No one gets it 100% right the first time. Hell, even 50% right the first time would be impressive. There is power in iteration. The key is to start SOMETHING and improve it along the way. The iPhone 1 was innovative at its release 10 years ago. Today? It would be the equivalent of a flip phone, maybe even a brick phone.
1. Start a thing. You have to get started. I’ve often heard “ if you wait until everything is perfect to start, you’ve waited too long.” It’s true. There are things you can only learn by doing and seeing how your business functions in the real world. I started a kids & maternity consignment business with a friend in 2013 and it failed miserably. The website was complete trash and we did no marketing. I realized the mantra “if you build it, they will come” was complete garbage. But, with inventory on hand, I had no other choice but to figure it out.
2. Identify and Solve Problems. You should certainly do substantial research starting a business. But even if you do, you’ll find problems that you didn’t know you would have. For me the problem was customer acquisition and stale inventory. So I began using other marketplaces, like ebay, to gain customers. To solve the issue of stale inventory, I began to drip the inventory, meaning instead of listing everything all at once, I would do it a little at a time to keep people interested. With those couple tweaks, I started making money.
3. Explore Alternatives. We’ve all heard the phrase “there’s more than one way to skin a cat.” To be clear, I’ve never ACTUALLY skinned a cat, but the underlying sentiment is true. There is more than one way to do most things. What are some alternative means to your end? We began as a resale site – went to goodwill and flipped what we bought. But that is very cash intensive. So I started to consign. The money wasn’t quite as good because I had to share the earnings with the client, but I also didn’t have to tie my own money up in inventory.
4. Leverage Technology. There are always new sites and apps that help you do things more efficiently. Of course social media is a part of this too. Posting products on Facebook and Instagram helped us to get eyes on our products and also clicks and purchases on our site.
5. Improve Your Systems. Systems, like everything else, are ever changing. Improving systems may not directly make you money, and may even cost you money, but it will free up your time to focus on the things that can make you more money. Also important – automate where you can. I found an integration that would pull customer information directly from Paypal to Mailchimp so I could market directly to my former ebay customers. I was able to turn many into repeat customers. There was a BIG bonus. When I got them to buy directly from my site, I didn’t have to share fees with ebay. More money for me!!
6. Recognize Industry Trends. You cannot ignore what is going on in the market. Premium features can quickly become required. Think about phones. I remember having an early camera (flip) phone – the camera was an upgrade, which everyone did not have. There would be a revolt if companies stopped making cameras with phones in 2017. For me, I realized sales weren’t as lucrative as they used to be due to other consignment sites popping up. I leveraged sites like Thredup to move old inventory, and eventually liquidate when my partner and I decided to end the business.
7. REPEAT. The repetition is what makes it iteration. I took everything I learned in the kids & maternity consignment business and used it to build another consignment business – the one I currently run now. Even though it’s technically the same industry, I still learn new things and make tweaks along the way.
You CANNOT work everything out in your head. You’re never going to be able to anticipate all the challenges. Just get to work already and make changes along the way. That is iteration.