#17 – Selling brownies to Wal-Mart

I realize I say yes, way too much or no not enough depending on how you look it.

One of the biggest mistakes I made over the past several years running my business was saying yes to anyone and everyone who wanted to buy a brownie. Here are a few snippets of conversations I’ve had over the years.

  • Homeless and no money, sure I will accept an “I owe you”.
  • You want to pay by credit card? Sure why not, it will cost us considerable amounts of time and money and you would be our only customer paying that way.
  • So, you will sell our brownies in all 13 of your stores but only if we change the packaging entirely so that it has your logo on it and not ours? Sure we can do that, never mind we spent tens of thousands of dollars on design and printing for our current packaging.

I would be so excited that a retailer wanted to bring us in it was pretty much a guarantee I would do anything they asked. Here they are, these kind and generous people were willing to give us a shot, so there is absolutely positively no way I could say “no” to any of their requests.

This became very tiring. Treating every single opportunity that came my way with kids gloves, bending over backwards to keep an account happy, even ones that had not paid in months.

We had great customer service that is not what I’m talking about. Trying to make everyone happy is not customer service; it’s actually a form of customer disservice. You’re doing a disservice to the customer who support your business exactly the way you are.

In the beginning my vision was clear, I made brownies for me. I was uncompromising in my craft to create the most delicious brownies anywhere. As it says on the back of each brownie, “Our idea is simple— pick better ingredients and pair them together to elevate brownies to new levels of deliciousness. We left out the preservatives and trans-fats, and doubled up on pure indulgence.

When you make brownies for one you make them for everyone, when you make brownies for everyone you make them for no one.

In my personal life I certainly don’t make an attempt to get everyone to like me. So why did I do it in my business?

It probably comes back to my fear of failure. What if I turn down an account because I’m unwilling to make my brownies their way and they end of being the account that generates a shit ton of sales?

I know now that if I was making the brownie for them and not for me, it could be Wal-Mart, the mother lode of all retailers and it would not matter at all. I’d make nothing of value. Maybe initially I’d get that nice boost in sales but it wouldn’t last.

As I said, when you try to make everyone happy, you make no one happy.

I would listen to ideas and suggestions from knowledgeable and respected business people, the result; I was constantly rerouting. Someone would say, you should sell sugar free, gluten free, egg free, basically make a brownie that taste slightly better than a piece of shit so you can appeal to what is hot right now.

Immediately I would go into a spiral, questioning everything I thought to be true about my business and what I was doing.

One afternoon I was listening to a podcast about a chocolate company that sources their cocoa beans directly from small farmers in Africa. The farmers would receive a fair price for their beans, which in the past had not been the case. This company would also invest in communities of the farmers they bought from, raising the standard of living in these very poor African villages. The result; they were able to make a high end very expensive chocolate bar while also doing good in the world.

That afternoon I raced home and wanted to devise a plan for us to start buying our ingredients from poor African nations so we to could make the world a better place.

Gluten free was not the answer; the answer of course was I need to source ingredients from poor villages in remote areas of the world.

Remember in post #6  I talked about how my path is my path and your path is your path. Well this is a good example of that. For that chocolate company that was their path and it worked for them, but as much as I wanted it to be my path, it wasn’t.

It was just a distraction. If I kept changing course at the drop of a hat I would stave off failure for another day. If you keep changing the rules of the game you won’t lose but you also won’t win.

I don’t want to keep saying yes to everyone. I don’t want to jump through hopes at the expense of my values just to catch a “big fish.” Maybe catching that big fish ends up pulling me off the boat and into the water where I drown.

I love when I hear examples of businesses or people that turned down an opportunity to make a lot of money in the short term because it was not part of their long term plan. In doing this it actually led to a bigger pay day or a better opportunity that would not have existed if they were working on that thing they should have said no to.

Sometimes saying no sucks in the short run, but creates bigger and better possibilities in the long term.

So why spend time doing something you don’t want to do when you can spend time doing something you do?

For the money? That is a pretty shitty reason.

You do it for the money and it will end up making you miserable. So when it comes time to do the work you love, it suffers and that’s the fucking work that matters.

James Altucher says on his blog, “When you start just saying “No” to the bad things, the “Yes” compounds every day. It compounds automatically, the way interest does in a non-US bank.

I said yes to each and every opportunity that allowed me to sell some product for the same reason a junkie takes a hit even though he knows its killing him. It feels good now always trump feeling good later.

Don’t put off today what you can do tomorrow.

Maybe it should it put off today what you can do tomorrow, because what you do tomorrow might be way greater.

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