It sounds so great when I describe myself as an entrepreneur. The word conjures up thoughts of high pressure meetings, snappy decisions and big deals, but in reality it’s more like most any job. There’s a daily list of things to do, phone calls to make and emails to answer, but the biggest difference is everything falls on my shoulders. That means I get to own the successes (yay!) and the failures (ugh!). Yup, it’s a wonderful, horrible thing.
I constantly think of my favorite quote to guide me. It comes from the 1998 movie A Bug’s Life when Hopper (the mean grasshopper) tells the new Queen Aunt in training “First rule of management Princess; Everything’s your fault.”
It’s a line I’ve lived by since starting MAJAMAS EARTH in 1999 and one I think about each time I have to make any kind of decision.
That’s why I was so shocked when I received an email from one of my supplier’s reps that he wasn’t going to honor one of my requests. Thing is, I didn’t ask for anything out of the ordinary. I simply asked for a standard production sample, something we get from every fabric supplier before a big production ships to us.
This brought me back to many years ago, when one of my favorite fabric reps gave me some good advice. He said, “Germaine, before paying to ship thousands of yards of fabric to your cutter, always get a production sample. That way there’s no surprises when the goods arrive and you know exactly what you’re getting.”
He was so right. He suggested this after we received some bad goods that weren’t up to our standards. Once these bad goods got to our cutter’s, it was close to impossible to get help from the supplier. We weren’t only out the cost of the fabric but also the cost of shipping the fabric which could range anywhere from a couple hundred to thousands of dollars depending on how much is sent.
The financial loss was big and entirely my fault. Let’s just say I learned lesson one of my golden rule the hard way.
Many of you know we’ve always worked with mills based in California and the mills we use there are run and owned by the most genuine, kind people I have ever worked with. They have never denied my request to send a sample from production before shipping, and if anything’s wrong they jump to help me with any issue. They totally have my back. They are upstanding, honest and take full responsibility for all their work because they own their businesses and they know that’s the right way to operate.
Unfortunately, an old Tennessee mill we buy some of our basic fabric from was sold a year or so back and the rep I worked with was replaced with one who doesn’t share this same philosophy. The new rep has a pretty rotten sales approach and against my better judgment, I placed an order with him because I wanted to stick with the same fabric and keep consistency in our garments.
To make a long story short, they made me feel horrible and they lost my account.
So what about the guys who lost my business? Shouldn’t my golden rule of accepting that “Everything’s My Fault” apply to them too?
It’s time we all took responsibility for how we run our day-to-day business, and this “first rule of management” should apply not only to that sales manager or to me, the business owner, but to anyone who cares about the impact they have on others. Shirking responsibility is an ugly practice and one that makes customers uneasy.
Let me share a little inside tip on how to be successful at sales and owning your own business.
First, sales aren’t blabbing on about yourself or even your product. Sure, it’s important to inform your clients of the features and benefits of what you sell but true sales people know, sales is all about listening, creating trust and establishing a good relationship with your customers.
Second, regardless of your market, great business owners know the key to being successful is all about open and honest communication and taking responsibility for how your company operates. If your sales people or anyone representing your company screws up, it truly is your fault. Somewhere along the line, they didn’t get the memo and that my friend is on you, the owner.
It’s a lot to shoulder, but the only way to truly run your own company. You may not realize it and you may even find yourself stumbling around some sad excuse for why something went wrong, but remember, “First rule of management Princess, Everything’s your fault”. Make it your mantra, follow it, and I guarantee that once you truly live by it, you can call yourself an entrepreneur.
– Germaine Caprio, Company Owner & Designer
TO HEAR FROM YOU
What advice would you recommend for entrepreneurs?
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