If there is one thing that I have learned in my short time as a business owner, it is that the more successful you become, the more people all of the sudden want to “help” you and become part of what you are building. They are the same people who were nowhere to be found when you were just a broke nobody with nothing but debt and a dream. At first, hearing all of the praise and compliments was nice…until I decoded the method to the madness.
You see, the way I figure it, anyone who was TRULY happy for me, for my success, would have made that known from the get-go, at the starting line, BEFORE take-off. Unfortunately, the number of people who cheered for me on the sidelines while I busted my chops to make an inventory out of my own pocket money are few and far between. Alas, little did I know I had a gaggle of “friends” that were waiting for me after all my hard work was completed! They just couldn’t wait to congratulate me and pat me on the back at the finish line. Nowhere to be found on the sidelines or at the starting line, but by-golly did they come out of the woodwork when I reached that finish line!
I was actually flattered because I felt like somebody now. I felt like I was someone who everyone wanted to hangout with or be friends with; I hadn’t really had that before. So I spent some time networking and politicking with a few gals and things started getting a little weird. I started feeling like people just wanted something from me. The best part was all of the free stuff people wanted, and how proud they were to ask for it. WOW. I never knew that so many people would feel entitled to my hard work, but that is definitely a lesson I learned in the world of business. People are not afraid to beg, steal, or borrow from you. And at first, I actually was pretty lenient with my inventory. I gave a few things away because I thought, hey, I could use a boost to get my name out there. I was a new business and I feel that generosity goes a long way. The weirdest thing happened though after I GAVE my stuff away, I never really heard from those people again or ever got so much as a tag on Instagram or Facebook when they wear their freebies, which is always, from what I can see. Imagine that, huh?
I finally snapped out of it because I had to tell myself, “Corsi, you have a MARKETING DEGREE. You literally do marketing for a living as a day job, why are you putting yourself out when you could do all this yourself and keep your merchandise?” The answer was, I was afraid to say no. I didn’t want a reputation for being mean or catty, especially in the industry I am in. So I just handed stuff out like Halloween candy and accepted the loss. (Professional tip: Don’t do what I did or you WILL start out in the hole.)
On the other hand, I have loyal customers who happily pay for their goods and constantly give me credit, which is the boost I need. I need their support, and they consistently give it to me, so I focus my energy on paying customers who make me love what I do, not question it.
A little etiquette to live by when your friend/family member runs a small business by themselves:
1.) You aren’t entitled to anything free. If you do get free stuff, you should give credit where credits due. If we give you an inch, don’t take a mile.
2.) No, you cannot BORROW anything. We pay for inventory out of our pockets. There’s no inventory fairy, floating around and granting us piles of what we sell. It comes from our own piggy bank. Respect that.
3.) We don’t owe you anything. We are trying to pay bills and make a living just like the rest of the world. We work hard and we know what our items and time are worth. If you can’t appreciate that then take your “business” elsewhere, or start one of your own.
4.) If we need reps, I PROMISE we will seek them out. Again, the only people I have ever given stuff to to “rep” have left me hanging, so I choose to do it myself for now.
5.) If we tell you no, just accept it and move on with your life. No need to get upset or hurt. You’re being invasive by asking for free merchandise, so we will be blunt by telling you “no”.
I just can’t wrap my head around why anyone would think it is OK to just approach another with their hand stuck out like they have a right to use them for their commodities. That’s all it is, you’re USING people for what they have if you only come around when you want something, or it’s convenient for you. So that is why I had to learn to say “no”, and feel confident in doing so. As I said earlier, I didn’t want to be labelled as a mean girl in the industry, but I finally shook that notion too. I don’t care what anyone thinks about me or how I run my business.
CUSTOMER SERVICE is #1 to me, and if you’re not paying, you’re not a customer. Sorry. Bye.
Sometimes I have to be catty. Sometimes I have to be blunt. I am happy to do business with anyone. My customers each get a handwritten card from me because I want them to have a piece of my personal time to know that I appreciate their support more than anything in the world. Those customers have helped me and supported me, and without them, I would not have a business at all.
I have turned down collaborations, “popular” reps, and many a “trade” deal, because I learned that at the end of the day, none of those people were actually eager to help me. They just wanted to flaunt my stuff because it is popular and in-style. I know that I have a kick-a** collection. Trust me, I have spent thousands building it, and will continue to do so because it’s what I do and I have dreamed of doing this for years. I have a handful of people whom I know for a fact only want to see me succeed, and I keep them close to me. Know why? They ask for nothing, but give everything. They give me knowledge, information, tips, and support. And for that, I focus my time and energy on those types of people.
Look, if you aren’t willing to actually support a small business by helping them put food on the table, then you’re not supporting them at all, so at least get out of the way and let us go about our business. If you would like to shop small and support a few of my favorite small businesses, please check out the following links:
buck-wild-bohemian.myshopify.com (Vintage turquoise jewelry)
www.prairieskyjewelryco.com (Handmade/heirloom sterling and gemstone jewelry)