When running your own food business, or any business for that matter, you will have to make tough decisions every day; decisions that will affect your growth positively or negatively. There will even be times that you become paralyzed with fear because you know just how big the choices before you are, and just how dramatically they could affect your business.
At times the difficulty of a decision might be emotional, other times it might be filled with fear; both immobilize you from making a good decision. I’ve had my fair share of both. One recent emotional decision we had to make at Bearded Brothers involved discontinuing a NEW product that had not even been on the market a full year. We LOVED this new product, and thought it had lots of great potential, but the product was a struggle from the start. Our packaging supplier messed up the first round of packaging, we struggled to be able to produce the bars because of the growth of our existing line, not many customers were carrying the product as a result of the slow start, and finally there was the product recalls that cost us thousands of dollars. Due to issues we were unable to figure out some of the bars sprouted mold within a month of production, and others sprouted mold several months in. So, rather than risk losing more money on more lost product we discontinued our new baby, a labor of love that we poured our heart and soul into. It has been the most difficult decision we have made to date.
Sometimes less emotional decisions that could have HUGELY positive effects on the business can be difficult as well. For example, you are considering re-designing your packaging; this seems like a simple and straightforward decision, but It’s usually not. In situations like this fear is what usually gets in the way. Fear of how difficult it will be to work on transitioning over to the new packaging, fear of thinking your customers won’t like the new design, fear that they won’t recognize your product on the shelf and think you went out of business…. All of which are irrational fears, not rooted in a single ounce of truth, because in reality the decision you are dragging your feet on is likely going to make a positive impact on your business. But you are delaying because you fear how difficult it’s going to be to execute your decision.
Regardless whether a decision is emotional or just flat out difficult they often take time to make, but the time you need to take to execute on the decisions can me reduced by asking yourself the following questions.
Are you losing money?
Don’t allow yourself to stay emotionally connected to a project. Learn to fail fast and move on. If you are losing money on a product or service offering; STOP immediately. Don’t allow yourself to chase something that could potentially jeopardize relationships with customers AND cause you to go out of business.
What do your customers say?
Is there any particular peace of feedback you CONTANTLY hear from your customers? For example: lets say your number one complaint is the price of your product. You know it’s fully justified, but in the eyes of the consumer it’s hard to see. You could consider decreasing the size of your product to bring the price down, or you could even introduce a second product at a smaller size. Price is only one example of an objection you might be constantly hearing. I would rarely ever suggest changing a recipe just because a customer says they don’t like it, but if you get constant negative feedback about a particular flavor profile, it might be time to think of making some changes.
The best rule I can think of when listening to customer feedback is to ignore it all for the most part, and know that the REALLY important issues will come up time and time again to the point you get annoyed hearing them.
Will it affect the image of my company in a positive or negative way?
There is a company out of Boulder, Colorado called White Girl Salas…. Or at least that is what they used to be called. The product wasn’t on the market long at all before she began getting grief about the name. I can’t speak to specifics on the issues people raised on the name, but it was enough to make the founder change the name to Winking Girl Salas (the logo features a caricature of the founder in a bandana winking). So, in this case a decision was made to change the name in order to avoid negative thoughts about the product/company.
Lets go back to “what do your customers say” example for a moment. This can directly play into a positive effect to your company. If there is a particular piece of feedback your customers/potential customers are always telling you, there is a good chance that implementing that nugget of wisdom will have a positive effect on the growth of your company.
Am I basing my decision on fear?
Fear is one of the biggest reasons I believe people don’t act on a particular decision. Personally I have found I distance from executing on a decision when the journey down that road will be difficult, but a reality check will tell me that nothing worth doing well ever be easy, so the fact that the path I’m avoiding is difficult is probably a tell-tell sign that I need to head in that direction.