[Written for Apparel Magazine, September 2011]
Well fashion week has come and gone. Guess who knows if it will be happen again next year? I have some clients who do it, some who used to do it but no longer do and some who are not interested… One of those interesting questions around do you make a return on investment from such an event? My answer is “who knows”; leave it to you to work out! All I know is that every single dollar that we spend in a business needs to be getting a return.
So from what I hear and observe, business is still relatively tough going out there. Consumers no longer jump at 50% off discounts. Winter season was not helped by the (late) weather and also customer malaise. Some fashion retailers pulled winter early hoping that new season might boost sales but to no avail… More and more Aussie brands come in and expand… So what do we do? Well if you wanted to pay me some money I might give you the real secrets to success (fingers crossed!) ha but for free I will give you a tease that might be helpful.
I would suggest the biggest issue in apparel (and I mean whatever part you play in: from maker, distributor, wholesaler, retailer, vertical, horizontal, whatever) is a lack of information around your business and area of responsibility. Effectively even after a few years of this very different and challenging trading time, we still only have C+ rated information systems. Information systems cover hard data and also the softer side of business. I am sure that almost every company out there would say, hand on heart “yes we could still do with a better understanding of our business”! Understanding is based on information, hard cold past, current or future facts do not lie.
The aim of being armed with information about your business is to ensure no surprises and to be able to react yesterday, not tomorrow. Usually most “bad stuff” that happens in business could have been avoided with a proper information system in place – the bad news might have happened but because you knew about the pending bad news sooner than later, you could react earlier and mitigate some of the impact of it. Effectively it is about being more proactive.
So my challenge to you is what information in your business do you not know enough on? What information do you wish you knew but cannot get – how can you get that information? What current information do you get that you are not making the most of, so you could be more proactive with what that information is telling you and make decisions right now to maximise your profitability!
Most of our business issues happen due to things that we can and should control but do not! Yes of course there are external factors that impact us however business goes on so you need to control the areas that you can control (and reality that is probably like 90% + of what happens in your business). Even if sales are tough, well there are many things that you can do – and that does not mean discounting necessarily!
We all make mistakes, I have made plenty and still do, nobody is perfect. Hopefully we do not repeat our mistakes though. I suggest you have a little notebook called “my mistakes that I never want to repeat ever again”. Write them down – how and why they happened, the impact that they had and how with hindsight you could have avoided them. Most importantly note down the change to how you operate now so that you never make the mistake again. Read your little notebook regularly. All too often we forget our past mistakes and make them at the most inopportune times.
The other big issue for most companies (apparel or not) will be that we all get too busy “doing”, chasing our tails and not taking the time to smell the roses. This applies to business owners and managers alike. How about you set up a recurring 30 minutes per week on Tuesday at 10:30 am where you go and have a coffee with yourself (that means solitary!) and you just think “on the business”. So forget about the fire you have been fighting, forget about that issue or that issue (which you should be addressing, and the best way is to go back to basics and attack the nub of the issue so that it never occurs and I mean the real, real nub of the issue)… This half hour weekly date with yourself is for you to think of all that you should be, want to be, could be… Once you establish that you will be able to think over the 24 odd hours of solitary time that you will have per annum (during the working day!) how do you move from where you are at today to where you could be tomorrow (well perhaps in 12 months time!). Stick to the task, it will make a major difference to where you will be in 12 months time… Plus many café owners around NZ will want to thank me for the hundreds of extra coffees that they sell precisely at 10:30am every Tuesday!
Anyhow trust me, your business can improve. Your business should improve. Perhaps your business must improve? You more than likely have the power to do it. Takes commercial nous. Takes the softer side too. There is also the design aspect of your product. Remember that it does not have to be lonely out there. Help is at hand if you are not moving forward or want to move forward faster or move to levels that you never thought possible! Perhaps hear from you. Here is to a good summer season! firstname.lastname@example.org +64 21 775 660 www.businesschanging.com