Too often, overnight success can quickly become a company’s worst nightmare. A small business that lacks the capital, staff or infrastructure to handle a big order or nationwide publicity can promptly get crushed when its product or service becomes a hit.
Even though every company should have a strategic plan in place before the big day arrives, most small business owners are so busy just trying to survive that planning usually gets put on the back burner. That’s why we’ve have put together this 10-step survival guide to help you think fast and react quickly when you wake up one morning to find the world beating a path to your door.
- Take a deep breath. Don’t max out your credit cards, splurge on a big bottle of champagne or do anything crazy. While it’s only natural to want to celebrate the good news, remember that a big contract or great press doesn’t mean dollars in your bank account–at least, not today. So hold off on that Ferrari or tropical vacation.
- Map out a strategy. Make a to-do list, crunch the numbers and marshal your human and production resources. It’s always easier to fight a battle on paper (or a computer spreadsheet) than to shoot first and ask questions later. No matter how much pressure you’re getting from your customers to deliver the goods right now, you need to take the time to sit down with your partner or staff to map out a plan of attack.
- Get the money. Before you go on a hiring binge or start placing orders overseas, it’s important to figure out how much working capital you’re going to need to meet the market demand. Because employees and manufacturers generally won’t wait until you’ve sold the products and collected the money before you pay them, you’ll need a source of capital that you can tap immediately.
- Reach out for help. Call on suppliers, personal contacts and the Internet to find extra hands to help you. If you think you can do it alone, think again. No matter how hard you work, there are only 24 hours in a day and you’ve got to sleep during seven or eight of them. That’s why it’s important to reach out to people who can help you.
- Forge production partnerships. A small business making handcrafted soaps is going to be hard-pressed to fill a million-unit order from a large national chain completely on its own. That’s why it’s important to partner with manufacturers in the United States and overseas who can take your samples or prototypes and produce them in large quantities.
- Create a distribution network. As news of your product or service spreads, you may start getting orders from consumers and retailers all over the country. If you’re like most businesses, you’re going to need help selling and servicing those accounts. Rather than hiring a national sales manager and opening offices in major cities, a more cost-effective option may be to sell your product through manufacturers’ reps.
- Communicate with your customers. Communication is the lifeblood of any business relationship, but it’s even more important when your product or service suddenly takes off. The biggest mistake a business owner can make is failing to warn customers of shipping or production delays until it’s too late. This is especially critical in the apparel and toy industries where seasonality is important.
- Leverage your success. The hardest thing about achieving overnight success is keeping it going. The last thing you want is to get stuck with a warehouse full of pet rocks. Creating line extensions like the Chicken Soup books or the For Dummies series is one way to keep your brand alive. Another is to find new markets for your products and services or new ways to publicize them.
- Invest for the future. While it may be tempting to reap the profits from your hit product right away, it’s important to re-invest some of those profits to help your business grow. Whether this means paying down debt, buying new equipment, hiring another employee or opening another location, don’t pass up this opportunity to make your money work for you. It’s always cheaper to put your own cash to work in your business than to borrow money from a bank or give up equity to an investor.
- Learn from your mistakes. After the excitement of the initial sales rush has died down, take a few hours to sit down with your staff to figure out what went right, what went wrong and what you think you could do better in the future. This will help you put a strategy in place for the next time you come out with a hit product–which could be sooner than you think!
Got a hit on your hands and don’t know where to turn? Check out the Web links below to get the help you need today.
- craigslist: This is a great place to find freelancers and independent contractors, and it’s free to search and–in most cities–post.
- VendorSeek: This online marketplace helps match companies with vendors of products, services, equipment and staffing.
- Net-Temps: Here you’ll find employment listings for employers and seekers of full-time, part-time and temporary jobs.
- Manufacturers’ Agents National Association: This website offers a searchable directory of manufacturers’ reps and agents in the United States and worldwide.
- Credit-Card-Source.com: Go here to find help navigating your way through the maze of credit card offers so you can pick the best card for you and your business.