Five Tips for Success at a Vendor Event/Fair with No Traffic

Crickets. The sound of the wind blowing through your tent. Poking your head up every few minutes to see if life has come through the door.

Anyone who has had a table at a vendor event, show, fair, or expo has experienced this scenario at least once.  The scene where you’ve created a beautiful display, but there simply is no traffic.

Before you start getting angry at the event organizer and/or questioning his/her marketing campaign (which there is time for, later), utilize the time you have at the show productively. I know it’s very easy to be completely annoyed at the circumstance, but the negative attitude does not serve your business at all.

Here are five tips you can use to make the most of an empty-traffic situation:

  1. Create a Brand Portfolio. While you’re at this show, take photos of your complete table. Take close-ups of your products utilizing different positioning and lighting. Take photos of your goods from different angles – get artistic!  Use these photos for future social media posts, for your brand portfolio in case a venue asks to see photos of your display. (You can also utilize these photos as a way to critique your own table!)
  2. Go Live! Use Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc. to pop-on and go live in your account. This is a great way to drum up awareness about the event happening so if anyone is local, they may be inspired to come by. In the video, talk about the event, but also talk about your products/services. Pick one or two things to really highlight. (You can always use this video later as part of a blog or content focus on your business.)
  3. Network with Other Vendors. Do you know who loves to support small business by shopping small business? Other small business owners.  Approach the other vendors in a friendly manner, ask them about their business, DO NOT be a salesman (remember, they’re there to make money, too).  DO have some of your business cards on hand and offer to connect on social media.
  4. Make Product/Plan Inventory. If you’re a maker and have the ability to create while you’re sitting there, awesome, you should definitely do that. It also draws attention to your table. If you’re in direct sales or you’re a maker who does not have the ability to craft your products anywhere, use this time to plan your inventory. Take a look at what you have, take note of what does sell at shows, decide what you need to make/order more of.  Use data to validate your business inventory decisions.
  5. Make Personal Contact with Customers. We usually have a hard time finding the time to make personal contact with each of our customers, but if you’re not doing much and watching grass grow, this is a great time to go that extra step. Bring post-cards or thank you notes with you to write out, send out individualized emails, send a text or make a phone call. Keep a list of customers who you haven’t heard from in a while and start with them, then move on to your best customers (people always love to be appreciated).

What tips do you have for events that just aren’t drawing the traffic in?

Kristen Fusaro-PizzoPresident

Three Psychological Secrets to Selling Success

What if I told you that you could sell exponentially more than you currently do? What if I explained a few secrets to help you connect with your customers?  Would you do the work necessary to make the changes to your business to become successful?

It sounds like the beginning of a cheesy infomercial, but the minute I made these realizations and started making changes to my business, I discovered success on a level I could have never imagined. My sales increased by 30% in the first month, and steadily doubled from the previous year. Moreso, however, was how I was connecting with my customers and building my brands.

The biggest secret of all business is that all business is emotional.

Matthew Quint of Columbia University Business School explains brand strategy as “Brand = Company Purpose (Mission/Values/Etc.) + Consumer Perception.” A complete brand makes an emotional connection with the consumer. For example – think about Disney. It meets all of Quint’s requirements for knowing “the customer, the competition, and your own brand” to determine that the brand is “relevant, differentiated, credible.” Once your brand has achieved this trifecta, it will create an emotional response in the consumer.

“People buy things to realize their aspirations” – Mr. Cooper on Mad Men

This second psychological realization came as I was lost in the brilliant advertising world of Mad Men.  This powerful quote highlights the deeply-rooted desire for the aesthetic.  The perfect example is how people who cannot afford luxury vehicles spend the money on them. In reality, in terms of finance, the most financially savvy individuals know to not bother spending money on luxury vehicles, yet, people will continue to make huge monthly payments on a luxury car – why? Because people buy things to realize their aspirations.  Your brand needs to become a brand of aspiration. You need to offer a glimpse of who your customer wants to become.

People will do anything to alleviate their anxiety.

