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Stop Collecting Underpants and Start Making Money!

By: Alisa Marie Beyer
Posted: March 24, 2014, from the April 2014 issue of GCI Magazine.

I come from a family of entrepreneurs. And, as expected, some of our ventures are more successful than others. A few years ago, after a lively family discussion about my parent’s newest venture, an alpaca farm, my youngest bother Morgan sent me a hysterical image of gnomes collecting underpants and signed it, “Mom and Dad need to stop collecting underpants!”

Okay, let me explain the tale of the underpants gnomes and what it has to do with beauty products.

In the town of South Park, Colorado, legend has it that underpants gnomes sneak into people’s houses during the middle of the night and steal their underpants. The gnomes have collected piles and piles of underpants. You see, they’re collecting underpants to build a big business … apparently. When the gnomes are questioned about why they collect underpants, they say, “Collecting underpants is just Phase 1!” However, when asked about Phase 2, not a single gnome knows what’s next. In the subsequent breakdown, you’ll see Phase 3 is “Profit,” which is awesome—but the gnomes have no clue how to get there. This means these gnomes spend all day and all night collecting underpants without having any clue how to move onto Phase 2, which is required to get to the real end goal—Phase 3 and profit.

Don’t Do the Wrong Things Right

Whether they realize it or not, many start-up beauty entrepreneurs spend most of their day in Phase 1: collecting underpants. You can spend all day every day collecting and collecting. In fact, you could be the best collector in the entire world. You know what that will get you? A big pile of underpants. In the case of those of us in beauty, it will get us piles of beauty research, overloaded product portfolios, tons of excessive marketing material and a boatload of unmoved products in a warehouse.

Phase 3 is what you hope to accomplish after starting to build your pile—profit. Which brings me to the point: Successful people dominate Phase 2.

Phase 2 is figuring out what to do with what you collected in Phase 1. People who dominate Phase 2 take action. People who dominate Phase 2 understand that trying and failing from previous mistakes is so much more valuable than spending more time researching and/or collecting without attempting anything. Further, knowing what to do so you can build profit from what you’ve collected is critical. “What do I do now?” is the number one asked question at The Beauty Company.

Here’s my advice: Success in Phase 3, which is profit, comes when you learn to take things you’ve learned, researched and collected and then successfully put them into practice.

All too often, in our rush to get started on whatever it is we are going to do in both our personal and professional lives, we find ourselves getting sidetracked doing the things that aren’t part of the process, that don’t add to our final outcome and that usually can’t be explained by anyone on our teams (or in our families, for that matter). Doing the wrong things, which I like to call collecting piles of underpants, really well is a real challenge to any business owner and, in my opinion, is particularly challenging to those attempting to build a beauty brand.

Do the Right Things Really Well

In order to avoid the seductive appeal of collecting underpants—and make no mistake, procrastinating with the wrong tasks in favor of the right ones is powerfully seductive—successful beauty brand owners and managers will lay down a plan that instead identifies all of the factors needed to get across the finish line. In other words, do the right things and do them really well.

Plan—The right concept and business plan, or why are we collecting underpants? Ask my team for a mantra and, undoubtedly, at the top of the list will be “Plan the work and work the plan.” And with good reason—it works. Nothing works without a plan, and not just any plan—a carefully crafted, well thought-out plan that makes sense to you and your team and that has clearly defined steps and goals that everyone is working toward achieving.

Why are you creating your beauty brand? What is your plan for it both in the near and far term? How do you see it thriving in the greater beauty marketplace once launched, and what processes and tools will you put into place to support this goal? All of these factors (and plenty more) need to be established and identified at the outset in your plan, and then the single most important step must happen: Follow the plan.

Deviations and recalibrations are normal and expected parts of this process, but complete 180s are not. Maybe your naming architecture just isn’t resonating with your target consumer, or perhaps the scent profile you intended for your launch collection still doesn’t meet your expectations after four rounds of benchmarking. Rather than changing gears completely, remember your plan and work to correct these issues within the bounds of this plan.