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How to build a business that makes an impact

If you told me 10 years ago that I would have the business I have today I wouldn’t have believed you for a second. I wouldn’t have ever thought it would morph into this, with the store being a substantial yet small part of the overall business with wholesale and my licensing portfolio leading the way. It’s exciting, it’s exhilarating and it’s gotten me to where I am today all because of a few things. Namely I challenge myself, test myself and figure out and find new ways to be creative and that has gotten noticed. Whether it’s the way I’ve decorated my house or designed the products for my store I am never complacent – I always want every single thing to make an impact.

So if you want your business to do the very same thing here are a few things that have helped me. Big Time!

Trust the data, even if you don’t like what it tells you.

If you’ve had a bad month (worse a few bad months or even a bad year) with poor sales then you are doing something wrong. Rather than relying on conjecture or skipping ahead to the next thing, drill down into that data and let it tell you what is going wrong. I will give you an example a good few years back I thought it would be a really good idea to introduce scented oils, soaps and washes to our range. Not scented candles but Aesop-ish things – it tanked. I wouldn’t listen to the figures and didn’t want to believe it wasn’t working! I kept thinking we hadn’t marketed it correctly, positioned it correctly, put it in the window, but still it tanked. Yes we invested a lot of money but we are not known for beauty products and consequently no one brought into it. Rather than trying to be a master of too many things I’ve realized to stick with what we are extremely good at and known for. Did it dent my pride? Hell yes, but the numbers never lie. If you are not making money on a certain product range then there’s a reason for it, and if you don’t this reason figure out quick and fast then it’s going to fail.

Keep other people’s opinions out of it.

This may make me sound like a prima donna, but I don’t listen to anyone when it comes to making creative decisions. Maybe Gem of course but then she and I rarely disagree on creative, but that’s it. It’s a bit like telling people you’re converting to the dark side. Out come the naysayers with their silly negative reasons which have no foundation, and can put you off going with something that you know feels right. So if you want to make your business have impact, liberate your attitude and go for it, follow your gut and don’t ask anybody what they think!

Take risks

(Let’s hope the accounting team isn’t reading this right now.) If we were all focused on strategic goals with rigid plans and stuck to forecasts and budgets it can and does stifle creativity! (I can literally hear them sigh as I write this, sorry AA HQ.)

When you take risks with your business, a bit like we are doing with our own label it gives you this weird feeling of freedom. OK it might keep you up at night worrying how you’re going to pay for it all, but unless you try how do you know how it will turn out? Go for it and be brave.

Listen to your customers

Very similar point to trust the data because it doesn’t actually matter two hoots what you think about your business, it’s your customers’ opinions that matter because that translates into cash. That way you know pretty quickly if something is going to work or not. When we opened the store in its first location (off the beaten track) we rarely got any customers. However those that did walk through the door spent so I knew we were onto something and we had to get the hell out of there pretty fast.

If your business isn’t catching on and not taking enough money then learn from it and relaunch it. Listen to your customers basically!

Lastly and my best point

If you’re not doubting things you are doing something wrong.

I am Ms. Doubtful, and a total pessimist – the glass is always half empty and never half full but then you know what that does? It makes me push harder. If not I would probably be floating around some souk right now drinking peppermint tea with a titchy tiny little lifestyle business. Doubt leads to curiosity. Curiosity leads to making bold new moves. There is no “oh, let’s just try it” in business – it’s do or don’t.

Yes I can bang on about long working days 13 to 14 hours but we all know it’s gritty running your own business. You don’t achieve anything with half measures – you are either in or you’re out. Your choice!




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