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Start-up Advice

How to Find Your Inventory Sweet Spot

Top tips on finding the right products for your target market.

Entrepreneur

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In a retail business, the potential for product comes with wise inventory purchases. The most astute pricing strategies won’t help if your inventory is wrong. Creatively shop, but don’t be distracted by all of the wonderful merchandise out there that doesn’t fill your customer’s cup, or your investment will most likely be unrecovered.

Related: Be Good at Being Wrong by Getting it Right Quickly

Buying inventory is easy; selecting the right things to fill your store’s shelves poses more of a challenge. You know what kind of retail operation you have and who your customers will be. Now how do you put together your merchandise portfolio?

Choose products that enhance your reputation. Your prices should reflect your image and your target market. This means that you should establish your price lines and price points before you buy. You must get the highest possible markup consistent with competition and customer price satisfaction. The better the buy, the higher the markup you can make.

Establishing your inventory

Here’s a simple procedure to follow to help you decide which merchandise you should offer and which you should not. If you’re dealing with electronics or clothing, you may wish to do your breakdown on the basis of brand names. If you’re organising a food business, simply list the food supplies you would have on hand the day you open.

Let’s use a motorcycle dealer to explain how this model would work:

  • Divide your inventory into broad classifications, such as R300,000 for motorcycle hard parts.
  • Divide each broad classification into sub-classifications—for example, engine parts, wheel parts, frame parts, transmission parts, dress-up parts, drive-line parts, and tune-up parts.
  • Allocate a certain percentage of your capital to each sub-classification—for example, 20 percent engine parts, 5 percent wheel parts, 5 percent frame parts, 5 percent transmission parts, 30 percent dress-up parts, 10 percent drive-line parts, and 25 percent tune-up parts.
  • Locate resources that will sell you the products you want to stock. For instance, read Hot Bike magazine, the Cycle World Buyer’s Guide, and Thunder Press newspaper. Get catalogs from online sources such as Custom Chrome, Motorcycle Superstore, and Drag Specialties.
  • Make sure each item purchased gives you the best possible markup and that the retail prices will fit the price lines you have set for your operation. The motorcycle store’s target markup is 50 percent on services, 40 percent on accessories and clothing, and 35 percent on hard parts.

You only have so much money to allocate for merchandise. The challenge is to achieve maximum sales from what you buy. By first determining how much of what you’re going to buy, you discipline yourself to be discriminating and to keep your buys in balance with your overall inventory needs.

Faced with an enthusiastic salesperson, an attractive deal, and a hunger to buy, you need all the will you can muster to remember your priorities. Keep your buying plan with you and stick to it.

Finding products

One way to find the products you want to sell is to work with a buying office. A resident buying office is composed of buyers in national or international market centers who shop the market daily to offer their member stores information and to choose and purchase items for them. Resident buying offices primarily provide advice and counsel. Their staffs also do actual buying for their members on a contract basis.

A buying office can be your eyes and ears and can help you evaluate resources, identify price fluctuations, and keep up with trends. A buying office has its own staff of domestic and foreign buyers and can invite your buyer to information clinics.

Most professional buyers are located in or around merchandise markets. Search online using business industry terms to see what merchandising services are available in your area for your type of business.

Related: How to Start with Absolutely Nothing but your Own Blood, Sweat, and Fears

Independent resident buyers usually deal with small retailers, providing few services other than the procurement of merchandise. The buyer can represent many manufacturers and gives the retailer the advantage of choosing from a large assortment of items without paying a fee. The commissioned buyers are considered merchandise brokers.

Finding suppliers

Many manufacturers sell their goods directly to retailers. When there’s no middleman or supplier involved, you can negotiate terms more easily. Most retailers buy from wholesalers. Some advantages of dealing with a warehouse include access to a wide assortment of items close to your business, reducing the number of sources you have to deal with, and the ability to purchase in smaller quantities rather than going directly to the manufacturer.

Some importers are excellent resources and connect you with manufacturers in foreign countries. However, buying inventory from suppliers is the cornerstone of many a successful retail business, so you need to know how to establish good supplier relationships.

As soon as you file your business name or take out a business license, suppliers will start approaching you for business. Ask for catalogs, brochures, business addresses, and who they bank with to avoid scams. Established suppliers cannot only be a great source of necessities but can also offer you insight into the market. They can help you interpret consumer demand, guide you in the operation of your business, and assist in solving problems.

