By Danielle Gronich, CEO of CLEARSTEM Skincare and San Diego Acne Clinic.
In every company’s life, there are situations that, at face value, seem like great opportunities. Discerning the opportunities that are best for your company in the long term is the tricky part. Like any relationship, you have to walk a fine line between compromising and settling and know exactly when you’re doing one versus the other. Taking on investments that dilute equity, inviting more voices into the creative process and hiring staff are all scenarios that usually have runaway implications (some great, some not) and result in unforeseen happenings down the road.
Retail and wholesale relationships are some of the trickiest opportunities to navigate, especially because they are the money-generating contracts that companies need (revenue, please).
At my skincare company, for example, I am the CEO, and I am also a well-known esthetician, so there was a ton of initial interest in establishing a wholesale wing for use by other skincare professionals. While this seemed like an enticing idea for a guaranteed revenue stream, I remembered all the training and support needed for these various accounts. Each skincare practice needs different things, wants product education on an ongoing level (sometimes in person) and requires a customer service department, which my company didn’t have or need at that time. In the end, we found a compromise where we just give practitioners wholesale discounts on purchases over a certain amount, and they can reference our informative Instagram or blog to learn more about each item. Passing on a large wholesale relationship that would’ve diverted focus from our other aims was the right move.
Retail presents a whole host of other opportunities to scrutinize, especially with the retail landscape changing so drastically because of Covid-19. Do you really need to be in a physical store? And, if so, how do you ascertain the value of that relationship in this climate? Should you say yes just because one buyer really likes your margins, even if the store doesn’t really echo your ethos? My company is a nontoxic skincare line that is both anti-acne and anti-aging simultaneously, and we are incredibly passionate about clean ingredients. So when we were approached to be in a mega-retailer that promotes all the brands we educate against, we had to decline (even though it could have easily been a 100,000-purchase order).
If saying no feels like a sigh of relief and reinvigorates your determination to keep carving out your own place in the market, then “no” now will serve you better in your long game. Doubling down on your core mission only makes your brand stronger and you more passionate as a leader. And the right partner for you will value you even more because you essentially waited for them. That’s the partner that will take your brand where you want it to go and exponentially increase your company’s value.
I see a lot of parallels between the relationship I have with my company’s identity and the relationships I have outside of work. Most people can relate to staying in a personal relationship they knew wasn’t right and feeling the subsequent stress of dissonance and unfulfillment. In business, those feelings will be amplified a thousand times and could cost you financially by deteriorating your brand quality. As in life, the noes are perhaps more consequential than the yeses, and at the end of the day, being unwavering in what you value is always the best M.O.