new lines. Your complete strategy has to be made up of online: specialty, big box, club in some instances, drugstore or grocery. There’s a lot out there for you to go after. There are a lot of different channels for you to get your products or a version of your products into. Don’t stay with one channel because at some point, that channel is going to falter and then you’re going to falter. I’m not saying that that channel is going to falter forever. Even a month or two blip on the radar could cost you a lot of money, could put your business in jeopardy, could put your livelihood in jeopardy. Start thinking about diversification now. Start thinking about a complete retail strategy, not just a one channel strategy.

There Are No Shortcuts

This one could have been number one too, I think. This is what I’ve learned myself over the years. I still run up against people that think that this is not true, but number four, there are no shortcuts. Unless your name is George Clooney and you’re launching some tequila or you’re a famous celebrity and you want to launch anything, there could be some shortcuts for you. For the rest of us non-celebrities, there are no shortcuts. You have to do everything in its order. You have to spend the time talking to the buyers. You have to go through that. I call it going through the desert. That’s that time when all you’re doing is putting out information and you’re not getting anything back. It’s frustrating. It’s hard when you’re reaching out to buyers and nobody’s responding to you.

It’s that consistency that I was talking about. That’s the part. There’s no shortcut to it. You have to do it. You can get better at it. You can read this and get insights into it, but you’re still going to have to go through it. You might be able to shorten it a bit. We certainly have figured out how to shorten it as much as we can, but it’s still there. We still have to go through that desert. We’re just maybe walking across the corner of it or we’re not going through the entire thing anymore. Everybody goes through the same part of it. Some people have more money than others. When you can throw more money at things, that can shorten things up. You still have to go through the same parts.

You launch your product, you put it on your website, you get it on Amazon, you start going after specialty retailers. You go after clubs or big box retailers and then maybe you diversify into grocery. You still have to do those things. You might be able to shorten that up if you have a ton of money. You can advertise out of it. That might make a difference, but it doesn’t change what you have to do. There are no shortcuts, which leads you back to number one. If you don’t start, you’re never going to get through that desert part of things. You’re just prolonging that part, so get started. See how these are all interlocked, intertwined. They all work with each other. That’s because, over the course of ten years, I keep coming up against the same things.

Relationships Only Get You So Far

Number five, I learned this the hard way, is that relationships only get you so far. I still get asked all the time, “Do you have relationships with this retailer? Do you have relationships with that retailer? Do you know anybody over here? Do you know anybody over there?” Maybe I do and maybe I don’t, but it doesn’t matter anymore because buyers get moved around so often. The second that you think you have a relationship started, that buyer will get moved and you’re back to square one. Focus your time on the retailer, what they do, how they do it, what their model is, what they’re looking for, why they’re in the game, who their customers are.

Don't stop with what you want to do. You might make changes along the way here and there, but don't stop. Click To Tweet

Learn as much as you can about the retailer so that when you talk to the buyer, they know you know what you’re doing even if they’ve never spoken to you. The relationship you want to have is with the retailer. That’s who you want to romance. Who you want to get to know is the retailer and what they’re all about. Spend your time on that because the second you start thinking you’re buddy-buddy with a buyer, they get moved and you’re dead in the water especially if they were doing something special for you. Especially if they were backdoor-ing you in somehow because of this relationship you have. Once they get moved, all bets are off. Spend your time getting to know the retailer. We’re cruising through these.

You Must Get In The Boat

Number six is a little bit linked to number five. These are all intertwined a little bit. Number six, you must get in the boat. What does that mean, get in the boat? Have you ever heard the expression, “Get in the boat and start rowing in the same direction?” Have you ever been in a boat and tried to row in the opposite direction of the other people that were in the boat? It doesn’t work. You don’t go anywhere. In fact, you might get rolled over. If there are ten people rowing in one way and you’re rowing the other way, nobody even knows who you are. You’re going to get rolled over and you’ll be gone. How does this relate to business? How does it relate to retail? Stop thinking that the retailer’s going to change for you. Stop thinking that you’re the exception. Stop thinking that if you just tell them this, they’re going to change their entire onboarding process for you. They’re not. They’re in a boat.

That boat is going in a certain direction. If you want to sell that retailer, jump in that boat, figure out where it’s going and row hard in that direction. I can’t emphasize this enough, and I know it sounds harsh. I know you’re thinking, “Tim, what do you mean they’re not going to change anything for me? Do you know who I am? Do you know what kind of product I have? My product’s going to revolutionize this. My product’s going to revolutionize that.” The answer I always give to people that tell me that is Costco kicked Apple out. Do you remember that? Apple was there one day and Apple was gone the next. That’s because Apple didn’t want to play by Costco’s rules. Costco doesn’t need Apple. That’s not going to stagger their business in any big way.

