Archive for category Successes
When we first started the company the goal was to build Scrubadoo.com, our first business, into the “Zappos” of the medical uniform industry. We concentrated solely on the online retail market. Specifically taking advantage of a variety of search engine marketing strategies (SEM) to draw clients in and then offering the unmatched service to keep them here and hopefully tell their friends about us.
This plan worked to an extent but the growth was not as fast as we would have liked. After about a year of live selling we decided toadd a more traditional approach to sales and call on larger clients. We essentially decided to move away from only selling through Scrubadoo.com and search out those larger purchasers by knocking on doors. Combining this strategy with the continued focus on unmatched customer service worked wonders. Today larger purchasers make up about 50% of our business and over the years we became in house experts at SEM which has allowed Scrubadoo.com continued growth.
Despite some success, we have still not been 100% happy with growth and just this year decided to make another change to the strategy of the company. Instead of just concentrating on our one business, Scrubadoo.com, we decided to roll out new business lines and take what we have become experts in (SEM, customer service, direct sales) and apply them to new industries. The new move was centered around the idea that we weren’t a “medical uniform” company, we were a sales & customer service organization and we can really be selling any product. The new strategies success is still up in the air as chefadoo.com and the other new businesses are still very very new (and in some cases still in alpha testing!).
I have recently had some people ask what they can do to provide better customer service on the cheap. Aside from “people cost” providing unmatched customer service can be surprisingly easy. It is actually kind of sad, but it doesn’t take much to stand out from the pack. If you do what is basically “expected” of you you are already ahead of the game.
Here are a few of my tips:
#1. It needs to start at the top and flow through the entire organization. When people ask me what kind of a company we run the first thing I say is a “customer service company.” We could really be selling anything. In my emails out to clients my title is always “Scrubadoo Customer Service.”
#2. Use common sense. If there is an issue with a client, put yourself in their shoes and then make your decision based on what you would want to happen if you were the customer.
#3. Communicate. This is probably the easiest and most impressive thing you can do for a client. Anticipate questions they may have and answer them before the ask. In our situation we preemptively send out emails to all our clients with a REAL customer service person’s contact email and phone number, tell them when their order will ship, follow up with a second email telling them their order has shipped, and finally we ask them to reach out to us if they have any questions at all.
#4. Follow up. If someone calls or emails, respond to them ASAP. We try to respond within an hour. At the very least you should always be able to respond within 24 hours. Follow up is really so important.
You would be shocked at how just executing on #3 and #4 will bring you to the top of your industry in the customer service department. Great customer service does not have to be incredibly difficult.
#5. Wow factor. It never hurts to have a “wow factor” to put really rank your customer service amongst the elite in your industry. This can be your shipping and return policies, a unexpected gift, etc. At Scrubadoo we hand write thank you notes to all of our clients (and we service thousands of clients a year). We also have a free return policy that is head and shoulders above what our competitors offer.
These are just a few simple steps that I believe can be executed on by any small company. In fact, we are proof that anyone can do it!
As I mentioned in my last I recently revised our business plan. I did this to enter a competition that a local radio station was holding for new and young businesses in the Minneapolis area.
My first ever appearance on any form of media was last Saturday (They should be posting a podcast of the show soon). I did a passing job but hope to up my performance as the competition progresses.
It is a survivor type competition where they will be eliminating one company/week until there is one champion. Each week they are giving us a new task that we will be judged on by a panel of professionals and some online voting. Listen in this Saturday at 10:00 am EST to hear how we did in this weeks competition! You can stream the station live from the link above.
Wish us luck!
So we have officially launched our Google Adwords and Facebook marketing campaign. Both have been running for about 10 days now and they have been the source of both some good information and some frustrations. We have had a heck of a time trying to get adwords and analytics tracking conversions properly (this will eventually be the topic of another blog post).
The first 5 days after we started paying for advertising we didn’t have a single sale. Needless to say I was extremely nervous, upset, worried, and many other words you can probably imagine. Fortunately, on Wednesday we finally got our first sale from someone that I didn’t know. Talk about a relief! We have had sales in 2 of the last 3 days as well and I am at least relieved that so far we haven’t had any major issues.
I talk about wins sometimes and every company, person, team needs wins sometimes to keep moral up and keep you pushing forward. These first few sales have been that win that we needed at scrubadoo.com to rejuvenate the motivation.
All of you can help us move forward keep telling anyone you know about the site!
Until next time,
OK everyone, Just a quick message to let everyone know that scrubadoo.com is officially live! Like always I have been crazy busy getting everything correct and finished. I will start writing regularly again as soon as we get things more stable.
In the meantime tell your friends about the site. You can give anyone the discount code Family&Friends (no spaces) and they will get 10% off their first purchase.
Check the site out and send messages giving me feedback!
I have learned extremely quickly that when you start your own companies everyday is a workday. I have a lot of catching up to do on blog entries but as much as I enjoy writing about my entrepreneurial experience there are too many other immediate needs the companies have that reallytake precedence. Things are pretty much as busy as I ever imagined and there always seems to be an endless stream of new things that I need to do.
Since the last update we have finished the programming of scrubadoo.com and completed the majority of what seems to be a never ending list of data entry that needs to be done. Selling products online is not as easy as you would think. Every product needs to have unique sizes, colors, descriptions, details, etc, etc, etc. It is extremely mind numbing and boring. But we are almost done.