There are extremes to this selling point, the obvious being vices – drugs, sex, alcohol, food, and gambling, but tapping into this on a deeper level will create interest, risk, and trust. A car that offers numerous safety ratings, an apothecary line which creates a sense of calm, diet-friendly baked goods, etc.   Understanding this psychological aspect to selling should guide the way you look at your branding and product line – what are you doing to make someone’s life easier to live?  Demonstrating this point will create value and purpose (incalculable necessities) behind your product.  And don’t worry if you think your product doesn’t apply – use the soft drink industry as your example: “The Coke Side of Life,” Open Happiness.” If they can make soda seem like it reduces anxiety, then anything can be sold at that angle.

Start by revisiting your brand with these three points in mind. If you can’t address these psychological aspects of selling your brand and products, what will you change first?

Kristen Fusaro-PizzoPresident

What Happens to Small Business if Facebook Disappears?

The $119 billion dollar loss is simultaneously shocking and expected. Facebook faced a major trust violation, the Cambridge Analytica Scandal, which has left it with fewer users than ever and more investors fearing the integrity of the company.  With Facebook plummeting 20% in stock values in one day, it’s no wonder small businesses are frantically wondering what they should do if Facebook disappears? (Don’t think it can happen? Remember MySpace?)


The biggest problem I see with some small businesses are their over-reliance on one means of communication. Some simply use Instagram (another Facebook company, by the way), or Facebook groups, or Twitter to try and sell their products. This is not an effective marketing strategy for the current tempo of our country. With the justified Orwellian backlash of social media and Tech tools (like Amazon’s Alexa having a laughing fit), people are reverting their trust back to “comfortable” technology – reliance on email, visiting regular websites.

The time is NOW to take advantage of this opportunity. Yes, I say opportunity, because as a small business, you probably don’t have the funds or means to function as Big Brother to your customers.  Even if you click-track their actions on your website, you’re not transferring across all of their web-browsing experience; you’re not following the groups they’re in or judging which ads they click – and while analytics are valuable data, people are tracking-fatigued. Americans, especially, have spent nearly 20 years searching for their Fourth Amendment to return, they’re tired of the telescreens. As a small business, your power is in your smallness – your ability to care and empathize with your customer.

These are some steps you should be taking now, just in case the empire falls:

  1. Create Your Own Content on Your Own Website. I am a big fan of WordPress for blogging and Shopify* for e-commerce (and there’s an app in Shopify* where you can marry the two).  I have hosted my e-commerce store, Scents the Moment, on Shopify for three years and owning my own platform ensures that I am in charge of my own content. I don’t have to worry about anyone closing down because I have created a customer-base who knows how to find me, despite changes from conglomerates. This especially applies to combined blogging and e-commerce, because when you blog on your own site, you become the authority and you demonstrate to your customers where they can always find you.
  2. Use Multiple Social Media Outlets and Push to Them All. The beauty of your own website (and this is something I love about WordPress) is that if you create one new piece of content – let’s say a blog post – you’re able to push it to your Twitter, Linked In, Google Plus, and Facebook. That one piece of content can be reused multiple times across so many platforms, which maximizes the work you’re doing – and better yet, if one of them disappears, you’re not losing all of your content!
  3. Build Your Email List. This is an oldie-but-goodie. Having an email list of customers who are interested in your content is an invaluable tool that still works. Even with email lists that have 20% or fewer opens see more ROI (return on investment) than those who do not send any emails at all. The best part – most email services are free for a certain amount of subscribers. I’m a big fan of MailChimp*; they allow you up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails before charging!
  4. Start Recording Videos and Podcasts. This tip aligns with the idea of creating your own content. I recommend you create these videos and then use a publishing software (Windows Movie Maker is perfect for someone who has novice-level technological expertise) to polish them up before posting on YouTube. I suggest pre-recording these videos because you can then host them on your own platform or even use a sharing service like Dropbox or Google Drive to store them. While I love Facebook lives (and they’re still very valuable right now), should these platforms lose their gusto, you’ll always have this content that you could find a way to recycle.

What are you doing in your business to create content? If you need help, click services to see how we can grow your own individual content specific to your business.



*This is an affiliate link and I may earn a referral fee if you use it to register for this service.

Steps to Take When Your Business is Being Harassed

Unfortunately, I am all too familiar with this process.  It is the cost of building a successful business.  When people really start to come at you and your business, you must be doing something right; as Iago warns us, “Beware the green-eye of jealousy.”

