During the last two decades, I have met many successful people. Once I worked as P.A to a Knight of the Realm, and the two PLC Chairmen who employed me are chalk and cheese. The trio are multi-millionaires. It is interesting to be near successful businessmen and women as we discover the methods used are similar. Most people imagine the successful have a magic wand. The reality is in fact hard work and dedication to a solid objective.
Fourteen years ago I left the corporate world and began a small retail business. There was no intention of growing it beyond a small and controllable source of income. I will let you into a secret; the company began with a five hundred pound purchase of stock and a small market stall. In the fourteen years, it has never needed one loan or overdraft. Lizian Crystal Shop has provided me with a healthy living and shown consistent growth.
The discipline of business practice learned from observing the three aforementioned and (to the reader) unknown men is part of the success. There is another person involved in the business; Ian Timothy, one of the finest businessmen I have known. During the years we have known each other, there has never been one argument, not one; I mention this because it is evidence of Ian’s way of thinking. He is the finest negotiator and dealer imaginable, setting clear parameters and transparency with his intentions, the deal is either fair for all concerned or not struck. I remember him saying ‘Don’t have hidden agendas Liz, seek people who can work with you to a single purpose. Demonstrate your abilities and listen to peoples, ideas, criticism and input.’
Four years into trading, the market stall entered a difficult time. I was losing customers and sometimes needed to use previous months profits to cover present day overheads. ‘We will give it six months, and if it cannot be turned around, we’ll close it and move on.’ Ian’s words hurt me, all the effort and hours of dedication were dismissed. He was adamant ‘Six months, and we will move on.’ Two weeks later he said ‘We will have a sale’ I looked at him and he saw I was upset ‘We will sell the books, cards, silver jewellery, fossils and anything else which does not work for us. I don’t care what we get for the dead stock’ We had a sale, the retail price was 2500 pounds, we realised 800 at the most. After the sale, we have another! ‘We’ll dispose of all the stock which does not sell Liz’ again I was hurt, I believed he doubted my ability to purchase the right stock. This time 3000 pounds worth of stock returned 900. ’Now go and buy 2000 pounds of stock which you understand and are a specialist in.’
We never looked back; there were no goth pewter rings, tarot and angel cards, books and silver jewellery. The manifest is still the same; medium size mineral and crystals, and high quality, super valuable mineral specimens. Later on, I added incense to the stock list; we never wavered from the specialist formula. If I’d specialised in goth, tarot cards, books or silver jewellery the success would have worked. When I look back, the Knight and the two PLC Chairmen understood the system. One core product and a thorough knowledge of that product.
The worse weekend I endured at a mind body and spirit show was due to Ian and his transparency. We were at Stockport and next to a man who made a ‘product’. Around the product were a few books and some crystals. During a conversation, he said to Ian ‘I could not cover my overheads with my ‘product’ alone. I have to sell the books and rocks to make it pay.’ I believed he was attempting to excuse himself for selling similar products to our own; ‘Don’t worry, sell what you like, it will not make any difference to me’ I listened to Ian’s reply and thought “that’s nice” until he finished the sentence ‘You are in the worst place possible, we are specialist, no jewellery, no ‘product’ just crystals. You need the additions, not to make up your overheads, you need them because your ‘product’ is inferior.’ For the rest of the weekend, I watched the man struggle.
There is no point in getting angry with Ian he’ll just say ‘I will not argue.’ However, during the drive home, he broke the silence. ‘It is a sign of immaturity to have faith and blind belief in something which is unsaleable. That fellow smelled, had dirty hair and hands. His clothes were filthy, and if you’re going to wear sandals, it would be a good idea to cut your toe nails. His ‘product’ is shoddy, and all who looked at the ’product’ saw his reflection in it.
Ten years ago I attended a small ‘show’ in the North East. Rick is a twenty-year-old modern day hippy. He wears a pair of well-washed jeans, white ‘guru’ shirt and a pair of Jesus sandals. His table is covered with a light green cloth. On the table are a pile of unique A4 pictures and the strangest books I have seen. It is the paper which is different, the books are amazing. Rick makes the paper himself; he sticks dried flowers and leaves onto A4 sized sheets to create unique forest scene pictures. The books are ten sheets of A6 sized paper, bound with sisal string. The left-hand page has a few pressed flowers, the opposite page a short poem or a few words. In the middle of the table is a framed sign. “Books £35.00 – Pictures £45.00”. Below the price list is a pile of handwritten postcards, on which Rich has written ‘For every one of my products purchased, I will plant an oak or chestnut sapling in a safe and secure wood. At the bottom of the planting hole, I will place a note with your name or the name of a loved one. That weekend Rick sold a thousand pounds worth of his pictures and goods. We became his friend, later he became a forester and continued to work near to the woods where he watches the saplings grow into trees.
I could give other examples of why specialists succeed. Although I will come back to the time when I realised becoming an expert turned my business around. I could have sold the fossils, silver jewellery and gothic goods. However, the market stall was too small. A larger shop was required, where the different lines could be separated. During my time retailing in Nottingham, I have watched six crystal shops rise and wither. Every one filled with a cornucopia of products and goods. When they close for the final time, the reason is always the same, too many ranges and insufficient options within each one.
Ian left the Lizian Shop business seven years ago and became a writer, one morning he said. ‘I am going to become a freelancer Liz’, and this is exactly what he has done. I know about being a specialist. I cannot give the very best to my customers if I am not dedicated to a particular area. Ian is now back in the small market stall, selling the crystals and incense and writing essays and articles for his clients. Today, I am a show and event organizer dedicated to my stall holders and their success.