GUEST POST BY CAROLYN KEATING
My journey to entrepreneurship took a pretty unique path, one that favored scented lotions, lip balms, and bubble bath.
Yep. Bubble bath.
For nearly a decade you could find me sprinting through airports across the country with 80 lbs of bubble bath, lotions + shower gels in my suitcase, hustling to catch a flight. Samples exploded, TSA tore my case apart more times than I can count, and taking a 6-hour flight for an hour-long meeting, often returning the same day became normal. It was a job I was good at and really enjoyed but there was a little part of me that still felt like something was missing.
Like so many others, I had dreams of doing my own thing but was held back because I didn’t feel like I could provide anything that people would want.
I was terrified to fail. I didn’t think I knew enough to be a business owner.
So I kept chugging along where it was safe and I was comfortable.
It wasn’t until we moved to Upstate NY that the lightbulb finally went off. I met a local stationer who wanted to start to wholesale and we got to chatting about her plans. During our conversation, I quickly realized that all those years of big sales wins, failures, number crunching and learning from my mentors had set me up for my next step. I was in the PERFECT position to help others grow their product based business. In that moment Wholesale for Creatives was born.
Looking back, almost every element of my corporate career prepared me to be an entrepreneur. Here are the 10 biggest lessons that my career in bubble bath taught me about business:
1 / Relationships Are The Foundation For Success
It’s so important to cultivate relationships. As an introvert, I initially struggled with this but I had the opportunity to learn from some of the best. Watching how the owner of my company and more experienced colleagues treated their buyers and valued those partnerships taught me how to build and cultivate strong business relationships. When you invest in people by committing time and effort to build friendships + partnerships you set the foundation for so much more.
2 / You Need To Lead With Your Heart
Life happens and sometimes, it isn’t pretty. Having a heart and not acting like a robot will get you much further than if you lack flexibility and understanding. Running your business with heart and taking the time to put your customers first will get you much further than being rigid and unsympathetic.
3 / Your Numbers are EVERYTHING
One of the biggest lessons that was ingrained in me early on, you need to be the expert in your business. This means a lot of number crunching to know and understand those numbers inside and out. Profit + Loss isn’t sexy, but it is what will allow you to keep your doors open and a roof over your head. When you take the emotion out of the equation and focus solely on the numbers you are able to look at your business with more clarity.
4 / Good Communication is Critical
We live in an age where it’s so easy to have a conversation with someone without even picking up the phone. While it’s great from a convenience perspective, not everyone thrives with this form of communication. It’s important to stay personally connected to clients and that means picking up the phone or sending them a piece of snail mail instead of relying on email or sending a text.
5 / Put Everything In Writing
I learned this lesson the hard way. When important conversations are had you need put something in writing. This may be in the form of an email recapping your conversation or reiterating the details of an important phone call. Something that says, “yep, we talked about this and are in agreement.” I got screwed more than once because I didn’t have a paper trail so I make it a point to always follow up important conversations with an email.
6 / Always Present Yourself Professionally
First impressions matter. While dress codes are much more casual now than they were even 10 years ago it’s important know your audience and dress appropriately. In my corporate days, I never knew who might walk through our doors at any given moment so I couldn’t risk showing up a hot mess. How we present ourselves leaves a lasting impact on our clients and will influence how they perceive our business.
7 / Do Not Make Assumptions
You know that old saying, right? Assuming people have read our emails, contracts + terms is much more comfortable than asking because we don’t want to make others feel like they don’t know how to do their job. You may think people understand how the process works, what your return policy is or any number of things related to your business. It’s really important to take all the guess work out of what it’s like to with you. The more room you leave for interpretation the greater chance you have for miscommunication which will set you up for some not so fun conversations down the road.
8 / Attitude is everything
Even on the crappiest of days, it’s important to handle every meeting, email and phone call with a big ole smile on your face. Bad attitudes have no place in business. People want to talk to and work with happy people, not sit through a meeting with someone who complains about everything under the sun. Having a good attitude will lead to more sales, better partnerships + a stronger business.
9 / Honesty + Integrity Matter
One of the greatest compliments I ever received was from a buyer who told me I was the least salesy salesperson she’d ever met. My mentors taught me that when you make a conversation solely about the sale you will inevitably lose. Instead, it’s better to have open and honest conversations with clients about their business. While these conversations didn’t always lead to immediate sales they did help to build trust and develop our relationship which, over time, resulted in more orders. Today, I'm the first person to tell someone when my services aren’t the best fit because I know how much people appreciate and value an honest conversation.
10 / Don’t Take Rejection Personally
When you have a big business fail it’s hard to not take it personally. It can weigh heavy on your heart and seriously stress you out. I’ve had massive failures and while they stung, I know I gave it everything I had and had to accept that sometimes the cards just don’t fall in my favor. I learned how to pick myself back up and keep moving forward which is something that as an entrepreneur, I need to do almost every day.
I believe that we can learn business lessons anywhere. Whether you’re just starting a career or years into one I’m sure you’ve learned some lessons along the way and know much more than you’re probably giving yourself credit for!
Carolyn Keating is the owner of Wholesale for Creatives, a resource for product based businesses looking to grow. Prior to launching her business, Carolyn spent a decade in sales with an NYC-based women's accessories company where she developed and sold products to retail chains throughout the country. Her mission is to educate small businesses about the industry’s best practices so they can successfully compete in the marketplace and avoid making costly mistakes.
www.wholesale4creatives.com / Instagram @wholesale4creatives