Ask The Swag Coach: Scaling Your Swag Business Beyond Yourself
Seventh in a series
In this series, distributor owner and sales coach Josh Frey answers frequently asked questions on a wide range of sales topics.
Yes, I am a sales guy, but I am also a business junkie and seasoned entrepreneur. I started my first business at the ripe age of 22, straight out of college. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to be wildly successful, and to me that meant having a multi-million-dollar business, a big office and lots of employees. I was highly focused on “controlling” or “owning” all aspects of the business. Back in the day, this was how you made money, and these were the badges of honor in my mind, or so I thought.
Fast forward 28 years later and, aside from being a lot older and grayer (and maybe a little wiser), I prefer to keep things simple. I don’t have any employees. I don’t have a big office. And my focus is not on top-line sales, but on bottom-line, take-home dollars.
Time is as valuable to me as money, and I now spend my time doing what I love (and handing off the things I don’t want to do). I’m less worried about controlling everything and more inclined to partner or outsource as much as I can, while keeping my finger on the pulse of the business.
While this took me a solid 15 years to learn, I am here to help you shorten that learning curve. Whether you’re a seasoned industry veteran or just getting started in this business, there are so many ways to get what you want when it comes to operating your swag business and setting it up for scale. Figuring out what works best for you will prepare you for greater success and enjoyment in this industry.
For me, getting there meant outsourcing to best-in-class partners who could handle my back-office needs (order processing, customer service and accounting) and allow me to spend the majority of my time doing what I enjoyed the most—sales and building meaningful relationships.
Recently, we hosted a workshop with our Swag Coach Small Group Coaching community and discussed this topic. The results were varied. Some distributor business owners said they have support teams so they can focus solely on selling. Some have their own sales force that they have groomed and grown. Some owners choose to do everything in the business from start to finish, and some of us plug into back-office partners so we are freed up from overhead, employees and administrative tasks.
It’s up to you to figure out the best model to scale your promo business, but here’s what I did to get this process going.
Here’s an exercise I call the Love vs. Hate Exercise—take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. Write the words HATE DOING on the top left column. Write the words LOVE DOING on the top right column. Close your email, shut off your phone and really think about what you like and what’s most important to you, then make a list under each column. Really think about what parts of your business make you happy and will add to its value.
When you are done, you should have a clear picture of what activities and tasks you need to hand off (HATE DOING list) and where you will focus your time and energy moving forward (LOVE DOING list).
Are you the type of person who wants to control/own everything (like I did in my 20s) or maybe you are hyper-focused on the parts you love (for me, that’s relationship building, coaching and mentoring) and prefer to hand off the rest? While this may change over the course of your career, what is your mindset right now?
Take another sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. Write the words HANDLE INTERNALLY on the top left column. Write the words HANDLE EXTERNALLY on the top right column. List what parts (departments) of the business you want to keep internally versus handling externally (outsourcing through partners). For me, I’m all about keeping the sales strategy, coaching, vendor negotiations and revenue-generating activities under my roof, and handing off the rest (technology, order processing, accounting, etc.).
Get strategic. The days of being an order taker, waiting for the phone to ring or for emails and sales leads to come in are over. Deploying a proactive strategy for scaling your sales is critical to growing your promo business. There are lots of strategies to deploy, such as targeting a vertical (we call it finding your Million Dollar Niche—see details in PPB’s August issue), setting up a lead generation/referral system, selling company stores, etc. Pick one or two and go after them.
Once I completed these three steps, I was able to home in on a business model that worked for me, and my sales and happiness skyrocketed.
Take the time to be intentional with how you scale your own sales and promo business, come up with an operational model that works for you and then watch as you reach new levels of success and happiness.
Josh Frey is founder of Falls Church, Virginia-based distributor On Sale Promos and the Swag Coach Program. He is a 25-year industry veteran and front-line sales coach. Josh@swagcoach.com. Visit TheSwagCoach.com to register for his next Distributors Helping Distributors show and learn more about his promo coaching programs offered.