My mom is a pediatrician.
Growing up, I knew that she often saved babies from cancer and families from chaos. Occasionally, though, she’d come home from work and say, “Sometimes I can’t believe that I spend my whole day telling people their kid has a cold.”
I remembered this the other day and laughed. Because similarly, sometimes my job is insight and magic -- and sometimes I spend my whole day telling makers to stick with their own darn wholesale terms.
A maker will come to me with a several-paragraphs-long question via email. At first, it will sound really complicated, like these questions:
There is a restaurant owner who wants to buy a LOT of plates from me, but wants a wholesale price that’s dramatically reduced. Should I do it?
A brand new stockist, who has been inconsistent in her communication, requested Net 30 even though my terms say I take payment up-front. What should I do?
A store owner who seems sketchy wants me to send samples of every one of my products, even though I say in my terms that I’ll provide one sample but that others can be purchased at wholesale price. Seems a bit excessive but maybe I should do it?
In each of the above cases, the first thing I noticed was how the maker sounded frustrated and scared.
The second thing I noticed was that the maker had already made a decision about this scenario -- in their own wholesale terms.
So to all of these makers, my answer was simple: stick with the terms you already set. And do so in a friendly, collaborative, and clear way.
Many makers who feel betrayed by their own business. They love it, but they describe it like an abusive boyfriend. They feel angry and resentful and tired. They may be physically sick from overwork. They feel cornered between their own desire to grow, their fear of losing it all, and their own exhaustion and depletion. And in many cases, this feeling comes largely from their own unwillingness or inability to maintain clear boundaries in their business -- especially with their wholesale terms.
Hustle is really important. When you are starting and growing a business you do have to go the extra mile and work super-hard. Things I’ve done to grow my business include staying up all night to find stores for a single maker, worked on holiday after holiday, and made the “impossible” happen for the people we serve.
But many times, I believe that makers aren’t compromising on their boundaries out of hustle, but out of fear. Fear that someone might think they’re not “nice.” Fear of losing a sale. Fear that the universe is a scarce and threatening place and that if they set a boundary, they will END. UP. WITH. NOTHING.
Have you ever heard of “the three kinds of business”? My friend and coach Melissa introduced me to this and I think of it on an almost daily basis. It’s simple. There are three kinds of “business”: your business; someone else’s business; and God’s business. Your business is acting in a way that aligns with your values and integrity. Other people’s business is what they do and what they think about what you do. God’s / the universe’s business is the uncontrollable part of what results from your actions or other people’s actions. Melissa says that the result of spending time thinking about any business that’s not your own is a feeling of separation, resentment, and confusion. It also means that if you’re spending time thinking about the other kinds of business, you’re not caring for your own business. And if you’re not… who is? (More on this concept by the originator of it, here.)
Long story short, I think that often when makers compromise their wholesale terms, it’s because they’ve wandered away from their own business (quite literally) into God’s business (“If I don’t say yes, my business won’t succeed”) or into the store owner’s business (“If I don’t say yes, she’ll buy from someone else and be mad at me.”)
A question to ask yourself when you’re considering making a decision that goes against your own wholesale terms (or against any boundary that you’ve set for that matter):
Am I changing my policy because:
a) In this particular situation, the boundary has become unnecessary? Or,
b) To “be nice” or because I’m afraid that everything will crumble if I don’t make concessions?
If your answer is really truly “a”, then perhaps it makes sense to go against your own policy / boundary / terms. But if it’s “b”, then I have only seen frustration, scarcity, and fatigue result.
But, you might be saying, “I want to be easy to work with!”
And I do agree that being positive, kind, and a good collaborator is incredibly important in growing wholesale. You wouldn’t believe how many store owners tell me that they could buy from a different maker, but that THIS maker is just so easy to work with.
Here’s the irony, though. In my experience, compromising on your terms doesn’t make you easier to work with. It makes you snippy, resentful, annoyed, overextended, and frustrated. It also makes it hard to make money or create a sustainable business. In other words:
Compromising your own boundaries and terms ends up making you HARDER to work with and limits the growth of your business.
Just to make this crystal-clear...
Do’s and don’ts for setting terms and deciding how to maintain them:
DON’T set unnecessarily rigid or strict terms in the first place.
Don’t throw in a bunch of terms for good measure or to “seem professional.” Set terms that you think are simple and important and feel necessary. That way, when it comes time to maintain those boundaries, they feel intuitive and important to you. Oh, and if you need help deciding what to make your wholesale minimum, you can find more on that here.
DON’T use legalese.
Sometimes makers write their terms in a severe, off-putting, confusing, aggressive type of language. Yes, it’s important to have clear terms. But it’s also important to state those terms in a way that is human, friendly, and approachable.
DO maintain your boundaries in a friendly way.
I’m not sure why, but when people maintain a boundary, sometimes they do so in a way that sounds frustrated, snippy, stern, or condescending. Remember that no one can make you violate a business boundary without your permission -- and so you can maintain your boundary and uphold your terms in a way that’s cheerful, kind, and warm. And that difference in tone may likely be the difference between losing the sale and gaining a stockist for the long term.
DO use your emotions as an early-warning sign.
Anger, resentment, and fear are indications that you may need to set or strengthen a boundary. Sometimes it’s a boundary with a specific person and other times it is a general boundary between yourself and your business. If a store owner’s request makes you feel scared and frustrated, it’s likely that a warm and polite “no” is in order.
My observation is that the makers who are best at maintaining their boundaries in a way that is warm and collaborative are those that tend to succeed at wholesale. And ironically, those that are constantly shape-shifting and compromising and bending over backwards are those that don’t make it, ultimately.
Trust the wisdom of your own boundaries. Be relentlessly kind and warm in your communication of those boundaries. And know that when you do these things, you’re acting on behalf of your biggest and best business and life.