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The sad reality of doing business includes negative people who do mean you harm. It can feel extremely discouraging when you’ve worked incredibly hard to build your business to only find others riding on your coattails, or worse, actually harassing your business. While this is all troubling, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself.

  1. Be Proactive. Consider protecting yourself before a problem occurs.
    1. Register your trademark – both your business name and logo – through the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
    2. Hire a lawyer on retainer to remain on standby.  Especially if you’re dealing with numerous contracts or are working with a unique idea, this method may be worth your investment.
    3. Get everything in writing. If you’re dealing with a company or individual who is making you feel uneasy, do not deal with them on the telephone, work strictly in email and retain copies of everything. If you must work via telephone and someone is making you uncomfortable, let them know they will be recorded and proceed to record your conversation.
  2. Document Every Incident of Harassment. Whether it’s by email, mail, or phone. Record, screenshot, and save every piece of harassment. As mentioned in number 1, if an incident is happening over the phone, be sure to clearly state that you are recording before beginning to record, but be sure to record the conversation. We actually recommend you are never alone when communicating with someone harassing you – always CC on emails or three-way in phone calls so you have a witness to the harassment. Document everything and go down to the local authorities to file a written complaint. Be sure to bring your evidence.
  3. Do Not Retaliate or Respond to any Harassment. Continue to maintain impeccable records of when the incident first occurred, and every other incident thereafter. If the harassment is violent in any way, immediately call 911 and report it to local authorities, but do not retaliate!
  4. Combat the Harassment Legally. Contact a lawyer to share the information you have saved about what is happening to your business. Your lawyer may then direct you to either contact the local authorities or begin working on a Cease & Desist Letter.
    1. Cease & Desist Letters are legal documents which specifically outline the harassing behavior that you want to be stopped and detail what will happen to the harasser if he/she continues to engage in the behavior. These letters are the first step when preparing to file a harassment suit.
    2. If the harassment continues, your lawyer may suggest you file a harassment suit. At this point, you will absolutely need a lawyer as well as have had police intervention.

Hopefully, your business will never have to deal with this level of harassment. However, remember that if you do it is best to seek out the advice of small business professionals and legal advice before the circumstances can feel overwhelming.


