January 22, 2008.
We Need to Talk
Okay, so I have not really wanted to talk about it, I admit it. I have been acting like a man, a boy, a dude - if I ignore it long enough maybe it will just go away. I am guilty as charged, I have not addressed the problem head on. I tried to....really I did. The times I wanted to "talk" about it though you were always like talking about something else, or I could not put my emotions into words. So, I have pulled or more like ripped the band aid off and I am here all naked............no wait I DID not mean that - I mean raw, or vulnerable....yes I am ready!
On a side note I must say that this reminds me of the time I got dumped, and I mean dumped with a capital "D". When I was in college I dated a boy ( he was so not a man) who had his heart stomped on and spit out by his ex-girlfriend. He thought he was finally ready to date again, and he picked me......oh how I wish he picked someone else. We dated for like 4 or 5 months, I was quite taken with him - he treated me super nice, was not hard on the eyes and well I thought I was in love.
Fast forward to the end of the relationship when he seemed to have quite the wandering eye, enjoyed spending time with anyone else but me and I found him flirting with my friends on vacation. So, while I was in some um, sorority meeting thing I get a voice mail message; "we need to talk...but not tonight, later maybe another day." Me being me, Ms. Won't take no for an answer and insist we talk now - I needed to know what was going on. I drove to his apartment and he sits me down on his couch and utters these now infamous words, "Remember when I said I loved you? I lied."
Yep - try to swallow that one down. What a painful pill that was to take. Years later I have told that story multiple times to many women and I am actually able to laugh about it. I mean it makes a great story, right? Some friends from college will back me up and confirm that actually happened - I love me a good story, but I could not make that one up.
Accepting the Inevitable
Anyhoo.....not sure if that little incident brought me to where I am to day or not - but it does conjure up a few smiles - which I could use right now. So, as I stated I am ready to talk.....we need to talk. I will have to now address the Big Elephant that has been in the room for awhile. I have hinted at it, I have pointed at it, I have even explained how it hurts me - but I have not been completely honest. Times are tough, it is bad - and there does not seem to be an end in sight.
- Sales for 2008 were sluggish, it started in the beginning of the year. We watched our sales month after month decline - but we thought that they would pick up over the Holiday Season.
- We were smart, we did pay attention to sales - we did everything in our power to save money. We got shipping breaks, we purchased in bulk, we cut back, we improvised - we did make those few dollars we got stretch.
- The end of September when the Stock Market-Financial Crisis-Credit-Mortgage-Crash Thing happened our sales stopped. For the first time in the history of my company we had no sales for days. We have over 200 sales channels - and we had not one sale. People were not shopping, and they were not using their credit cards on line.
- Christmas looked good - nothing like the past years, but we rallied, we did well. We shipped, we did favors, we took orders right up until Christmas. We worked hard and created a lot .(not a ton, just a lot) of product that we happily shipped to the customer. The future may not have looked bright, but it was looking up. *
*As a drop-shipper and as a little guy (or gal) that works with all sizes of business - we ship our product and then we bill be the sales channel. No, no the ideal way to run a company, but it had worked in the past - and some of these stores had policies in place before I came along.
Not long after Christmas we had some bad news.......um some really, really bad news.
- First we found out one of our largest channels filed for bankruptcy. We still do not know if we will ever get paid by them - the Bankruptcy courts protect them - ouch!
- Next another new large account
couldwould not pay their bills until they spoke with their investors (they had already re-structured years before)....this one hurt more. We never thought one of the Big Guys would not pay us - never occurred to us - never say never, believe me, I KNOW!
- Other accounts were behind, some not paying on time, some lost invoices, check is in the mail.....starting to sweat a little now.
- Many sales channels seemed to have had their credit cards maxed out.......day, after day, after day we tried to run charges. Now I am blowing into a paper bag so I do not pass out.
- One sales channel had a health emergency and we have yet to be paid by them.
Those that actually answered or calls or emails had an excuse, some just ignored our calls all together. Or my personal favorite......lied about it, and when the check was sent. The fact is that each one alone did not amount to a lot of money (well no not true a few did amount to a lot of money). Mesh them together, add the almost extinct sales for the Holiday Season + Slow January Sales = putting my company in a very, very bad place.
When I started Jamie's Painting & Design I was green, I was new - I was literally so happy to get an account I did not pay close attention to the terms. It was not too important when I was running the business out of home. Margins? We are fine? Terms? Whatever? Sales, sales - if I sell it they will pay. What I did not know would not hurt me, or so I thought. As soon as I left the safe haven of a "no rent studio" I soon came to understand how important it was for our channels to pay and pay on time.
Which brings me to where we are today. We are not good. Things are looking bad. Bankruptcy court protects companies that declare bankruptcy - what if they take me down with them? Do I get a bail out too? So Congress, Mr. President where is MY bail out? Companies that have no money.....no wait companies that spent the money I was owed, they got paid - me....not so much. A maxed out credit card may never free up any funds.
Fun A Fact: A small business that drop-ships and works with large/small/medium companies........can get screwed.
The Future Looks Grim
I do not want to really burst anyone's bubble, and sadly I heard that a few business in our industry have already closed up and declared bankruptcy - this makes me sad. I do not want to become one of those businesses. I can and will fight to survive - problem is we were already a lean-mean-well run machine. People say I am resourceful, creative - they say I will figure it out. Maybe I will. I do know one thing though - if our channels do not pay us we can not survive.