“You can’t take over the world without a good acronym” ― C.S. Woolley
What a year it’s been for SG! I’m physically tired and emotionally worn out but at the same time full of energy and optimism for the future of this growing business.
2016, like every year I have headed up this business since 2012, has been a massive learning experience full of adventure, good times, scary times and surprises. If you’re thinking of running your own business then my advice is to do it. It’ll be the hardest, most challenging thing you ever do (probably) and the very definition of a roller coaster ride but any win, no matter how small, makes it all worth it. Here’s some of my thoughts and highlights for the year…
Human’s are flipping handy
From an administration perspective, this business was run purely by myself up until August this year! Trevor, our awesome designer has been working with us for over a year now but he works remotely and focuses on rolling out the designs that we know and love. Trevor is a key asset to the business and has really helped shape the direction of the last 18 months.
We use a third party warehouse for logistics meaning that the business has always been scalable in terms of orders and inventory. But everything else has always gone through me.
This is dangerous as the whole business hinges off me. Something that I’ve always wanted to avoid.
In 2014 I started developing “skynet” which is our in house software that handles 95% of the heavy lifting of the eCommerce duties required to handle the business. For example it sends your orders to our warehouse, emails you when orders are dispatched, makes sure the stock in the warehouse matches what’s on the website, refunds you when returns are processed, adds new stock to the website the second it arrives in the warehouse, and, well, a bunch of other things. This year I completely re-wrote the code and it’s now very powerful and extendable indeed.
This software is the reason I’ve got this far on my own. But it’s no match for a human being when it comes to customer service and creativity. In August I hired Rob, and then Andy in November. These two gents are incredible assets and frankly I can’t imagine the business without them. I’m also fortunate enough to call them friends and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this team.
And really, this is the beauty of skynet, it does all the mundane things extremely well, 24 hours a day. This means that when we make a hire we can focus on adding creativity to the team. It’ll be a long time until my coding skills can produce a creative robot, and try as I might – skynet is rubbish at small talk. It does however send us daily goat gifs like this.
Service is key to any business these days, and whilst robots can help to an extent, humans will always be better in this regard. We build bots to help our humans serve you better.
Plus the office is way more fun these days :-)
The World is both huge and tiny
The main image at the top of the post is a genuine representation of all the countries that SG kit has been shipped to this year. What amazes me about this is that we aren’t really focusing on international expansion in any way. We just do what we do and sell to anyone that aligns with our goal of getting out and adventuring a little more. We have grown significantly in the US this year which is exciting. There are some obvious barriers to serving international customers. We are working on reducing shipping costs all the time and can now get a package from our warehouse into most destinations in the World in 2-3 business days very reliably. But returns are still awkward for international customers. It’s something we are very aware of and actively working on for 2017.
The typical route here is to seek a distributor network, but it’s a route that we have always avoided as it adds an extra layer of expense to the supply chain and ultimately means your kit is more expensive. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, or just plain easier / more effective. But we try and avoid it if we can, we’d much rather handle everything direct or work with a smattering of service focused retailers over the globe.
Brexit is Brexit
It’d be hard for any review of 2016 to not include Brexit. However you voted (or didn’t), Brexit has had an impact on small businesses like ours. Especially in the cycling industry. Currently that impact is purely down to the exchange rate. Our kit is made in Belgium, that made that night in June a very expensive night indeed and margins are constantly being squeezed.
Again, due to our short supply chain and the way we manufacture, we have been able to swallow up the impact for the most part. But you’ll see some price hikes across the industry already and certainly into 2017. That isn’t scare mongering, just how it is. What I can tell you is that we have found a way to offer our current product range at the current prices. Sometimes you just have to think outside the box a little. Life goes on, and it’s all good fun in the end, just a different challenge.
Working 50+ hours a week won’t add to your growth
What I’ve realised more so this year than any other year in my working life, is that working all hours of the day isn’t conducive to growth. With the right team, and processes, and cutting down on unnecessary distractions you can achieve so much in a short space of time. It’s a long term experiment I guess, and one that can be tricky to convince people of sometimes, but life is about adventure. Nobody gets to the grave wishing they had worked more, simple as that.
Same Same = Boring Boring
We like to create a range of products and designs here. It’s important for us to cater to a wide range of tastes without being watered down. Some pieces we put out sell steadily but constantly, others explode. It’s fascinating to watch how various designs sell in the marketplace. It’s very hard to predict. The fastest selling product this year was our limited edition Pledge jersey.
I think the reason for this is as follows: the base product (without the design) is very good indeed, the graphic is eye catching and clearly a lot of effort has gone into the design, but also the fact that there is a clear limit to the production means that you get something unique. I think this last point is very strong. These days we are all seeking quality but also want something that little bit special. Riding up the local climb in between a zillion cyclists wearing the same heritage brand (or the latest wannabe) is dull as dishwater. People want unique and in this day and age they can have it.
You’ll see a mix of core designs and limited edition pieces from us next year. Watch this space.
A brief look into 2017
We have a tonne of ideas brewing and truth be told we are already deep into work for our 2018 spring season! 2017 has some real gems in the range, I’m so excited to see more people out on the roads and trails wearing the latest SG designs. You’ve read this far so it would be wrong not to reward you with a cheeky sneaky peaky at some of the upcoming kit…
Thanks for reading and for supporting us this year, roll on 2017!!