Start-Up or Start-Down (Just No Smack-Down Please)

Looking over the 1976 tax return for Karol Fulfillment, there were sales of $818.00 dollars.   That was the first year in business and was the up side.  Now the down side: a loss of $10,458.  Only good thing about the year was no tax was required and the company CPA prepared the return for free.

And yes, this business was started in a basement and its first client, National Geographic, allowed Karol to grow the next year, open distribution libraries, and gave me a real summer job while in college.  Today I still defer to experienced business people, publications and the Small Business Administration for how-to and updates—because every day is either a start-up or start-down.  Keeping it from being a smack-down, and in business, is a matter of diligence and continual adaptation.

Not long ago I had a discussion regarding on-line retailing and the advice was clear: if you cannot control the technology and have not been in retail, back away.  And for sure, ‘build it and they will come’ has nothing to do with on-line retailing.  If you don’t know enough, you’ll be walking through cornfields.  With very tall stalks!

Currently, we encounter numerous on-line start-ups and too often is the case they lack marketing and/or retail experience.  They come from all walks of life and profession, but not marketing and retail.  Many are able to handle technology but just don’t know how to direct it and have it funnel back from respective markets.   Many are smart enough to keep their existing job until fate be known.

We’ve learned too that many successful on-line retailers have multiple e-commerce sites.  Some stores do better than others yet each has a link strategy.  It’s both a way to compete (keeping it in the family as it were) as well as test.  Test results will improve all sites in some way, but if one site is for exploring search words, product copy, etc., the loss is minimized until what works is determined.

A parting thought if you’re about to start up: research the requirements of retail marketing—both technology and budgets.  Once there’s a feel for it, then decide.