Dec 13

"It's easy when business is good"

Most of my friends and family are going to be surprised at this little tidbit: I have a subscription to Marie Claire magazine. I know, I know. I'm not exactly a model fashionista and I don't wear makeup. I'm in it for the articles. For realz. (Okay, maybe I also like to gawk at $900 shoes I'll never let myself buy...)

But this random article in the December 2013 issue that arrived at my house today caught my eye: an interview with Williams-Sonoma CEO Laura Alber.

IMHO... anyone who is running their own small business wants to pay attention and take whatever bits of advice that anyone at the top of a successful business is willing to dole out. So here's the quote I think is worth sharing from this article:

"I think it's easy to be a good leader when business is good, but you really see people's leadership skills when business gets tougher."

She's speaking about the recession and goes on to talk about what they did:

"We cut a lot of waste that is forever gone. We're careful about hiring. We never want to let people go because we've hired too many."

When I started my retail store, things went well right off the bat. Meaning, sales were higher than I expected. But a few years later when the recession hit, I wasn't prepared. I'm not sure it meant I was a bad leader, but I certainly wasn't a prepared one, and that made all the difference.

If I could do it all over again... I would have been leaner from the beginning. Kept more moola in emergency savings, for one. Once sales had dropped off, it was hard to keep up with routine expenses and hard to prioritize what to spend every precious dollar on.

It's exactly like preparing for possibility of loosing your job. Personal finance experts say to keep anywhere from six to eight months of expenses in an emergency fund. So if the worst happens, you can keep life going while you look for a new job.  I wish I had done the same to keep marketing and advertising efforts going, while not feeling like I needed to skimp on inventory during those lean times.

But this is why I'm telling you about my mistakes... so you can learn from them. This is exactly what I do in my new book.  (Nice segue, eh?)

Moral of this blog post: Learn, learn, learn from others. Copy what the successful peeps did right and avoid what the non-successful peeps did wrong.

(...and you never know what random bits you'll find in random magazines.)

3 Responses for ""It's easy when business is good""

  1. Jason Taylor says:

    "I would have been leaner from the beginning."
    But wasn't your business relatively unscalable/grow-able? Williams-Sonoma is also retail. But not all businesses are. In many cases, IMO, lowering cash reserves means one should raise more cash to spend even more and grow faster, reduce the product to market time, time to profit, make the CES new product showcase deadlines, etc.

    • adeenaAdmin says:

      My business was definitely scalable/grow-able. That was actually my plan from day 1: to open multiple stores. However, my mistake was in putting that goal ahead of getting store #1 to profitability first. A couple more seasoned retail experts warned me, but I didn't listen. I spent money that first year with the misconception that I "wasn't supposed to make a profit that first year." Basically, looking back on what I spent money on... there was a a lot of waste and extra expenses I didn't need. 🙂

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