David Schottenstein, the founder of Astor & Black, Swiss Stays, and Viewabill shares business wisdom with aspiring entrepreneurs.
by David Schottenstein – A CHYE.info exclusive.
In my experience, the most important thing every business owner needs to ask themselves is: Is the product or service I am offering vital? Does my product or service solve a problem or fill a need? Ensuring that what you’re providing is something that people need or want is one of the fundamental keys to success.
I started my custom clothing company, Astor & Black, because there were no decent, American-based custom clothing operations charging reasonable prices. The reputable ones in existence at that time charged an average of $1,500 for a custom-made suit. The alternative was to pay $600-$700 for a suit after being measured in a hotel room by a tailor visiting from Hong Kong. The suit would then be shipped to the customer in a cardboard box, with no alterations or quality guarantees offered; in many cases, they’d just be stuck with an ill-fitted suit.
The solution was simple: create an American-based custom clothing company with quality materials and tailoring, friendly and reliable service and prices that people could afford to pay.
That model solved a problem, and the public responded to it.
The second company I launched, Swiss Stays, also solved a problem. Although the need it addresses isn’t as pressing, we still sold close to a million dollars worth of collar stays in the first year. People were tired of hunting around in drawers every morning, trying to find the right collar stay, and they responded by purchasing a product that solves their problem and eased their daily frustration.
Our latest venture, Viewabill, epitomizes the concept of problem solving. It was inspired by my personal experiences dealing with law firms. Because attorneys bill their clients by the hour and only send invoices at the end of the month, clients have no way of knowing what to expect when they receive their bill. As a result, there are constant battles between attorneys and clients at the end of the month when the bill finally arrives. Together with two partners, including Alan Dershowitz, we created Viewabill, a system that creates real-time transparency between attorneys and clients, so both parties know what’s happening and there are no surprises.
The first component of success is for business owners to truly believe that what they are offering is solving a problem or addressing a need. The second component is to help potential customers understand how the product or service will provide them with a solution to their problem.
Business owners should not have to convince themselves that their product or service is needed and valuable. If it is something that will truly provide people with a benefit or solution, then it’s important to not become disillusioned or discouraged by rejection. Anyone trying to get a business off the ground will be confronted many times with “no” and “sorry, we’re not interested.” But rejection should have no impact on the person’s attitude, enthusiasm or psyche.
A potential customer who is not interested in the product or service should be viewed like a child who does not yet understand how his or her parent’s suggestion or demand is for its benefit. Educate the target customers and they will jump on board.
After garnering more traction by building a customer base, call back anyone who previously turned you down or was hesitant, and try again. People who didn’t want to meet with you earlier may be more interested now that they see that others have jumped on board.
The moment a person allows rejection to dampen their drive and enthusiasm, he or she begins to lose the battle.
A favorite quote of mine is that “successful people are those who do all the things unsuccessful people don’t want to do.”
Nobody enjoys being rejected hundreds of times. What separates the winners from the losers is that the winners are those who persist through the rejection until they get a yes.
I remember waking up one morning at 4:00 a.m. because I had to be in Indianapolis by 7:00 a.m. to measure and sell clothing to the Indianapolis Colts football team. It was an extremely cold wintery morning, the streets fully frozen over, and a big part of me wanted to stay in my warm, cozy bed and blow off the opportunity.
And then I remembered my quote about successful people. The type of person who chooses to stay in bed rather than drive three hours to Indianapolis early on an ice cold winter’s day is the very type that does not succeed.
So I made the drive and sold the entire team. I continued selling to them for the next three years until I sold my company. When players from the team were traded to other teams, I’d fly or drive to see them in their new cities and inevitably would end up outfitting their new teammates as well. That was a defining moment for me, because it clearly defined exactly what separated my successful business from an unsuccessful one.
Motivate yourself to do the things you don’t feel like doing, and don’t opt for the easy road. Take the road less traveled, the one that looks scary and treacherous, the one that most people turn away from.
Many entrepreneurs become discouraged way too easily. We encountered a lot of resistance when launching Viewabill. It has been public for eight weeks, and the difference in traction between Week 1 and Week 8 has been incredible. During the first week I thought to myself that this will never work and that everyone will hate the concept. But now in Week 8, many firms have come on board, and it’s a great feeling. We are literally changing the way business is done in this industry.
Success in business is rarely easy. But remember that persistence is what separates the winners from the losers. Dust yourself each time you face rejection, but don’t stop; continue pushing forward. These are things that I still have to tell myself on a regular basis when I begin to feel discouraged. One tip for dealing with feeling down is to take a break and recharge for a day by relaxing or spending time with family. It never hurts to have a supportive and loving spouse too!
You can take your business to the next level and achieve success. But to do so you will have to keep your head up, get over the inevitable rejection after rejection along the way, and, more than anything, be persistent.
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