Selling seasons

Most buying is done on a seasonal basis. There are certain items that sell throughout the year, and there are those that drive consumers into your store during a specific period of time.

For instance, winter means long sleeves, boots, coats, snow shovels, cold remedies, hot food, heaters, and cross-country skis, while summer sells bathing suits, air conditioners, sunscreen, cold drinks, barbecues, and pool supplies.

Factor these realities into your analysis of your store’s sales activity. How hot is a “hot” item? Is the interest a passing fad or a sustainable trend? Make sure you can obtain new items and promote them in time to profit, or the risk may be too great for being left with excessive stock you’ll have to mark down.

How do you decide how much is enough? A common ratio during normal demand periods is 3 to 1. That is, to reach a certain sales figure, you must have three times that amount in inventory. For example, it might take a R900,000 inventory in snowboards to generate R300,000 in sales in that category during a given month.

Other merchandise classifications have different ratios. In a furniture store, it might take R500,000 in inventory to generate R100,000 in sales—a 5:1 ratio. In fine jewelry, it could take R300,000 to generate R50,000—a 6:1 ratio.

Related: The Top Business Models For Your New Start-Up Business

A major retailing goal is to generate as much as possible in sales from the smallest possible inventory, but it’s dangerous to run out of merchandise customers want. Thus, keeping tabs on sales-to-stock ratios helps you know how much merchandise you should have on hand. Trade associations usually maintain the most up-to-date ratios to assist retailers with buying.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

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Start-up Advice

Entrepreneurship: How To Develop Your ‘Great Idea’

There is one or more critical elements that a significant proportion of start-up entrepreneurs overlook when evaluating their own idea/s.

Dirk Coetsee

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Empty pockets never held anyone back. Only empty heads and empty hearts can do that. – Norman Vincent Peale 

Volumes of start-up entrepreneurs claim to have wonderful ideas that will serve as a catalyst to attaining riches. Often once internally convinced of their own great idea they march into the offices of bank managers, venture capitalists, or angel investors and ‘blurt out’ their earth-shaking idea with a staggering amount of confidence only to regularly hear loud and repetitive echoes of that unpalatable word ‘NO’ .

Totally devastated and mesmerised by the behaviour of investors, self-pity often sets in and the prospective investors are blamed for their lack of vision and understanding. Holding oneself accountable and doing honest self-reflection often only comes with a great deal of experience and wisdom therefore inexperienced entrepreneurs often falter at the first serious hurdle that they face and go back to a day job blaming others for their failure.

There is one or more critical elements that a significant proportion of start-up entrepreneurs overlook when evaluating their own idea/s:

Within the grand scheme of things it really does not matter if you think you have a great idea that will transform into a ‘money maker’ in reality it only matters if the market believes your idea is great and am willing to pay for it. An untested idea can never be great an idea has to be actualised and proven to be great or not.

Wise investors are more interested in investing in you as opposed to investing in ‘your great idea’ because the idea will only have traction and sustainability if the person that conceived it is willing to overcome any and every obstacle in his/or her way and move towards success with urgency and a sense of unwavering commitment.

Related: 20 Quick Money-Making Business Ideas

Carefully considering the above it is a smart move to create a ‘minimum viable product’ , to test your product in the marketplace and to adjust according to the findings of your research until you have moulded your ‘great idea’ into and actualised ‘great product’.

Do not attempt to entice investors armed with only a ‘great idea’ instead announce a market tested product with a proven demand when you pitch. Speak to industry experts, hear what entrepreneurial peers have to say about your products or services, create focus groups and have a number of consumers test your product. Carefully listen to the cues prompting improvements within their feedback and adjust where and if appropriate.

Engaging consumers, peers, friends and family with a minimum viable product is taking great strides towards not only refining and improving your product or service but also at the same time assists in formulating your sales and marketing strategy.

The attempt to take an untested product or service to a marketplace where the ‘lukewarm’ are often gulped up can cause a great deal of pain to the start-up entrepreneur and can be a very costly exercise. It can be both emotionally and financially draining to such an extent that the entrepreneur gives up on his or her dream relatively quickly.

To what degree you factor in the testing of your product considering both your start-up budget and project timeline can have a great amount of positive impact on your success.

