Tales From The Dark Side

I don’t want to write a really long blog entry, but I wanted to talk about what happens when things go right. I mean they go really right. When your hopes and dreams about a successful business come true in a week, or a month, rather than the one to two years or more that businesses usually take to start up. When you are starting with no money and you get publicity you weren’t expecting, or perhaps your purchased or free advertising works better than you expected it to, and you get flooded with orders or requests for information, and you just don’t have the money or ability to keep up with this much business. I mean, you do have to buy product first in order to deliver it to your customer, in order to collect from your customer. That’s called accounts receivable. In some cases you have to deliver free information to a potential customer before it is converted into an order. This can add up to a lot of money fronted.

We lived this dream turned nightmare, as we went from getting one customer order our first week to being drowned in orders. It was two of us, one working a full-time job and the other a full-time stay-at-home mom. We built our website and got it listed several places. We got the granddaddy of them all at the time, a top spot on Yahoo for the product name. We did not have the capability of taking credit cards, so we shipped the product to the customer with an invoice and they sent back a check. This worked for us for a while but soon it was too much to manage. I charged $30,000 a month on my American Express fearful for the day I could not pay it on time.

We switched to taking credit cards and took a haircut with the fees, but we got our money in two days. We went beyond cases of 12 bottles to ordering master cases of 144, to ordering 12 master cases at a time. Each of the cases was about $350 or so, so we’re talking about $30,000+ worth of product delivered at a time to a three bedroom townhouse. Our business quickly took over our garage and our whole house. We were constantly working until midnight trying to keep up.

At one time, the MLM company completely stocked out of product and we could not get it. We set up an autoresponder email that said that we were out of product and were waiting, but we would ship as soon as it was available. Nobody cancelled. We shipped when it came in and everyone paid without a fuss.

We got email after email from potential customers and distributors for free information. I created a program that converted our emails into mailing labels because we couldn’t rekey the information. At one time I also converted product orders into mailing labels and credit card information that we could run right into the credit card program. Later we switched to using a secure server for orders where we would print the order information from the screen; so at that point we had to rekey order information.

We had to subscribe to a telephone system to prevent calls from coming in during the nighttime, although our fax machine would be cranking out the paper all night long. The telephone system took some pressure off of us by distributing phone calls to some of our distributors. Once we bought our current house, we got a four line telephone server and set it up for our own purposes.

Many of the ways we did business kept customers that we attained from our free advertising, but the original inflow was crazy. Please take our experience to heart and be prepared for the unexpected.

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