When Apple decided that they would get in that Costco boat and row that same direction, Apple came back. If Costco is willing to kick out Apple, are they going to bend for you? No. Are they going to bend for me? No. Are they going to bend for Sony? No, they’re not. It’s not going to happen and no retailer’s going to bend for your product. Figure out what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, where they’re going and how they’re getting there and see if your product fits into that. If it doesn’t, that retailer is not a good fit for you. Go find a different retailer where your product fits into where they’re going, but they’re not going to change it for you. You’ve got to get in their boat, figure out where they’re going and start rowing hard.

Packaging Is Not A DIY

Number seven, and I know you have heard me say this a ton of times. We’ve had a couple of people on the podcast talking about packaging and I still want to tell you this is not a DIY project. This is number seven. This is what I’ve learned for over ten years. Those people who think that they can do their own packaging if it’s not their core competency, are not going to do well at retail. No matter how much insight you think that you have into your product, you’re too close to it and you’re not a retail packaging expert. If you are, great, then you can handle that on your own but if you’re not, you do need to find somebody who is, that will take care of your packaging for you. Let me give you a piece of advice about packaging and how to handle that. I know that you have some ideas. I get that. I know that you have some thoughts on what you want your packaging to look like. I know that you might even be a little bit stubborn when it comes to altering those thoughts.

OTS 146 | Retail Tips
Retail Tips: If there are ten people rowing in one way and you’re rowing the other way, you’re going to get rolled over and you’ll be gone.

 

If you’re going to hire somebody to do your packaging, you can talk to them about the overall strategy, project and your thoughts. Once they come up with some suggestions, before you criticize, find out why they did what they did. Why did they make the decisions that they made? Before you go ripping it up and telling them that you want to do it the way you wanted to at the beginning and you just pay them $10,000. Now, you’re back at the drawing board doing it the way you wanted to do it. Find out why they did it the way they did. It’s interesting that people will hire other people to help them and then they inevitably tell them what to do and how to do it exactly. If you’re going to hire somebody who’s an expert, let them be an expert. Don’t squelch their ability to be creative before they even get started. Packaging is not a DIY project. If you don’t know how to do packaging, turn that over to somebody else so that they can be a rock star and get you to where you need to go.

You’ll Need More Than Just a Better Price

Number eight goes all the way back to the beginning. This is an oldie but goodie and it has proven itself time and time again. It’s actually more relevant now than it’s ever been because we just have more access to products. You will need more than a better price to get your products into a retailer. If you have a product, it’s like another product, but you can get it at a better price. You think, “They’re going to want to swap this product out for mine because it’s a better price.” Think again. It’s going to take more than that. Remember, there are only two things that can get you kicked out of a retailer. One is bad product. Your product has a quality issue. Two is bad logistics. You can’t deliver your product when you said you could. Nowhere in there does it say you’ve got beat on price.

People may start to come to that retailer again and again with a similar product with better pricing and that retailer might come to you and say, “Hello Mr. Supplier, we’re getting a lot of stuff up in here. The pricing looks pretty good. We need to take a little bit of a look at your pricing.” That doesn’t mean they’re going to get rid of that person for you because you have a better price. What do you need along with your better price? You need some uniques. There has to be a reason that they’re going to shift your way. That reason is, “What’s unique about your product that I don’t have, that I’ve never seen? How did you change it? Alter it, make it better. Why are my customers going to like it better? Is it going to draw customers back to the section? Is it going to drive my gross margin?” All those questions need to be answered. It can’t just be price.

When Pricing, Don’t Stop AT Your Website

Number nine, when pricing, don’t stop at your website. Understand that pricing is a strategy and that strategy has to be stretched across all channels from the beginning, not just your website. If you price your product just for your website or for Amazon, then two or three years later, you want to take it to another channel like big box or specialty or grocery. You try to price it for those, understanding that if you sold it on your website, you were making tons of margin and you could sell it pretty cheaply because there’s no middleman. Now you have a retailer in the middle that wants to make 50 points, 40 points, 60 points. How are you going to make that happen with the current price that you have? Remember, once you put your price out there and it’s been online for some time, that is your price. You can’t just now decide that you’re going to sell it to Bed, Bath & Beyond, but you’re going to have to raise it $30. They’re not going to be okay with that. They’re not going to be happy with that.

Things are going to come to a screeching halt right there. You can do a couple of things, but probably the best thing for you to do is price your product across all channels right at the beginning so that when you are ready to take your product to another channel, it’s all good. You’ve already looked at it. You’ve already strategized about that. That doesn’t mean that through certain times you can’t put your product on sale at Amazon or on your own website or offer free shipping. There are a ton of ways that you can reduce your price without actually reducing your price. When you price it across all channels, it may not be the best price to put it on Amazon. It may be too high, so maybe you’re going to have to put it on sale. At least it shows the regular price and the sale price and you can take it off sale anytime.

