Mar 12, 2009

Yours, Mine or Ours?

With the aforementioned closing of I Remember When, I have been once again reminded of WHY I started ScrapBiz in 2002. It was not only my experience with IRW at the time, but past experiences that caused me to be gun shy about the "Your business until we take it from you" model.

The short version of my time with IRW is that they essentially shut down for 2 months and told us to wait. There were some personal things going on at headquarters and the decision was to NOT place any orders for weeks and weeks. I had white cardstock and black pens on order for about 6 weeks. The "story" was that the supplier was out of those. Later, I found out who the supplier was, recounted the story and got a hearty laugh out of the customer service rep. It had NOTHING to do with them not having those two basic supplies and EVERYTHING to do with IRW not paying their bills.

The other issue was that they stopped printing catalogs. I got 6 and then could get no more. How can you have parties when you don't have catalogs? I believe it was like 18 months until the catalogs finally arrived and I was long gone by then.

I kept wondering just who's business this really was? They said it was mine, but they treated it like theirs. Poor planning on their part DID create a crisis on mine. My customers just wanted their orders! I spent nearly every penny I got from customers at Michaels buying products to fulfill orders. Then, I realized that IRW was nothing more than a poor wholesaler (with a really rotten discount) and I went looking for my own source of supplies. And, that is how ScrapBiz started.

A similar situation happened several years earlier. My husband and I were sales agents for Xerox. The business was all ours - hiring, firing, sales, location, etc. That was until we had built it up to something great and wanted to sell it. Xerox said, "Nope, it's not REALLY your business. If you want out, we'll just assign another agent to your territory. You get nothing." We had to "Lawyer-up" for the fight and they backed down and allowed us to sell. We were the first Xerox sales agents to EVER sell their business. Of course, Xerox reserved the right to approve the new agent, but we sold it to an employee who already knew their system so they couldn't reasonably say, "No". But, that was our first go-round in the "Who's business is this anyway" game.

Some I Remember When consultants have indicated that the sharks are circling. They're getting, "Oh, I'm sorry you lost your business. JOIN US TODAY" messages from other consultants in the few remaining direct sales companies in the industry. I hope they will approach those messages with extreme amounts of caution. Do you really want to dive back into that pool?? Do you REALLY want to build something up only to possibly have it yanked out from underneath you again? Do you REALLY want the drama that comes with asking an innocent question about shipping on the consultant boards and getting slammed for being "negative"? Do you REALLY want to deal with all the shipping and policy changes that really only benefit the home office?

I've been quite critical of direct sales companies in the industry for many years because I believe they lead many women down the wrong path. They teach them poor business principles - like recruiting. It GREATLY benefits the company, but hurts the consultant. They dangle big rewards in front of them but the truth is that 97% of direct sales people never earn positive cash flow. They have fantastic conventions every year but really, did you even EARN as much as it costs you to go to the convention? I think most consultants lose more than they made when they fork over all the costs of going to the "rah-rah" party.

So, from all my experiences, I set up ScrapBiz the way I did ON PURPOSE. If ScrapBiz were to close tomorrow (which it won't), not one of my members would lose their business. I love that fact! It's not my business or even OUR business, it's THEIR business. Of course, I'll expect a proper period of mourning - LOL! But, after that, they'll just keep on doing what they love!

Maybe it's time to strike out on your own and join ScrapBiz.


Anonymous said...

This is a really horrific post to be publishing when there are many I Remember When Instructors who are affected by the closing and all you can do is bash them, and other direct sales companies while promoting your own business. Shame on you for pushing your own agenda while criticizing those companies that are at least extending a hand to POSITIVELY interact with these people.

Anonymous said...

I think I must agree with the previous poster. Although I am not affected by the company closing, it does seem rather harsh to say half if not all of what you said about them. You say you were with this company 7 years ago? You should let bygones be bygones... I am sure your shoulders would thank you for it.

Kim said...

They had their ups and downs since my experience with them - as every company does. My past experience is irrelevant as an endorsement or deterrent to anyone today because it DID happen so many years ago. But, it's relevant BECAUSE it has been repeated many, many times in our industry by many companies. You lose your business when these companies close. You're left sitting with orders, crops, customers, etc. and have to start over again. The model is difficult to sustain even in the best of times. I am hoping IRW consultants will think twice before they jump on board with another company. Some are more stable than others but most have had their rough spots.

Thank you for your perspective.

Anonymous said...

I think it all depends on what you call success. Money is not success to me b/c what do you have left in the end. Changed lives are what I determine my success by. The thing about IRW it that was VERY successful in changing lives for the better. I haven't been with them for about 6 months or so b/c I am going back to school but it changed me for the better. Before I wouldn't have had the esteem to chase after that dream. I really hope that one day you come to realize that success is so much more than the bottom line of business and it is about the lives of people. I see you don't understand that quite yet because you wouldn't have said such nasty things and for that I am sorry. I hope that now they are closed you are able to let go of your bitterness. This post reeks of it.

Anonymous said...

I don't know IRW or any consultants but after reading your post, I won't be visiting Scrapbiz. I won't do business with someone who seems to find joy and justifies being so negative to other's losses.

Remember When Creations said...

I think you all are missing the point. Kim is saying instead of spending your money by joining an organization which you have NO CONTROL over, why not take your hard earned cash and buy a business license in your state & county and start your OWN business & run it YOUR way.

Sure, it's not as EASY as plopping down some moola and having someone hand you a plan and then go try to work it. When it's your own, the success & failure is totally on your own shoulders. Join an organization, like Scrapbiz, so you can network, get ideas, share thoughts, get industry updates, etc. But at the end of the day, the direct result is totally your profit instead of 20% that direct sales companies give you.

Try looking at it from that perspective. You still get to do what you love - scrapbooking - and 100% profit is YOURS! Not some other company.

Kim said...

Honestly, I'm totally shocked that the anonymous comments here seem to think that it was acceptable for a company to do what they did. You really think it's okay to not provide products or catalogs to consultants for weeks and months? You REALLY think that's good business? If you do, then you need to sharpen your business skills. I work with many vendors now and when someone doesn't deliver and causes you problems like that, you find another vendor. You don't sit and wait with your happy face on because your customers couldn't CARE LESS.

I don't know what IRW did in the final years, but being HEAVILY involved in the industry, I heard things that weren't always flattering. I'm sure there were continued bumps until they were sold to Xyron and maybe even after that - I don't know.

I fail to understand, why when it's so easy to get a business license and find reliable suppliers, that people will take the abuse some direct sales companies throw at them at times. Even the massive policy and shipping changes that happen at the best of companies are often designed to benefit the company and close loop-holes of profit that some consultants figured out and were taking advantage of.

I'm not bitter, I never was. I'm just trying to educate people as to the fact that you should never let a supplier hurt your business. Those of you who were IRW consultants, where are you today? You've got nothing. Doesn't that make you mad? Everything you've worked so hard to build up is GONE and you're back to square one in a very tough economic time. Why doesn't that bother you?