This article was originally written by Ed Hamner of Howling Print and Promo as a post in the Promotional Products Professionals group on Facebook. It is filled with nuggets of great advice paired with some simple reminders. While Ed doesn't have a blog of his own, we wanted to give it a home on ours. Wherever you are in your promo journey - read this, and be encouraged.
I don’t have a blog that I would post this on, but I am sharing some reflections from my last year in business with multiple business groups I belong to, and figured with the flow of new distributors in the group lately it may be appropriate.
How many of you have had to rise from the ashes?
This is my second go around at owning a distributorship after suffering a total brand collapse.
The ball started rolling with a bad employee, but it soon led to realizations of issues about my managing my company and other personal issues.
It’s amazing how much wisdom and clarity come with a “First Attempt in Learning (F.A.I.L.)”. I truly believe in the Edison principle of failure - I didn’t fail at being a good distributor, I learned one way not to be a distributor instead.
Now at the start of year two in my new brand and new business, I have taken major steps to prevent the issues of the past. For the newbies in the industry- here are some of the lessons I learned. I pass these on in the hopes that you don’t learn these things the way I did. While some seem cliche, it’s amazing how much common sense and old cliches we can forget about while going through the motions each day.
- Not everyone who calls your number, walks into your office, or passes you on the street is your client. Don’t be afraid to say no.
- Build your list of trusted suppliers and don’t be afraid to re-evaluate constantly.
- Find balance with your professional and personal life.
- Do not give into your clients outrageous demands. (The old adage if you give a mouse a cookie applies).
- Don’t be afraid to thin the herd. If 10% of your sales take 90% of your time, is that 10% really worth it?
- It never hurts to ask for prepayment, especially on custom products.
- A deposit is a must on first time orders.
- Share credit, accept the blame. It is easy to shift the blame to the supplier or to the shipping company, and while they might have dropped the ball, that’s between you and the vendor, not between you and the client.
- Apologize whole heartedly. A half assed apology isn’t an apology at all.
- Never be afraid to explain the situation to the client and ask for their patience and understanding.
- Transparency is key.
- Know what you know, know what you don’t know, and never bullshit the in-between.
- Whether with clients, or potential leads, always listen more than you speak.
- Always carry business cards. (Editor's comment - Note: promotional products make really great business cards!)
- Put 1 funny thing on your business card. Whether it’s a unique job title or email address , it will make a difference and help you stand out.
- Find your niche. It will serve you well.
- Just because you’re in the same business, in the same area, with the same client pool, doesn’t mean you can’t help each other out. Karmic brownie points and favors are never a bad thing.
And the most important things I have taken to heart this past year:
- None of us are getting out of here alive. Don’t take yourself to seriously. Don’t work yourself to death. Take a mental health day and call in sick if you need to. Just be sure to communicate your absence and leave a way for your clients to get the information they need while you're out.
- Trust in yourself and find support from those who truly care about you.
To distributors and suppliers alike, big or small, here is hoping you all find greater success in the year to come.
Thanks Ed. To all of you reading, what have you learned in your time in promotional products? What advice would you give others?