December 6, 2011
Growing up my sister and I were suckers for Musicals,but only those that were on TV that is. A little Shirley Temple on Sunday morning, Wizard of Oz at Easter, Musicals on Sundays and every single Christmas Cartoon, Movie or Claymation/Stop motion ever made during the month of December. And if I liked the Musical, then I had to memorize the darn songs. So, late last Thursday when a RUSH order came in this song was a playing in my ear:
Anything you could do, I could do better
I can do anything better than you!
No you can't!
Yes I can!
No you can't!
Yes I can!
No you can't!
Yes I can!
Yes I can!
These are the only lines I know of the song from Annie Get Your Gun, but pretty much I think that is all I need to know. I think the rest is about shootin' varmints or doing cowboy-like things all the live long day. Anyway, so I was singing this song because there are things my company, my manufacturing canand pretty much I do better than any of my competitors. I hate sounding like a braggart or an egomaniac, but there is one thing I can do better: I can always win on turn around times for my products.
Handpainted is Great But....
I used to hand paint all of my ceramic products, after a few months I realized it was very time consuming, messy and exhausting. I hired one artist and then soon many more to help me paint my large number of products I sold. After the now infamous Gooey Messy Glaze Gone Wrong Christmas Season of 2003 I caved (okay my husband helped me come to the conclusion). In 2003 I was spending all of my time and money painting instead of growing my business. I even wrote some lists of what sucked, or was a time suck when I hand painted every single frickin' product:
- Each item was unique, meaning no two products looked the same.
- When a customer sees an image on a website or in a cataloge they want to get something that looks JUST like that image.
- Colors can vary when hand painting items (mixing of paint is not an exact science).
- Taking the time to hand paint something over and over takes countless hours.
- The turn around time is 3 to 4 times as long as a non-painted product.
- Artists are expensive to train and charge a lot of money (As an artist I know they totally deserve that, but as a business woman - ouch).
Hand painting (in my opinion) was not a scalable model. I spent all my time and money on painting products and paying artists to paint my products. It was great in the beginning, when I was trying to figure out if these products would sell, but after a year it was, again not a scalable model. We quickly slowly changed our manufacturing process and stopped all hand painting. By the end of 2004 the paints were used for developing new designs and a new era in production was born. Turn around times were greatly decreased, errors went down, customers were happier and all was good in the world.
Hand painting Takes Time
A few years ago I realized that a number of my competitors were also using the same manufacturing process for some of their ceramic products. What I once touted as an ancient secret or a proprietary manufacturing method, soon became the norm for other ceramic artists. However they don't maufacture their plates like I do, the companies that I compete with hand paint their plates.
I manufacture everything the same way, my competitors - not so much. After doing some online research I found out the difference with my plates vs. their plates:
Competiton: Average turn around for a ceramic hand painted 8 or 10 inch plate is 2 to 4 weeks, possibly six weeks during the holiday season.
Jamie's Painting & Design: Average turn around time for a ten inch plate 1 to 2 weeks. Never a problem with holiday season.
Competition: To RUSH a plate you pay an extra $10.00, plus possible expedited shipping.
Jamie's Painting & Design: Each order was taken on a case by case basis, however there is seldom a RUSH fee needed because the turnaround time requests are within my normal service level.
Competition: A plate that is RUSHED ships in 10 days
Jamie's Painting & Design: We can get a plate shipped in less than 24 hours if needed.
What Can I Do For Our Customers
So, back to my sing fest....last Thursday night, I got a phone call that one of my sales channels needed a plate made for a first birthday gift. The customer needed it by December 14th. Could we get this to the customer in time? Could we RUSH this order? The answer was yes and yes. I was able to make the plate within an hour, it was produced last night. Turn around time 2 to 5 business days.
I know for a fact that not one of my competitors could compete with my turn around time. In fact sometimes we compare notes because we are all sold in many of the same channels and we get the same requests....sales channels sometimes try to find who can do what, how fast and sometimes which of us artisans will give a discount. We share notes, we talk. Whether or not the plate was shopped around or not, I was able to get it done and done quickly. And this time quick equals a very, very happy customer and sales channel.
Take it to the Next Level
To any other like minded Entrepreneurs I say figure out what you do best and do it. Do your research, know what you are up against. Can you beat the competition on pricing? Can you make a better product? Can you beat them on quality or packaging? Figure out what makes your product better and do that.
But most importantly brag a little about how you can win the customers business. It helps you and your business build a good reputation, and that is very important. So, brag a little, stick your chest out and pound it.....I think every company deserves a little pat on the back once in awhile....or just sing a silly song around the house until your family goes a little batty.