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A successful startup can have a burden. Forget their immense profits and loyal customer followings for a moment because the real issue is both a blessing and a curse: popularity. Everyone wants to be “that” business which credits a new niche product or service. A revolutionary idea that everyone wants to copy, something so simple yet ingenious that everyone kicks themselves, screaming “why didn’t I think of that?”.
No matter how amazing your business idea is, it will eventually become something that will cause you a great amount of stress because your customers have many expectations of you. If your product is innovative, then where do you go from there? Do you have an evolution of the product planned, or was it pure dumb luck that got you where you are? Whatever you decide for your product, it’s important to remember that whatever you make, you need to supply it to consumers.
But it’s a lengthy learning process that becomes easier with experience. Once you see your consumers getting angry about a lack of stock, you’ll realize what areas of your business need to be improved on and how to plan for it in the future. So let’s start by showing you a very recent blunder by one of the world’s most well-known businesses: Nintendo.
One of the world’s leading video game development and manufacturing companies, Nintendo, recently released a product called the “Nintendo Mini”. This product was hailed as a throwback to retro gaming enthusiasts that grew up on Nintendo’s legendary “NES” console. As such, it became an extremely popular holiday item that every video gamer wanted.
Unfortunately, Nintendo released only a couple of the models to each retailer, resulting in a massive shortage and hundreds of eBay listings by scalpers who bumped the price up fives times higher than the original retail price. It goes without saying that this generated a lot of controversy and as a result, many disgruntled fans complained to Nintendo. Although they promised to create more, Nintendo simply couldn’t handle the demand and the entire ordeal left a sour taste in the mouths of loyal fans.
Some frustrated individuals even called out Nintendo for purposely producing low amounts of the devices just to create an air of exclusivity around their products.
This was a grave mistake that, luckily, didn’t affect Nintendo much because of their influence in the video game and entertainment industry. However, a small business cannot afford to make such a glaring mistake. If you can’t provide a popular product to people that want it, then they’re going to get annoyed and look for alternatives. Imitators will pop up and steal your customers and disgruntled consumers will complain at your inability to meet demands and move on to other companies. You’ll be labelled as an incompetent business and you’ll lose all of your customers until your business falls and shuts down.
You can’t make any excuses for such a popular and established company such as Nintendo, but this is, unfortunately, a situation that far too many new entrepreneurs encounter. Their growth far exceeds their expectations and as a result, they don’t have the systems or employees in place to meet the demand. It’s not just a case of hiring more people either. If your product goes viral and suddenly becomes a trendy item that everyone wants, you have no way to meet the demand or respond to a higher volume of customer queries without forcing your staff to work overtime.
There’s no way to plan for expansion without sacrificing some money. Be it renting a larger office than you need for your startup, or manufacturing more products than your estimated sales volume, those plans might fail and you’ll be left with a large empty office or stock that you simply can’t shift. However, if you do manage to expand within a short amount of time and get more orders than you expected, then you’d be thankful for having a larger office and producing more items.
One of the biggest decisions a company has to make is: do we need a production line? Most product manufacturing is outsourced for factories to handle. The factory staff modify their production lines to accommodate the needs of their clients, often changing equipment or repurposing old machinery to fit a new purpose. For example, a powder coating booth might be expanded or shrunk depending on the item that needs to be painted, or computer systems might be tweaked to display different values of raw materials and project an estimated amount of finished products.
Most companies wouldn’t be able to afford a production line because it’s a hefty investment. Luckily, there are many ways to get a factory set up for a smaller price than you might imagine. The first is to take over an existing business that’s similar to yours and already operates a factory. Let’s say you run a soft drinks business. It makes sense to buyout or takeover rival companies or smaller startups and use their facilities. You’ll assimilate their product and it’ll become part of your product lineup which could drive more sales, but more importantly you’ll get access to their production line. With a skilled team of engineers, you’ll easily be able to duplicate the production line or switch the machinery and raw ingredients to create your own product.
Another option is to renovate an abandoned factory. It costs a lot less than buying a factory that already has staff manning it and machinery to use, and the cost is comparable to building a factory from the ground up depending on the location and refurbishment costs of the abandoned factory. Old production facilities might be infested with asbestos which would require them to be demolished and built from the ground up, so make sure to hire someone to inspect the site beforehand. You can furnish your factory with second-hand machinery. Most production line facilities don’t have to be new. As long as they’re given a good clean and you have engineers on board to repurpose them, you can often start up a production line for a bargain.
Starting up your own production line can be a logistical nightmare, but it’s incredibly useful if you’re suffering the woes of a successful business. You’ll need to hire a lot of extra employees and you’ll need to consult the help of experts in the field, but it’s well worth the money and can become the best long-term investment you’ve ever made for your business.
Something that very few businesses get right is the customer experience. The most common example is query volume. As your business grows, you’re going to get more and more consumers contacting you, messaging you on social media and phoning your office. It’s important that you do not neglect the importance of retaining your customers and providing them excellent aftercare support. Don’t follow the big-brand stereotype of outsourcing your customer service call centre to a different country or business. You want to make sure the people answering your calls are knowledgeable and experienced with your product so that they can provide an excellent service.
Even if your business is getting swamped with requests and supply demands, make sure you never neglect customer support. Keep your social media accounts updated, let your customers know of any upcoming changes or plans to cope with the growth, and keep them in the loop. Being transparent is a good idea, but don’t fill your social media channels with useless messages that don’t serve a purpose or that doesn’t have an effect on your customers.
Make sure larger corporations and angry customers aren’t pushing you around. Don’t respond to their threats and demands, prepare a legal team in case someone sues you or files a trademark dispute and don’t bend over to the whims of your consumers. A single disgruntled customer will have a voice louder than a thousand consumers. News outlets want to report on your story and your competitors want to see you fall, so there will be no shortage of controversies and false claims about your success. It doesn’t matter how wrong or insane some of those claims are—you need to push them away and prepare legal advice to stamp out false claims.
The other type of corporate bully you might encounter is larger companies. Your established rivals will see you as a threat and try to buy you out for a substantial amount of money, but if you’re serious about starting up your own brand and providing the best customer service and product that you can, then you have to learn to ignore these offers. As tempting as it can be to sell your business and with it, all of the stress and problems you might encounter, consider if it’s worth abandoning the employees that helped you grow your business and turning your back on the idea you worked so hard to nourish.