FAQS About the Vine Vendor Network

Frequently Asked Questions About the Vine

  1. What are the benefits of membership?Members get to be a part of a small, personalized network of small business owners who are looking to grow their small business. We connect vendors to events and events to vendors. We offer our own events throughout the year, as well as work with the local community to bring opportunities to our members. We have Meet & Greets approximately eight times per year where we network, collaborate, and share our own experiences. We offer each other small business assistance, a shared, public calendar, and social media features for a minimal yearly fee paid every fiscal July 1st.
  2. What is the fee?For the July 1, 2018 – July 1, 2019 year the membership fee is $25 renewable every July 1st, regardless of sign-up date. Membership is based on Fiscal Year not Calendar Year.
  3. How do Vine Members get space in a Vine hosted event?  For Vine hosted events, a post is put up in our last event group page so the most recent vendors have priority.  Then we move on to all Vine Members. A post is put up on the Vine Member Facebook group. If there is still space available, we post publicly.  Space is offered on a first applied and paid business, first served in each of these of these scenarios.
  4. For Vine hosted events, how many vendors of the same type of business are accepted?  Based on the number of total vendors we have for an event, we base it on uniqueness.
  5. What is the cost of each event?It depends on the location and what the venue offers us (ex: discount, food, table, chairs, water)
  6. What are the Meet & Greet meetings?The Meet & Greet meeting is where we come together to talk about recent past events, upcoming events) on how to make them better and to help each other to grow within their own business.
    1. When having these meetings there are ideas that someone might use that would work for your own business and help with sales.  
  7. When we have an event scheduled what is required for us to have, what will be supplied by the venue?Depending on the venue tables and chairs could be supplied. If they are not then you are responsible for to bring your own table and chair.
  8. What is the scheduled time frame when there is an event?Depending on the scheduled time frame will determine the set up. However, when you sign up for a Vine Vendors Event it is required that you stay till the end time. Anyone who breaks-down early, stands the risk of not being invited back for another event with the Vine Vendors.
  9. What if the Vendor (you) have a concern or circumstance – what should you do?If any Vendor has a concern or circumstance please speak with either Kristen or RoseMary so that we can help.
  10. What kind of display should you have set up?Make your display look like a boutique and not a Flea Market set-up
    1. Appearance is everything and people will stop and look, shop and take a business card.
  11. If there are multiple vendors of the same business in the network, will I ever get a chance to be a vendor at your events?There is no exact answer to this because we do give priority to our previous vendors for our holiday event; however, we also work with numerous other groups throughout the year. So, while you may not get the chance to vend at one of our events, that does not exclude you from all of our events. Plus, multiple event organizers offer their contracts to us which gives you a diverse opportunity to vend at various events, not just events directly hosted by us.
  12. I don’t use Facebook, how will I get the information I need?While we really recommend obtaining a Facebook account to maximize membership, as well as for the sake of your business, you can find all the information on a delay in our members-only section of the website.
  13. I don’t have my business license, can I still join the Vine?At this time, we only accept businesses that have their county business license, federal tax ID, and/or direct sales contract. To obtain these things, please contact your local Small Business Development Center for beginner guidance.
  14. I have multiple businesses, can I list all of them with the Vine?Absolutely. Each additional business listing is $25 per year.
  15. I have a partner in my business, is he/she allowed into the group?Yes! We allow up to two members per company in our group. Any additional member beyond two requires another membership fee.  *Please note you have an additional member in your application.
  16. Am I allowed to add my friends/family to the Facebook group?We only allow verified and paid members into our group.
  17. What if I am not satisfied with membership – can I get a refund on my membership fee?Membership fees are non-refundable the moment you receive the invitation password and/or are invited into our paid Facebook group.  However, you may cancel your membership at any time.
  18. I am not sure if I want to be a member, can I check it out?The first thing we would advise is that you sign-up for our newsletter here: SIGN UP FOR OUR FREE MONTHLY NEWSLETTER. We would also advise you be on the look-out for when we have open Meet & Greets so you can meet some of our members.
  19. What are your event expectations?While each event is unique and has its own set of varied expectations, the following are always expected at every event:Arrive on time and stay open for the entire duration of the event.
      1. Clean, aesthetic, boutique display including a tablecloth that reaches the floor, hidden boxes, and no refuse.
      1. Professional and respectful talk and behavior to customers, organizers, and other vendors.
  20. What happens if I have to cancel an event I already paid for?Each event that we host has different cancellation policies, but we always expect you to notify us as soon as possible.  Vendors who cancel the day-of events or are no-shows will not be invited back to vend with us and may be subject to network termination.


Alas, poor country! How Politics Affects Your Small Business

I have posted and deleted at least ten different Facebook posts over the last few weeks. I have broken my own cardinal rule – no religion or politics on social media – and have subsequently lost several customers over the last few days as a result of my behavior. In spite of knowing better – knowing that as a business owner, I need to be unbiased, impartial, and unwavering in my appearance of neutrality – I ignored my better judgment and will pay for it.

But, I don’t care.

That’s right. The only apathy I feel is about how others feel about me and my personal opinions because I sincerely believe it is my responsibility to advocate for those who have been stifled, left without an option or a voice. I firmly believe that despite a person’s immigration status, age, sexual orientation, gender orientation, race, ethnicity, disability, etc. he or she deserves the right to live freely and happily.

I am breaking my own political rules about running a small business because I feel so strongly about what has been happening in our country lately. I feel people are being denied basic human rights and as a small business owner, I have made peace with the fact that I will lose customers in defense of these basic freedoms.

It is beyond a matter of personal preference, and difference of opinion, it’s a matter of basic ethics and morality, and honestly, anyone who freely advocates against any party’s right to basic human rights is not a customer I want to represent my brand.


When it comes to your small business, it’s important to follow a philosophy and vision for your business. This should include your promises, commitments, and goals.  You have to realize that your business philosophy is a living document, which means it’s always technically “under construction.”  We change, people change, and the world changes; the only way to keep your business relevant is to know for certain you cannot know anything for certain.

