Track in Walls of Jerusalem – Tasmania
There’s that saying that a lot of people give up just before they reach the finish line.
The thing is, how do you know how close you are?
And the answer is that you don’t. It something that you can only see after you’ve already crossed it. And that’s if you had actually set yourself a goal in the first place!
If you don’t know what you’re aiming for how will you know if you get there? This is conventional wisdom perhaps, but that doesn’t stop it from being true.
Let me tell you a story*. It’s a story about a new business. Imagine this business is selling womens clothing online. Now there’s a fair few businesses doing the same thing, but this business has it’s own special niche. You’ve heard of Shoes of Prey? This is Dresses of Prey. It’s a high end ‘design your own dress’ company which is targeting fashion conscious young women who want to look stylish and unique.
Imagine this business started small. They got on social media and started to build a profile. Long hours were spent securing a supply line, designers, sewers and client base. They were growing slowly and steadily and all of a sudden a certain celebrity started wearing their clothes. Overnight they had more business than they knew what to do with. They needed to be able to make product and they needed to do it pronto. So they went to the bank, borrowed to make it happen, and still couldn’t keep up with demand. Happy days.
But eventually demand starts to slow down, the celebrity moves onto something else and orders dry up. But there are still bills to pay, more now than ever before with the new production capacity, bank loans and staff. The business owners and founders are pretty burned out by this stage, they’ve been working long, long hours while things were rocketing out of control and now that there is a crises they are ill equipped to handle it. Over tired, over whelmed. The social media that started it all has started to slide and one Friday morning, when they sit down to pay the bills, they realise there is no money. They want to throw it all in.
So here’s the thing. What if they did walk away? There would still be the debt to repay but at least they wouldn’t be going backwards any more.
One of the founders has an idea about how they could keep going. It is a long shot but what if it works? They could fail, but what if they didn’t?
They talked long into the night and tried to come to a decision. Take a chance or walk away. Which one?
These gals did have a plan when they started. Their goal was to be known as the go to fashion choice of their target market, the trendy young fashionista’s. They also wanted monetary success but hadn’t pinpointed exactly what that meant to them.
So they had achieved goal 1, but not goal 2.
Now that there was a crises they suddenly knew what goal 2 meant to them. It meant being able to keep the doors open and pay everyone on time!
“You know what,” the MD said. “We should go big or go home. If we can’t pay ourselves properly after we’ve put all this work in we should shut up shop. Let’s go for it. Let’s take a chance, try some new tactics, and aim to be making $500k profit in the next twelve months. After paying everyone, including our own market salaries. Now, what sales figure do we need to do that?”
So they worked it backwards to come up with the sales figure they needed. It was huge. It was double what they were doing when they were at their peak.
“Can we achieve that?” they asked. “Is it even possible?”
More calculations and planning and they worked out a way to make it happen. It was still a risk, and they could still lose out. But they decided to go for it anyway.
First order of the day was to revive the social media accounts that had kicked things off in the first place, and to test the waters with some of the new types of social media that had popped up in the meantime. To appeal to the fashionista’s they needed to be on trend, and seen to be on trend. This was a strategy which could work quite quickly leveraging off their previous work. “Look of the day” instagram accounts had worked well for competitors so they decided to come up with a twist on that. Copying the competitors wouldn’t work but if they could come up with a new and unique angle they could attract new followers and ultimately new customers.
They made contact with stylists of the big name celebrity’s who their target market emulated. Building relationships with key referral sources was step two. This was a longer term strategy which would back up the social media campaign.
With sales sorted they turned their attention to production. By having two shifts of sewers they were able to better utilise their machinery and double output without having to invest more money in plant and equipment. Making more with what they’ve got.
The last thing they did was meet with the bank to provide details of their strategy’s and request a repayment holiday. They were given six months due to their track record. So now they had a deadline. It was a hard deadline too.
And most importantly they decided that they wouldn’t give in. They didn’t know how close to the finish line they were, in fact they weren’t thinking in terms of the finish line at all, but they did know that they weren’t ready to give up.
Within the six months sales were back on the increase and they had created a buzz around the brand. They were seeing more new fashionista’s coming on board, but importantly they were seeing repeat customers.
A year later they sat down to review things and declare the bonuses. The business had exceeded it’s $500k profit target, after paying everyone, and they planned to give all the employees who had stuck with them and helped make it happen a share. It was only then, looking back over the last year that they realised how close they had come to giving up just before the finish line. Twelve months was all it had taken to reinvigorate the business and achieve all their goals. If they had quit when things seemed darkest, when they were tested by the universe, they would have stopped mere inches from the finish line, failures, and never knowing how close they were.
And if it hadn’t worked? Well at least they know that they’ve given it their best shot. The reasons for failure can be analysed and lessons learnt. But because they set proper measurable goals they would have realised fairly quickly that the new strategies weren’t working and pivoted to try something else. And who knows, maybe that new idea would be the one to get over the finish line.
Set measurable goals, have a strategy to get there, make more with what you’ve got, and monitor your progress. Be prepared to pivot if needed. And be sure to celebrate once you cross the finish line!
* Not a true story, this is an example of what could happen with planning and a ‘never give up’ attitude.
Listen to your numbers, read their story, and watch your business Bloom.