Thanks for visiting F13 Works! I’m excited to share my own experiences in retail that ultimately led to the creation of F13 Works. We believe the future of retail revolves around customer re-engagement, strategic partnerships, and scalable software solutions. I hope this brief story helps outline our vision at F13 Works and how we can be an integral part of your growth strategy.
I was hired to take my last company from plateauing sales to acquisition in a short time period. It sounded like a fun enough challenge before unwinding the books and finding there was next to no budget for meaningful customer acquisition efforts (they forgot to mention that while recruiting me). The company, like so many early-stage organizations, didn’t understand their costs well enough so while they thought they were making 50% margins, they were actually making closer to 10%.
This happens when you don’t account for variable and fixed costs in your margin calculations and when your business runs on gross margin instead of net margin. We can jump into margins and general finance in another post, what I wanted to do is tell you how I got us out of this pickle.
The organization had experienced such tremendous growth over their first 5 years that financial acumen was not necessary for success, rather they only had to throw more gasoline near the fire to keep the business growing. But with acquisition costs increasing by as much as 50%, changing consumer trends, and the rising dominance of marketplaces, Hitting our goals would require an atypical approach.
Instead of trying to figure out how to reposition the company, I took a look at our strengths and found that the most valuable asset we had was our existing customer base. You’ve heard the stats on how cheap a purchase from an existing customer is compared to a new one. It’s pounded into your head through every business course, book, and class you’ve ever taken. The first thing I did was turn to our most valuable resource and ask a simple question, “what else do you want to buy from us?” My hypothesis was that if a customer is willing to buy a product from our core offering, they are likely to buy a complimentary product from us as well if it fits their lifestyle.
For example, Dollar Shave Club could focus solely on becoming the go-to brand for men’s razors, but instead they opted to expand their product assortment to fit the lifestyle of their customers. Now you can purchase toothbrushes, deodorant, and other grooming/personal care products from Dollar Shave Club – positioning themselves as the go-to brand for men’s grooming rather than just a razor brand.
My hypothesis proved to be correct as the overwhelming response pointed to 3 – 5 new product product lines that we didn’t currently offer.
Once I knew what our existing customers wanted, we were left with two options: purchase inventory for these new products or leverage third-party vendors who had inventory already on hand. Being cash strapped, I did not want to invest in retraining 120 employees to pick, pack, and ship new product categories; nor did I want to lay out the little capital I had on inventory, so we decided to enter these new product lines through a dropship relationship with handpicked vendors.
It was easy to find vendors who wanted to get their products in front of our customers and I could retain control of my brand look and feel by properly vetting my partners and holding them to fulfillment agreements. The biggest hurdle to managing a program like this at scale was the software – there wasn’t any available to support it. And that is why I founded F13 Works!
But back to the story… I asked our 10 full-time developers on staff to build a solution to support our dropship model with these vendors and it hit hard!
Once the solution was implemented, the new product categories took off and on-site sales grew for the first time in 3 years!
Our mix before launching the program was:
- 50% on-site sales
- 30% marketplace (amazon, Etsy, eBay)
- 20% wholesale
After promoting the new product categories to existing customers, on-site sales grew back to over 70% of the revenue mix and out-competed our marketplace growth. The thing I loved about growing sales on our site versus Amazon was the customer ownership. We saw our Average Order Value increase by 40% and our customer purchase frequency increase immediately. Our existing customer base was now viewing the company as a brand that fit the needs of their lifestyle, rather than just a business known for their core product offering.
As a result, I knew that every customer I acquired was now worth more, which meant I could spend more to get them as I filled the proverbial acquisition coffers. The company had multiple cash acquisition offers within 18 months of my hire date and I went on to found F13 Works with one of the bidding acquirers being our first customer.
Being a brand is the most powerful thing you can be today, if all you have is a product you are going to have a short time in the spotlight.