Understanding the political climate can help you mold your business philosophy. How are people responding to politics – or more importantly – which customer do you want to attract and how does he/she respond to politics?

When your business is personal to you – and most small businesses are – a great place to begin searching for your target customer is through political alignment.  Just as I gave you the example above for myself, though I know I lost a few customers, I have also gained more – I’ve gained customers who I can make a true impact on by relating to their belief systems. When people feel you believe in their beliefs, they are more likely to trust you. Attracting those customers who politically align with your business is easy because you’re being honest.


While most small businesses shouldn’t revolve everything around politics – unless you’re actually selling something related to that – keeping your appearances and posts relevant will make you more appealing to the right customer.

Final thoughts – 60% of the time, keep your posts airy, light, and product-related, 38% of the time, make them lifestyle-related, but 2% of the time you can show your love and support for something political related to your business.


Learn to Delegate to Be a Successful Small Business Owner

I was just released from the hospital yesterday. I went in for surgery on Tuesday morning and had a two-night stay in recovery. I’m home recovering right now and I won’t be able to return to my teaching job for a few weeks, and I took a short leave of absence from the Vine and Scents the Moment (my personal businesses).  During this time of recovery, I’m well aware that the show must go on for my businesses and job to be successful.  It comes down to delegating and time management.

The first thing I did was to delegate responsibilities for my teaching job to a substitute teacher. I outlined all of my lessons for the days I knew I would be out and submitted them all to my administration and the sub. I let my students know I would be out so they could also prepare. Making people aware of your needs will help them to help you.

I knew I would need help at home, so I asked my husband to take a few days off of work during my initial return home from the hospital.  I’m not able to bend or stretch, and he will need to help me with lots of basic tasks until my wounds heal. Be forthcoming and honest about your expectations of the people you ask for help. 

I leaned on RoseMary, my Vice President of the Vine, to help me run the business while I am recovering. I asked them to field any member questions and to provide customer service. In order for them to best perform these duties, I had to be explicit about redirecting to them. Inform people about who they should contact to obtain specific help.

The key is to recognize that as your business grows, you cannot do it all. It will be tempting to manage everything on your own to try and save money, or because your scared of relinquishing some responsibilities, but you have to ask yourself if your business is ready for true growth?  If you want to expand, you will need to delegate.

Start by delegating tasks in your personal household. One of the first things I did when my businesses started to grow was to hire a housekeeper. While I realized that I personally struggled with this because of the societal expectations of me as a wife, as a woman, as a homeowner meant cleaning my own house, I was ready to break those boundaries to free myself to concentrate on my business. 

Start by recognizing which tasks absolutely need to be done by you compared to those you could outsource. For my maker business, Scents the Moment, I decided that I not only didn’t need to do my own photography, it would be better off if I hired a professional. That’s when I hired Bryan Maes of Inspiration Studios. This allowed me to free myself from trying to take photos that I didn’t have the equipment or skill to do. Then I started paying freelancers to work on different parts of my website and do my graphic design work. I had more time to concentrate on personally connecting with my customers and physically making my products.

It will cost money to begin to delegate, but in the end, you will make more money because you have the time to spend on working parts of your business that only you are capable of doing. It’s worth the investment.


How to Make a Sale a Day

Whether you’re a new business or are a veteran business owner, we have all been through periods of dry-spells with sales.  These days begin as disturbing, then doubtful, to downright depressing – we wonder if what we’re doing matters at all or if we’ll ever make a sale again; we begin to wonder if we should even bother or just pack up and quit.

There are some strategies to break your slump and make one sale every day, as long as you’re willing to put the work in. This is a really important point for me to stress. There is no such thing as a fix-easy. You must be willing to work these tips before they will work for you.

  1. Keep in touch with your past customers. Whether you hop on the phone, send an email, send texts, host a group on social media, send postcards by mail, you need to touch base with all of the customers who already have purchased from you, and you need to do this regularly. You cannot allow too much time to pass before touching base with your customers. You must engage them, and try to do so on a variety of platforms.
  2. Pop on LIVE on your Social Media. If you can get someone to help you with this, even better. Hop on LIVE on your preferred social media platform (Facebook, YouTube, etc.) to talk about one of your favorite products. Show them how you use it, explain the story behind it, demonstrate it, and field questions about it. Have the person helping you summarize what you’re saying in the comments so late-comers can catch up by reading. Make sure to directly post the product link in the comments. Do not over-saturate with more than 1-2 products. Do not go live for longer than 10 minutes. 
  3. Write a Blog about the same product you just went LIVE to explain. Having a follow-up blog that answers all of the questions you received in the Live, or any possible other anticipated questions helps to drive traffic to your website as well as build authority in your brand. Download the Live video and upload it to your blog so you can recycle your material for multiple platforms.
  4. Offer a FREE returns policy. Seems counterintuitive, right? Wrong. People are more likely to not only purchase but to spend much more money if they believe they have risk-free returns (Walker Sands).
  5. Offer a FREE gift or FREE shipping with a minimum purchase amount. Everyone loves the term FREE. 80% of consumers have said they have chosen to make a purchase simply by reading that free shipping was available (Walker Sands).  Give a reasonable minimum (that still allows you to make a profit) and offer the free shipping or free gift – common minimums range from $49-$75.

Give each of these strategies a try and we are sure you will get your customers spending!  Let us know what worked best for you in the comments.

Kristen Fusaro-PizzoPresident

NSV: Non-Sale Victories for Small Business

I came to the realization that my greatest fear is disappointing myself – I’m not working hard enough, often enough, fast enough, long enough. But when is enough, enough? I tried to answer this question and the idea of “money” didn’t sit well with me. Am I working my small business because I expect billions in sales? No. Would I like more sales? Of course, who wouldn’t? But am I equating my own success simply to sales?

That’s when it hit me. I need to take a deep breath and be much more lenient on myself because success is not just equal to sales. Let me repeat that: SUCCESS IS NOT JUST EQUAL TO SALES! The goal is longevity, and like any other rapid “success,” too much money too fast is not sustainable, but all the building blocks you put into place make that attainable.

This blog is about recognizing “NSVs” – Non-Sale Victories. All of that hard work you’re doing is paying off in different ways. There is so much more to building a small business than money, and all of these little victories and champion moments are what lead to the holistic success of your small business.

  1. You have repeat customers. Customers who reorder from you, no matter how big or small, is one of the easiest indications that you’re doing something right. We’re all consumers and we know that if we were unhappy with a business for any reason, we would not spend our hard-earned money there, so it’s safe to draw the same conclusion when you’ve earned a customer’s second purchase.
  2. You have haters. These people will come in the form of online bullies, of dagger-eyes at shows, of gossiping viper-venom, and more. You’ll know when you have haters because they’ll make themselves known by trying to denigrate you or your brand. Haters just mean you’re doing something right and they cannot handle their own jealousy. Best advice is not to engage them, but embrace the popular “Bye Felicia” attitude and keep looking forward. These people haven’t realized what Iago has always warned: Oh, beware, my lord, of jealousy! / It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock / The meat it feeds on. “
  3. You have a community around your brand. You can start to notice this through nuance. Are the same people commenting on your social media posts? Are people actively participating in your Facebook group? Do people share photos or videos of their unboxing or using your products? Are people recommending your products to their friends? Are local vendor events asking you to vend at their events? Do people look for your business at local vendor events? These little hints all demonstrate you’re building a community around your brand, and once you do, you develop long-term, committed repeat customers.
  4. Your website’s traffic is increasing. Whether you’ve been rocking your blogging game, or making updates, or getting professional photography done, you notice your website traffic is increasing. Keep working hard to generate fresh and valuable content to drive more traffic to your website. Not every visit becomes a sale, but every visit increases your brand recognition.
  5. You’re getting views, comments, and likes on your posts. What makes this a little different than community (#3) is that these are different people – not the same people who are commenting and sharing. The goal is to get lots of views and likes so that it becomes a community. But if you have a few posts or videos that are getting shares and comments, you are definitely doing something right!
  6. People are asking you for advice. When people start coming to you with questions related to your brand, you’re definitely doing something right! That means you’re building trust and people are looking to you as an authority in your field. Build that role by sharing tips, tricks, hacks, and advice related to the services or products you sell.
  7. People are signing up for your newsletter. If you notice an increase in newsletter subscriptions that means people are interested in what you have to say. Emails are sacred these days since it’s our #1 form of communication. People no longer tolerate spam or excessive email, so when someone is making the effort to opt-in to receive your newsletters, you are definitely doing something right.