As a business coach I have never underestimated the value of having a wise mentor whom can give sound advice and support especially during the start-up phase of your venture. Consult with your mentor on how to thoroughly test your product or service and structure the testing phase of your project in such a way that it saves you money and a lot of pain in the future.

Read next: The Ultimate 101 List Of Business Ideas To Start Your Own Business In South Africa

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Start-up Advice

How To Turn Your Side Hustle Into A Full-Time Gig

It will be scary, but also incredibly rewarding.

Nicolette Amarillas

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Few people are lucky enough love their 9-to-5s, and more and more people are finding themselves doing something else on the side, either to add to their income or to feed their passion. Sometimes, those “side hustles” start to feel more and more like “the real thing,” and suddenly these people are dreaming about running a business of their own. Sound familiar? If you’re one of the thousands of people dreaming about turning your side hustle into a true business, you’re not alone.

Moving away from a steady, full-time position to being on your own is the scariest, yet most invigorating feeling in the world. I’ve found most people consider entrepreneurship either unattainable or, honesty, highly romanticised. The reality is that neither is correct. Being an entrepreneur is a ton of work, but it’s also completely possible.

1. Be clear and honest with yourself about when it’s time to make the jump

Giving up the benefits and security that come with a full-time job is scary, and sometimes unrealistic, but it’s also dangerous to keep waiting until the time “feels right.” Ask yourself exactly what you need to have before you can make your side gig your new reality. A good rule of thumb is to have enough savings to live for about six months without income, and/or with the income you already have from your side clients.You should also have a clear idea of who your potential clients might be and how to connect with them.

Related: 20 South African Side-Hustles You Can Start This Weekend

After taking care of the logistical considerations, try to avoid dragging your feet. According to the British Psychological Society, you’re 91 percent more likely to accomplish something if you give yourself a deadline. So do it! Hold yourself accountable. Maybe you’re not willing to stay at your current job beyond a certain date, or maybe there will be other indicators that will make you certain that it’s time to go.

If your current role isn’t fulfilling and the passion is gone, it may be the perfect catalyst for making the jump.

Both of my businesses came to fruition because of my own realisation that I wasn’t flourishing in my current roles. I wasn’t the best, I wasn’t seeing the success I wanted and instead of feeling defeated, I changed directions. For me, the clearest signal that it was time to leave was that I didn’t believe in the goals I was supposed to be working toward.

2. Before you quit, put the processes in place to help your side gig scale

Early on, business organization and strategizing is a huge component of success. You’ll need to limit stress and create as much efficiency and ease as possible in your daily systems. This could mean scheduling things carefully, or using free software to make your work more effective. I try to divide the week into days assigned to different businesses tasks. Try as best you can to not switch back and forth between your different focus areas within the same day. Going back and forth between tasks that are not related is inefficient and breaks focus. Give your brain a break and keep yourself on one straight road each day.

Digitising your work can help, too. According to Accenture, companies that use cloud collaboration tools with their teams improve productivity, have greater clarity about what’s going on in their business and save money. When you first start out, it can feel silly to keep documents in a shareable cloud space (like Google Drive, DropBox or whatever option you like best), but you need to have the structures in place so that you’re organised and ready for the time if/when you hire a team to support you. This is a good thing to play around with before you quit your main gig. Having the tools and processes you know work well for you ready to go when you make the switch can make ramp up time easier.

It’s long hours, it’s always being “on,” its wearing too many hats, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. So, how do you successfully turn your side project or passion into a prosperous business? What are the steps? We all want the “1, 2, 3 and voila, here it is, a company of our own,” but realistically, how can we make it happen? I can only speak to my own experience, failures or what I like to call “directional pivots” and successes. There have been a few true catalysts that have helped me turn my two side gigs into full-time gigs.

3. Work hard, and be humble

Your time is valuable, but as new entrepreneur you can’t treat it like currency. What I mean is, be prepared to put in lots of hours with minimal return. Initially, time may not correlate with financial success; this is an incredibly important mindset to remember. Your time isn’t money, yet. It’s groundwork. Building a side gig up from the ground requires wearing a lot of different hats. If you want your business to succeed, you have to be ready to play customer service rep, salesperson, individual contributor and HR.

Related: 50 Jobs, Gigs And Side Hustles You Can Do From Home

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, break the work down further. Spend more time working on the day to day tasks, checking things off the to-do list. These are all working toward your big vision, but in small doable pieces rather than hefty overwhelming ones. Try not to consider any task “beneath you” and take some time to truly understand what goes into each part of your business.

