Once the afterglow of the launch wears off, and once the business plan takes a back seat to the cash flow projection, you discover what the real work is in your new business. We call it the “real” work because it generally takes more time and focus that anything you have done before or even anything you could have imagined. It comes as a complete surprise and not a pretty one. It can shatter your preconceived, popular notions about how things get done in product distribution and what is required of you to be a success.
We learned our tough lessons because we were selling to the general public through distributers who then sold to retailers, and we had to do their jobs handling our product. “What? Shouldn’t they have an interest in making money on a product they bought to sell?” you may ask. Even though we were new and unproven, we expected them to sell our products and get the reorders. We also thought they would put up our sales materials to help them move our products. We found both distributors and retailers to be disinterested and unreliable. Still, we faced discontinuance if our products didn’t sell a certain amount in a certain period of time. We had to do the work required, and we had to do it right!
So here we thought we were in the “wine business.” You know – swirl, sniff, sip, maybe say a few French words, hold your pinkie out, and talk about mid-notes. Forget about it! We were in the same business that anyone selling any consumer packaged goods is in: the distribution management business!
Our success depended on stocking and pricing our own items (where legal), dusting bottles, checking item codes, confirming pricing, staying on top of the retailers’ and distributers’ inventory and reordering our products for them as well. It took years to get them to realize that our product was making them so much money that they had an interest in merchandising it themselves. And a good 10-20% never did pick up the slack.
The big companies know this. You know when you go to a store and ask the “clerk” where something is and he says, “Sorry, I don’t work here!” That person works for a product producer who understands what the real work is. It is merchandising! And their own rep is in that store to merchandise their products for the retailer.
Now let’s say you think the stores will do this work and that the distributers are going to get the reorders when the stores are out of stock. You think someone else is going to be responsible for the distribution process. Or you think your product is so good, priced so right, and recommended by so many that somehow you will avoid this inglorious work all together. Guess what? Your product fails. Period.
Unless you make it a priority with your new and unproven product to demonstrate, for an extended period of time, that it will “sell” (and that means constantly move smoothly through the distribution system), you will get the reputation of being a non-starter or a slow mover.
In the early days we spent most of our time in the stores vigilantly watching the shelves, the back rooms and the warehouses – doing whatever needed to be done to make sales happen. It was not uncommon to see us to working on our hands and knees on dusty linoleum floors! That was the real work! So, stop dreaming and get out there and do what has to be done to be successful! You can (and must) do it!
Who We Are
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.
Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.
They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.
Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular brand building site at www.consumerbrandbuilders.com.
To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.