The most important point to remember is to not solely count your success by how many sales you make. There is far more to building a trustworthy brand than making sales. The sales will come as long as you keep working your business. Some people might even just be waiting for your longevity before making that purchase. Stay positive, keep working hard, and be proud of what you have accomplished.


Parting Ways Professionally

Not that I ever believed it would be the case, but owning a small business is not rainbows and unicorns. There’s so much to deal with on a daily basis – time management, supplies, deliveries, manufacturing, internet security, effective e-commerce, social media… when you have to throw unprofessional people into the mix, it just seems frustratingly unnecessary. However, the reality is that having the ability to know when and how to part ways in a professional matter is an incredible skill to have in your small business toolbelt.

Sometimes you just have to fire a customer. Adam Robinson of Hireology explains: “Unfortunately, customers can sometimes get in the way of your ability to live the company’s core values.”  The question comes down to defining your own core values and limitations.  It’s not always easy to understand those limitations, so I advise my clients to simply trust their instincts; when something feels worse than it should, if it causes more anxiety than gain, it’s not worth the effort.

I recently had to fire one of my customers in my Scents the Moment business. I actually love this customer and think she is a wonderful and brilliant businesswoman; however, her requests for customization and small quantities of each requested were taking a toll on me. Whenever one of her orders would come through, I would feel a deep rush of anxiety because I felt like I had to drop everything to make these products for her – and the reality is, it wasn’t even her pushing these demands. However, the custom work for the low profit of this type of item led me to finally realize it would be in my best interest to part ways.

I sent her an email simply explaining that I am cutting down on all custom work to focus on the retail end of my business. I thanked her for her loyalty and her time with me, I promised to complete the most recent order, and we parted professionally. I was lucky because I was dealing with someone who could understand my honesty, it’s not always that simple.

If the customer lashes out after your professional email or phone call, you simply don’t respond and thank them for their time. It may even be prudent to direct them to someone else who could serve them better.

The trick is not to lose yourself in your small business.

Employees or Partnerships
Revisiting Robinson’s point on core values, this needs to apply to any employees or partnerships that you have, as well. These could be your immediate employees, your downline, suppliers, or other forms of professional partnerships.  If the person is creating more negativity than productivity, it may be time to part ways.

This relationship is a bit more complex because the income being affected here is not just your own, it’s the other person, as well. For this reason, you want to offer progressive measures by first speaking to the person for whatever has been questionable.

Start with a quick in-person conversation – albeit uncomfortable, it’s certainly the most professional way to begin. You give the person the opportunity to explain his/her behavior and you diminish the risk of your tone coming off incorrectly. If the behavior persists, send an email specifically addressing what the problem is. Keep your tone matter-of-fact, avoid using hedge words or personal commentary – stick to the facts. Finally, if you still feel it is not working, let the person know directly and immediately (through a message, in-person conversation, phone call – it all depends on proximity) that you feel it would be best to part ways and you wish them well. You must follow-up with a formal letter or email clearly terminating the relationship.

Key Points to Remember

  1. Stay true to yourself, your business model, and your core values. Nothing and no one is worth diminishing your sense of self or your health and well-being. Lost income is tough, but you’ll never focus on fresh opportunities if you’re being sucked-down by things upsetting you, either.
  2. Always start with the benefit-of-the-doubt. Give people a chance to talk with their voice, either in-person or via phone. To immediately start with in-writing is intimidating.
  3. If it does come to the point of in-writing, keep it professional by focusing strictly on facts. Wish them well on their next steps, and move on. Ignore any responses.

If It Gets Ugly
…and sometimes it does, cover your bases by including: “Any measure to replicate the products and/or brand, make and share unfavorable or defamatory references about COMPANY NAME, may result in legal action” (Rolande Sumner of Butter Angels, LLC).

Wishing you best and success in your business, always.

Kristen Fusaro-PizzoPresident