You won’t have a boss telling you what’s right or wrong, so you’ll need to build a sense of self-accountability – one of the toughest parts of being an entrepreneur. Take notes about the challenges you face in each aspect of your business so that you’ll know what anyone you might hire will have to cope with. It’s your best chance to uncover important considerations and think about what resources might need to go where, down the line.

4. Surround yourself with smart people – even if you never plan to work with them

As much as entrepreneurship can be a solitary job, especially in the beginning, it’s vital to your success to remember how others can help you thrive. Invest your time in like-minded people. Take time to get to know others and their stories and create valuable relationships. So much of success is built from opportunities or inspiration from people we know.

Find people you connect with to talk about your ideas, write about your ideas online and build a community that empowers you. Take advantage of those around you who want to see you succeed. You’ll be surprised at how much people want to help!

Related: 3 Ways To Set Your Side Hustle Up For Success

The number of new startups and small businesses has dropped dramatically in recent years, nearing a 40-year low in 2016. The landscape has gotten tougher, which makes being an entrepreneur scarier. Turning a side hustle into the real thing is not easy, and I’d be lying if I said I loved every minute of it. But, just as with most other big decisions in life, there are always lessons to be learned no matter what happens. Be thoughtful, take smart risks and see where your “side hustle” can go.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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How To Keep Big Ideas From Being Big Failures

Simple, Yet Effective Business Advice from Clients on Demand Founder, Russ Ruffino.

Jeff Broth

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As an entrepreneur, it’s not uncommon to have big ideas. Ideas that, if worked properly, can take your business to higher levels.

Maybe you’ve came up with a way to enhance your products or services that would advance your company lightyears ahead of your competitors. Or perhaps you’ve thought up a new gadget or tool that, once developed and released, could potentially change the world as it exists today.

The problem with having these big ideas is that sometimes they fail. And they can fail hard.

Big Ideas Can Equal Big Failures

Take Coca-Cola, for instance. On April 23, 1985, this well-known company announced that it was changing its formula and releasing the “new Coke.” While its goal was to update a soft drink that had been 99 years in the making, it actually had the opposite effect. Consumers were mad. Real mad.

People had grown to know and love the taste of Coke, so the thought of it changing didn’t sit right with their taste buds. Many protested the company’s actions, creating such a stir that, in addition to being picked up by news sources everywhere on that day, it is still being talked about today.

Ultimately, Coke recovered and is still loved by many. However, it easily could have went the other way, potentially causing a revolt big enough to force them to close their doors.

So, what can you do to take your big ideas and turn them into wins versus risking them becoming huge failures capable of sinking your business? According to one entrepreneur, you simply do a numbers test.

Related: 3 Companies With Memorable Slogans, And How To Create Your Own

The Numbers Test

In a People Stack Podcast, Russ Ruffino shares that his company, Clients on Demand, is on track to earn $20 million this year. This number is up from $4.5 million in 2016, just two short years ago, and Ruffino says that one thing has helped him reach this level of success is that he and his team use data to help them decide what to do. “We always run the numbers,” says Ruffino.

For instance, if your big idea is to recreate one of your current products, how much will it cost your company to make and test a prototype? What about manufacturing costs on a larger scale?

Think also about expenses related to marketing the updated product line and costs associated with creating enough buzz to get it to really sell. Put them all together and see what the numbers are telling you.

Sometimes New Isn’t Better

You may just find that newer isn’t always better. In fact, Ruffino says this is typically the case as, usually what he finds at Clients on Demand is they can typically “get to our income goals faster by just getting a little bit better at what we’re already doing.”

Benjamin P. Hardy, a former top writer for Medium.com in the self-improvement and entrepreneurship space, agrees and adds, “It doesn’t matter how good your strategy is, if you’re not skilled at what you do, that strategy won’t take you very far.”

That’s why Hardy recommends that you put yourself in challenging situations. “This is how you evolve,” he says. And be sure to follow your own path and keep your why’s in front of you along the way to remind you of what is driving you forward. Let these motivate you when times get tough.

It’s only natural to come up with big ideas in business. That’s what being an entrepreneur is about. Just make sure you follow your numbers and those big ideas can potentially become big successes.

Read next: 10 Business Ideas Ready To Launch!

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