Welcome back to November’s monthly report. A lot happened in November both in work and general life. I went on holiday, sold a bunch of gin and released seven podcast episodes. Less fun was that we hit stock issues everywhere, which a month before Christmas is a disaster. Stock issues seem to be my catchphrase of the year and have reared up every single month. Still, overall I am pleased with November.

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Hours Worked

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Productivity

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Profitability

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Optimism

  • Hours Worked: I worked hard for most of the month, but I also spent 10 days on holiday where I did absolutely nothing.
  • Productivity: Despite that I got a lot done. Settling into a routine with the podcast really helped.
  • Profitability: Profitability was fine for any normal month, but considering it is the month before Christmas I was quite disappointed.
  • Optimism: A lot of exciting things are happening, but since getting back from holiday I am feeling the blues. Normally I return buzzing to get back to work, but not this time. I think I am a bit burnt out.

Let’s go deeper.

Pipehouse Gin

Pipehouse Gin is my craft gin business and it is going pretty well. Both our trade and online sales are growing, with record months for both. And that is despite having stock issues and not being able to do much marketing. Something which won’t change for a while, due to yet more stock issues.

Stock Issues

We started the month with badly and at one point only had three bottles left! And unfortunately, we are leaving the month with new stock problems. This time it is a problem with the labels.

When we started off we got just over 2,000 labels made. Well, now we have made 2,000 bottles we are in need of some new labels. We started the process of manufacturing new ones about 6 weeks ago but due to a bunch of communication errors and getting misquoted a few times our supplier has only just started work on the order. That means we probably won’t have the labels ready until early-mid January.

At the current rate we’re going we will sell out before then. Which means it isn’t worth us doing a big marketing push for Christmas. A real shame as this should be our most profitable time of year.

And it is not helped that we are losing quite a few bottles to breakages:

Broken Bottles

A big problem we’re having is with breakages to our trade sales. We post out boxes of gin to bars and off-licenses, packaged as below. A box of six bottles, each bottle separated by a divider.

We have never had a breakage handling these boxes. They are sturdy and the bottles are made of high-quality thick glass. So unless you chuck the boxes around they shouldn’t break. But unfortunately chucking them around seems to be exactly what delivery companies are doing. So maybe 1 box out of every 7 or 8 arrives at our customer looking like this:

Even though it is normally only one bottle that breaks, that then writes off the whole box of six. The other bottles get soaked and their labels get ruined. Worse the delivery company takes no responsibility for the breakage, costing us over £100 every time a box is broken.

As you can imagine this is really really annoying. We have gone through three different delivery companies and had the same issue at each one.

So we have been trialling different options. At one extreme we could pack each one individually like we do with online retail orders. But that would be very expensive and would remove almost all of our margin. My ideal option would be purpose-built inflatable packaging for a box of six. That option exists for wine, and looks like this:

 

Unfortunately, our gin bottles are shorter and stockier and don’t fit so we will need to get some custom made. Which means months of waiting and having to buy thousands up front.

For the time being, we are trialling packing the boxes with lots of inflatable packing around the gin. Hopefully, that will drop our breakage rate. If we could lower it to 2% that would be acceptable.

On the plus side, we did get a new product out this month.

Gift Boxes

A gift box made for us by a local company Three Monkey Design.

The boxes are lovely and feel really high-end. They feel almost like a posh perfume box. Pretty ideal as a gift. We’ll be trialling selling them in December as an add-on at local Christmas markets.

Talking of markets…

Christmas Markets

While I was on holiday, business didn’t stop and we employed a team to run our first Christmas market. One at Leeds Castle.

Unfortunately, the weather was pretty miserable. We about broke even on it after the cost of staff and market fees. Still, it was probably worth it anyway as it helped get our brand in front of people and to potential customers outside of Tunbridge Wells.

It was also an exciting step for us as it was the first event where we relied 100% on someone else. Being on holiday and 4 hours behind meant that we were fast asleep for when they set up. It forced us not to micromanage. If something went wrong (which it always does) they would have to deal with it themselves.

We have a couple more markets lined up in December which we hope will do really well. A lot of people have told us that Christmas is the best time of year for markets.

Relevant Posts:

Table Tennis Brands

I run two table tennis brands and unfortunately we had stock issues for both of them as well!

We thought we had planned it perfectly and our Christmas stock was due to arrive in our warehouses beginning of November. But unfortunately, the supplier who makes the cases for our bats let us down and even now still hasn’t finished the order! That means we have thousands of bats destined for Christmas but sitting around waiting for packaging.

And means we have sold out in quite a few countries already. A nightmare and something that will cost us tens of thousands in lost profit.

This is something that is starting to become a real problem and to get around it we are going to start stockpiling. For the last few months, we haven’t paid ourselves any profits. Instead, we are going to invest in creating a backlog of stock so that next time one part of the supply chain lets us down we will be ready.

Relevant Posts:

The Lazy Entrepreneur Podcast

The podcast has been planned for months but it was only in November that I really committed to it. I have decided to spend every Tuesday on the podcast and try and record two episodes. I managed that in November, doing podcasts in the first two Tuesdays of the month. And only missing the final two because I was on holiday. That meant when combined with the backlog I released 7 episodes in November!

If you have been holding off listening to the podcast while I worked out the format, now is the time to try it out. Especially the final two episodes where my setup is almost finished. Here is a sneak peek at my work in process studio:

It is simple, just some microphones and sound dampeners, but I think it is working out. Especially the last two episodes.

I also published the podcast on the three main podcasting platforms. Choose your favourite to listen from!

The more recent the episode the better quality it will be, so start there!

Listen to The Lazy Entrepreneur Podcast now:

In November I had 538 downloads which I think is pretty good considering I have only ever mentioned it in these monthly reports! I have a rough aim to try and get to 10,000 a month. That is just a number plucked out the air so I have no idea if it is feasible.

I am also now looking for feedback on what I can do to improve. So, what do you think of the podcast? Please leave a comment or email me to let me know!

Blog

November wasn’t a great month for the blog. I only managed two posts for the month. Which was because the one big post I did manage took a lot of time. The two posts were:

I was pretty pleased with that second post, but since publishing it I have had absolutely no feedback at all. I think for the first time ever! Not a single email or comment about it. To me that says it wasn’t very good, or wasn’t useful to my readers.

It’s a strange thing blogging. Some of my posts which I didn’t think were very good have been really popular. Whereas others which I spent a lot of time on and thought were great turned out to be rubbish.

On the money front, the blog slightly improved on October making £3,223. But that is still low compared to how it used to do. To visualise it here is a graph of the monthly earning since launching in November 2014.

It is no secret why I make less money. It is because I get less traffic. And the reason I get less traffic is that I don’t spend much time promoting the blog. I plan to change that in January. Once the podcast is going strong and I have a bit of time to work on the layout of the blog, I will start promoting it again!

Relevant Posts:

Conclusion

Well, what a month! Lots happening everywhere, so much that there is a bunch I didn’t include in this report. Which makes it even more awesome that I spent a third of the month in the Caribbean. Doing no work at all. It is one of the really cool things about owning a business. It keeps running even when you’re not there.

So I will leave you with a picture of me on holiday letting everything run themselves. And to remind me that the whole point of these businesses is for the lifestyle that goes with them. Plus I want to show off my beard which is coming along well!

 

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Don’t forget to listen to and give me some feedback on the podcast!

Until next month, Sam.

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