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Be careful what you wish for… cuz you just might get it!

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I love a good wish (business or otherwise) and I especially love having a sales goal/wish and going after it! I have been fortunate to have many wishes come true, and one in particular that was a big business goal/wish. Now, I call that kind of happening a “luxury” problem, but it can be a crazy running around pants on fire kind of problem that can leave one exhausted and at the end of a very short rope.

I can remember it like it was yesterday… the company I was working for told me that one of my goals for the year was to land 2 new key accounts. These accounts were to have multiple stores (at a min. 10 locations) and orders were to be a min of 20K for the first year. I’m a bit of an over achiever and no one told me that I should just land 2 new key accounts so I worked hard and ended up landing 5 new key accounts (1 had over 100 stores). The company was thrilled and we all went into overdrive to make things happen for these new accounts. Each new key account came with their unique requirements and demands. Many of the buyers, although awesome to work with, had no idea of what their ticketing, packaging or shipping requirements were and the vendor manuals were chalk full of requirements.

It quickly became apparent that with these new accounts we needed to hire some help – reading the manuals alone was a full time job – and we needed to do it ASAP. Luckily we had systems and processes, but it was clear after a few not so fun issues that we needed specific systems and processes just for key accounts.

There was one packaging incident that happened and sticks out in my mind as it ended up costing the company money. After much work, I received our first holiday orders from the key account that had 100+ stores and we were ready… at least we thought we were. The product was made on time and we were preparing to ship the first (and largest of the two holiday orders) when it was discovered that the gift boxes (something that this company specifically requested) had not been ordered. Because the boxes were a custom size, they were going to take 3 weeks to make and then another week to ship (to rush ship the boxes was an added expense) and then another couple of days to put the product in the boxes. Can you say oops?

Let me tell you I had to do a lot apologizing and listening to the buyer and figuring out how we could make things OK. We lost valuable selling time at the stores and because the order was shipped late, the second order that was pushed back by 3 weeks from the ship date of the first order. This meant that stores ended up not having great sell through on a product that usually sells like hot cakes. In addition, there was a lot of product left over from holiday sales that the company didn’t place another order until April. That’s a super long time especially since our product was new to the store’s assortment.

In addition to the disappointment of the buyer (and her not hitting her projected numbers), the poor sell-through of the product and the delay of shipping the orders, my end of year $ goal was affected which was a real bummer because I had worked so hard to exceed my $ goal. And my goal of course affected the overall company goal.

What did come out of this experience was a super valuable lesson and 5 very important rules:

1. Read the vendor manual and learn all of the stores requirements.

2. To meet with the head of production (or if a small company sit down and review everything yourself) and confirm all key account orders in detail from the creating to the packaging and shipping requirements. Be realistic about what IS possible before confirming the order with the buyer.

3. To review checklist (make one if you don’t have one) and ensure everything is addressed/checked off.

Our checklist for the overview of an order looked something like this:

a. Product style
b. Product quantity
c. Product availability
d. Product lead time
e. Packaging requirements
f. Packaging availability
g. Packaging lead time
h. Label requirements / EDI or other
i. Labels printed and ready for order
j. Shipping requirements
k. Shipping window including cancel date if any
l. Lead time for finished product
m. Dates of holidays that may affect production or shipping

4. To work with the buyer on what needs to happen and when. This is then confirmed in writing via email (very important).

5. To exceed the buyer’s expectations by listening and being realistic of what can happen.

Many lessons were learned from this issue (I can assure you the company never has had a gift box issues since this incident), but my biggest takeaway was to always be prepared for all or your wishes because they just might happen and sometimes they are much bigger than you could possibly imagine. So keep wishing and working towards what you want just make sure you are ready for it.

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