I will be posting in the next few days about the official launch of scrubadoo.com. Anyone in the Minneapolis area feel free to email me and I will let you know about the launch party that will happen next weekend.
Once we have launched I will try and catch up on all the pointers and tips I have learned the hard way over the last few months.
On a side note The Ugly Dumpling is starting to move along nicely. We have found some space that we are very interested in.
You will hear from me again in a few days…Things are getting exciting.
I am proud to say that we have completed the ScrubSquared team. There are now 7 of us working on making scrubadoo.com and scrubraisers a success. We consist of three mba graduates, 1 current mba student, 1 undergraduate, and 2 law students. So far so good.
In the short two week time we have been together I am already impressed with the ability and diligence of everyone on the team. My roll continues to evolve and has become much more managerial than ever before.
As scrubadoo.com has yet to launch we are using a project based work style. There is not a lot of repetitive day to day functionings of the company thus everyone is working on largely independant projects. This has worked extremely well so far. So far I have found two keys to making this strategy work.
- The first is keeping everyone up to date on everyone elses work. We have had a few instances of some overlap so we are still trying to get better at this. Currently we have weekly progress updates that everyone is involved in which has provided a great brainstorming opportunity for each of the project leads. On top of this I try and keep everyone on target and when there some synergies between projects I need to make sure I get the two people together.
- The second challenge is making sure everyone understands and has the same vision and mission. If everyone is working towards different goals we will get nowhere fast. There are a lot of ways to do things and we need to make sure everyone is doing things the ScrubSquared way. I think that this may be the most important part of my roll as manager.
On a side not I recently joined a website called thinkentrepreneurship. It is a very new website but I think it has a ton of potential. I think that anyone interested in entrepreneurship will be able to benefit from it. The more people that join the better the resource it will become.
Negotiating can be an extremely complex process, but there is at least one very simple theory: if you don’t ask for something you will never get it.
For our scrubraisers brand we have been buying our scrubs in bulk then shipping them to a screen printer and then shipping them to the end client. Needless to say it is not an ideal process and it really creates a situation with many unknowns and inconsistencies. On top of this we have had issues with consistency in product with the supplier we are using (which will be the topic of another blog).
Fortunately we are not stuck with using just one supplier. Just a few days ago I received some samples from another manufacturer and really like the product. The scrub pants come embroidered with university logos and would be a perfect replacement to our current process at scrubraisers. Unfortunately they were also about 50% more expensive.
So I called them yesterday and asked if we could get it for a price that would work (only about 5% more expensive) and you know what? They called me back today and agreed to my price without any further negotiations (I probably should have asked for a cheaper price!).
This 5% is well worth it as it eliminates a huge step in my process (screen printing), eliminates my worries about consistency and quality issues, and provides a better product (embroidered as opposed to screen printed).
It was a nice little victory today and the lesson is – it always pays to ask!
I have briefly touched on scrubraisers which is the second arm of our business. Scrubraisers is the combination of scrubs and fundraisers.
In Business once you have a product you just need to sell it. We decided that we already had a cool product that people like to wear in scrub pants and started to think about any alternative markets we could sell to. We thought, why not put a school, sorority, or any other logo on them and sell them as lounge/pajama pants. One issue was that we didn’t have the time nor the breadth to do all of the direct sales it would take to grow this business.
The answer was scrubraisers. We sell a large quantity of the pants to an organization (at least 50 pairs) at a discount who then re-sells the product to anyone (incoming freshman, an entire class, or even neighbors) as a fundraiser for their organization. We handle all of the operational aspects of the fundraiser and all they have to do is sell. We can pretty much put any logo or words on the pants anywhere they want (you can see a mock up of the pants we sold at Darden below). We utilize our supplier network and operational capabilities and essentially outsource our sales.
UVA’s nursing school is one of our first clients. We are selling them 75 sets of pants with the UVA logo. Their plan is to re-sell the pants to the incoming freshmen on move-in day this fall. It is a great arrangement that is profitable for us but also will allow the school a unique way to raise a decent amount of money for their nurses council. I will definitely let everyone know how their sale goes in a few months.
Meredith has put together a nice clean website here scrubraisers.com. Hopefully we will start seeing some traffic and grow to new schools. After our initial success with UVA some of the girls I worked with their put me in touch with JMU’s nursing school who we are now in initial talks with. I hope that this will work just as well.
Check out the website and email me or send an email through the website to get more information about working with us. We would love to work with groups, sororities, fraternities, nursing schools, or any other group who needs to make a little money for their organization. If you make a referral to me and we close it I will even make sure you get a little finders fee!
I have been asked a few times about what entrepreneurship books I read. To be honest I haven’t really read a lot of them. However, about two years ago (while I was still an entrepreneur at heart, but I had no idea to run with) I started reading two great entrepreneurial magazines that I would highly recommend. The first is Inc Magazine (you may have heard of the Inc 500-same people). The second is Fast Company.
Both magazines are published by the same company and I read every issue cover to cover. They do tend to have a lot of articles based around the entrepreneurial “flavor of the week;” green energy, etc, etc, but I never fail to pick something up I can use or another entrepreneur that I know can use. They also are very good at keeping you up to date on what is going on in the entrepreneurship and venture capital communities across the country (and to a lessor extent globe).
If you want to try just 1 I actually prefer Fast Company. I think it tends to focus on much younger companies than Inc does and right now scrubadoo.com is a very early stage company.