Sometimes you will be the only one who believes in you, and that has to be enough. Click To Tweet

On your own website, you can offer free shipping. You can offer free this, free that and incentives, but the price remains the same. Think further down the road other than where you’re at right now and price your product across all channels. The things that I’ve learned over the last ten years, let’s go back. Number one, if you don’t start, you’ll never get there. Number two, consistency is the key to winning. Number three, you must have a complete strategy. Number four, there are no shortcuts. Number five, relationships only get you so far. Number six, you must get in the boat. Number seven, packaging is not a DIY. Number eight, you’ll need more than just a better price. Number nine, when pricing, don’t stop at your website, you’ve got to go across all channels.

Sometimes You Will Be The Only One Who Believes In You

Number ten, sometimes you will be the only one who believes in you and that has to be enough. I know that sounds deep. When you buck the system, when you strike out on your own, when you become an entrepreneur, you decide that you’re not going to go the conventional route. You’re not going to go the stable route or the route that gives you the most security. People are going to judge you. When things don’t go well, they’re going to say, “I told you so. You shouldn’t have done that. You should have done this. You shouldn’t have bet it all on that. You should have bet on this. You should have stayed and done what everybody else does.”

Did Jeff Bezos stop when everybody told him that Amazon would never make it? Did Jeff Bezos stop when everybody said that online sales would never even compete with brick and mortar? In February 2019, online sales beat brick and mortar for the first time in history. You can’t bend to the naysayers. Entrepreneurs are a different breed by nature. You don’t just wake up one day and decide that you want to be an entrepreneur. You don’t wake up one day and say, “I’m okay risking it all. I’m okay with not having any security and stability. I’m going to strike out on my own.” It’s in you. It’s always been in you. Whether you let it out or not, I can’t say.

I’ve been doing it now for ten years and I can honestly say there have been times when I have been all alone in what I thought was happening or when I was all alone in different things that I wanted to try or wanted to do. Everybody would say, “Make sure that you have everything in place. Make sure that everything is ready.” I’m just not like that. If I have a good idea, I’m going to put it into practice right now. Is everything ready? No. Is everything prepared? No. Is it even up on my website? No, but I might talk to a client about it and see what they think about it. The next thing you know, we’re selling it. That’s because we’re entrepreneurs. We’re not like everybody else. You have to be okay with that. You have to be good with that. You can’t let what other people say change your mind. You can’t let what other people say get you off the course.

Do you have a mentor? If you don’t, you should. If you don’t have a mentor, somebody that’s also an entrepreneur, somebody who’s done what you want to do, you should get one because that’s who you go to when things get rough. That’s who you go to when everybody else seems like they’re telling you to stop. Find a mentor. It’s not an easy thing to do. Until then though, you have to be your own mentor. You have to be the one that holds you up when everything else is pulling you down. You will be victorious. You will make it through because you’re an entrepreneur. You’re one of a kind. We all are. Somebody was commenting, “I wish I could just chuck it all and start my own business.” I’ve heard that a lot over the years, “I wish I could do that.” I’m thinking, “You can do it,” but certain people are not made that way. They haven’t been thinking about it all their life. They haven’t been waiting for the opportunity to be their own boss all their life. You have.

OTS 146 | Retail Tips
Retail Tips: Entrepreneurs are a different breed by nature. You don’t just wake up one day and decide that you want to be an entrepreneur.

 

If you’re different in that way, if you’re a breed of your own, why on Earth would you ever listen to people that don’t think that same way? You can’t. Until you find those like-minded people, you’re going to have to be your own cheerleader. You’re going to have to be your own person of guidance. If you want to get into a group of like-minded people trying to get their products into retail and a group of people that can understand what you’re going through, TLB is starting or continuing. We’re actually adding to our mastermind group series. These are people just like you that want to share every single week or every other week about their experiences and learn the best way to do what they’re doing. If you’re out there by yourself and you want to get in a group full of people that are doing what you’re doing, learning it as you are, the TLB MMG is a place for you.

There you have it. These are the top ten things that over the last ten years have stuck out for me. I’m interested in what has stuck out from you, what resonated with you. I want you to put it in the comments. Let us know what’s resonated to you. Jump on our Facebook group, On the Shelf “Now”. Join that closed group and put it in there. If you can’t do that, just go to our Facebook page, On the Shelf Now, put it there. If you can’t do that, go on Twitter and tag us, @OnTheShelfNow, with what you’re thinking, what’s been most inspirational for you.

There are tons of ways to get ahold of us. You don’t have to be sitting in front of a computer. Big Boxers, I appreciate you. Thanks for waiting through this period of time. It actually feels good to be back talking about the subject that I most liked to talk about. Thanks for being a loyal Big Boxer. I appreciate you. I look forward to talking to you again. Flash Topic number 13 is getting ready to come out. We’re excited about that. We’re looking forward to more discussions. We’ll see you then. I look forward to seeing your products on the shelf.

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