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BY RUSS ALLRED Contributing columnist
Plan the menu, purchase the products, prepare the food, pack it up, find parking, wrestle the wind and battle the bugs. In the end, picnics are no picnic. However, we enjoy the diversion, tossing a ball, throwing a Frisbee, eating and laughing, so picnics are fun. They just take some planning so everyone has a good time.
Running a business is also no picnic. It also requires planning to be enjoyed. We can take a lesson from the uninvited guests at most picnics, the ants. While we stuff our faces, the ants are growing an empire. They send out scouts to find the best picnics. They work together to build the colony. Their success depends on their ability to gather goods from diverse locations.
Most entrepreneurs are doggedly independent. In reality, their business is a job for them. Once they arrive at a personal income that is comfortable, they typically settle into a routine and hope the income continues. If they develop wealth, it is usually the result of outside investments, not reinvesting in their own business. The potential for wealth would increase if the entrepreneurs would include broader distribution in their planning.
I learned a difficult lesson from my first book. While my brother and I were writing, we also should have been developing our distribution channels. Book publishers have a narrow perspective on distribution. They sell to book wholesalers, who in turn supply book retailers. The publisher allows six weeks on the shelf to determine if your book is a success. Then they divert their attention to the next book.
They are dependent on one picnic, but there are gift shops, catalogs, convenience stores, book clubs and industry specific channels that also sell books. We tried speaking and radio publicity, but we could not develop enough interest in the six weeks to justify a second run of books. Ultimately we sold 11,000 copies in various editions. It sounds like a lot, but at 60 cents a book, that's not a lot of money.
In my next book, "Ten-Minute Retreats for Business Owners," I have acquired the endorsement of eight major hotel chains, the network of Sunbelt Business Brokers and hopefully the Association of Small Business Development Centers and American Express, all for the purpose of gaining broad distribution channels.
While you are relaxing at your next picnic, ask yourself these questions: Could we sell our product or service in new markets? What resources would we require to enter new channels of distribution? How can we incentivize more people to promote our products? Perhaps while you're pondering at your next picnic, you would like to read a good book.
-- Russ Allred, MBA, is a business consultant and author with Sunbelt Business Brokers & Advisors. These are his opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian.