When I first started to plan my entry into this intimidating world of big box retailers I was overwhelmed by the stories of how difficult it is to work with them. I spoke with numerous people and companies who have sold product into them at some point in the past. The majority of them told horror stories of how they got screwed somehow. This influenced me to target the small retailers first for my market entrance since I could easily communicate with them and have some transparency without being blindsided.
As soon as we launched our innovative adjustable barrel bolt lock products into the market, most of the large retailers of the world approached us and expressed their interest to carry our items. How could I refuse? This wasn't part of the plan though. I didn't want to experience the nightmares I was told about but I had to at least give it a try.
So, I began the long journey of price and packaging negations which I have found can take 6 to 18 months. Don't think you are going to make a ton of money real fast just because they have 1000 stores. So, if you are a start-up spending investor dollar, and you are targeting the large retailers, you better have at least 2 years of operational cost in the bank or be continuously raising capital. If you don’t, you will run out of money before your sales revenue kicks in to keep the ship afloat. I had to raise more money to bridge this gap. If you have a great product that the market wants and good financial supporters, you should have no problem. If one of these two is lacking than you will be in trouble when you reach that canyon that must be crossed.
I have been through the gauntlet a few times now in setting up an account to sell product to these large retailers and I realize that their requirements are super strict for good reasons. They have huge operations to manage and every system is in place to keep as much order as possible during the process which is often worldwide and can become chaotic quickly unless managed well. In order to play with the big boys or girls, you have to step your game up. I thought those stories I was told were true but they are distorted. These stories were often told by individuals who were not willing to elevate their impeccability in their production, quality, delivery, and paperwork. If you want to do business with billion dollar companies, than you must upgrade the way you do business to harmonize with their level. If you are not willing to do that because of laziness, inertia, entropy or fear, than it is not going to work. I am learning this real quick and making the steps necessary to meet their requirements. They do give you a shot in the beginning to step your game up knowing that you will need to adjust as a new vendor. There is a small window that they open for a new company to demonstrate that you are willing to keep order and harmony in your supply chain and paperwork.
I realize that this outcome is in my hands. I can’t blame the big retailers if they don’t want to do business with me because I am not willing to organize my organization. I guess that is why it is called an organization because in order for a company to work it must be organized constantly. I have to take responsibility and tune our company to play our instrument in harmony with their symphony. They are helping me grow into a top notch respected vendor that will be very successful in the market. These large companies were small once and only were able to grow because of the detailed systems they put into place to manage their huge operations. They are my teachers and I am glad to have the lessons. Thanks Big Box. It is my pleasure to learn from you.
Co-Founder & CEO, Ajustco