We have a pretty stressful few months ahead of us. It’s not the same type of stress we had last year when we feared that one wrong move would crush us and eventually decided to not pay ourselves for a few months, but nonetheless it’s still a little more stress than anyone would like.
We’ve set up a culture of constant improvement, and because of that we expect a lot out of ourselves. Like any business owner, we see all sorts of opportunities that we’re leaving on the table because we haven’t had the time or money to get to them yet. Everyone is trying to do their jobs to the absolute best of their ability and squeeze the absolute most out of every part of the business that they have their hands in.
In doing so, we’ve set a standard of fast growth that we do not want to slow. However, it all sort of came to a head this week. We had a really really good February, one of our best months ever. When you factor in that it’s a short month and that it is most definitely not our peak season (not a lot of people washing their cars in a large part of the US in February), it may have been our overall best month as a company.
We have no reason to think that this Spring and Summer will not continue to be our best months as a company. But with that comes a lot more day to day work for everyone. Customer service, packing/shipping, and inventory all become very time consuming. Which is fine, except for that we also have a huge ’09 goal to get our new site up and Greg and George have identified some more great forum marketing opportunities. Oh, and added marketing expenses and inventory costs require some more capital to work with than what we have…at least to do it comfortably.
We made a few key decisions this week to alleviate the stress and focus on what’s going to set us up for the best ’09:
- We decided to launch the new site ASAP, probably within 3-4 weeks. This was something I pushed for. What we already have completed is infinitely better than what is currently up, so why not just roll that out and add the rest of the features throughout the year? It’s probably a better approach anyway, and this way we free up Greg and George to hammer their new and existing forums in the Spring, the time of the year when the forums bring us in all of Detailed Image’s new customers that (hopefully) become lifers.
- We received our personal and corporate tax returns on Thursday, and on that same day we applied to extend our line of credit with our bank. They estimate that we can get an extra $50k on our line based upon our ’08 growth. That cushion really helps George with the accounting. Increased sales mean that Greg needs to place larger and larger orders with our vendors, so we really need the ability to spend $10k – $20k on any given order without having to move money around to do it. Obviously we turn all of that inventory around at a profit, but we still need a cushion to do so.
- We decided to pick up 7 new forum sponsorships for DI. The ROI is just too high not too. Getting the new site up is key so that we can switch focus to establishing our presence on those forums prior to the big buying time for detailers.
- We changed our warehouse schedule around. For the next few weeks, I will not go in very much so that I have plenty of programming time. After that, I’ll go in almost every day to pack orders so that Greg and George can adequately handle all of the increased forum marketing and customer service during our busy time.
This was one of those weeks where I really enjoy being part of a team. Stressful situations are a lot harder to deal with alone. Suddenly we change a few things and shift a few responsibilities and everything becomes crystal clear. If we have a few good months, we turn a corner where we can get some employees in and start tackling the projects (both on DI and on TD and other sites) that we think are the real big money makers for us long term.
It makes you feel really good to see everyone willing to drop everything and meet when we have a potential concern. It makes you feel even better when you see everyone sacrificing so that the team can succeed. The past few days I’ve noticed a real energy with everyone while they are working together. We sense that we have a chance to do something awesome these next few months, and we’re willing to do anything to get there. That excitement and energy just motivates me more and makes me happy that I’m not going through all of this alone.