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the lone maker/trader: 100% businesslike or philanthropic adventure?

updated tue 1 jul 03


Janet Kaiser on mon 30 jun 03

You know I find it very interesting thinking about being (and succeeding
as) a solitary maker or lone trader, especially when listening to responses
from individual makers/traders about what they consider good business
practice, customer care, PR and the like.

What is most noticeable and even surprising, is how everyone tacitly
accepts, implements and actively employs many of the practices which Big
Business has introduced or had enforced on it by government over the years.
BB has worked hard at increasing the "feel good" factor and customer
confidence in individual companies and their products...

Yes, they and their marketing departments have had to work at achieving
what every lone maker/trader should automatically command or have at their
fingertips: Universal trust in the product/service and ever faithful
clients who naturally repeat buy at every opportunity...

Of course we all have to comply with external regional/national consumer
and trading laws & regulations, but beyond that there is a prevailing
business climate which varies from country to country, but in general is
based on the strategies developed in the USA. Nevertheless, it would be
naive to believe that companies and BB in general share all the same ideals
and ethics as the individual maker/trader.

As non of us work in a void, we are also consumers ourselves, so has this
acceptance and adoption of what is now considered "normal practice" when
dealing with and in the manner of multinational companies coloured our own
way of doing business? Are our own expectations (as consumers) and business
practices (as lone makers/traders) compatible? Are we wise to go along with
either / both without question and a considerable amount of thought? Simply
put -- Are we attempting to run with the hares and the hounds? Or do our
hearts rules our heads?

Have we been manipulated into thinking and acting as consumers instead of
being hard-headed business policy makers and practioners? If not, are we
always strictly businesslike and true to the principles of the market
economy as it works today? Or are we half-baked philanthropists playing at
being Movers and Shakers? About as much to do with the real world as
kiddies playing Doctors and Nurses has to do with working as a medical
professional in a hospital?

As you know, I am no business person, however I cannot help but wonder
about a few specifics (please forgive any incorrect vocabulary and/or

1) Does everyone who has a "no questions asked" refund policy fracture in
the cost of replacing goods which customers return and if so what
percentage of your annual turnover is it?

2) Do you know what your losses through wastage like theft and fraud were
over the past year / 5 years / 10 years? Have you been able to cover these
costs by rational cost counting and price adjustment or have you ignored
this specific item in your accounts?

3) Does everyone include a money-losing product or item to encourage
customers to buy products with higher profit margins? If so, how do you
accommodate the losses generated? By restricting the number of individual
pieces "on offer" or by exponentially increasing profit margins on other

4) Do you offer any "buy two get one free" type deals? If so, are they
individually priced to accommodate the "free" item or have they already
become a loss-making line?

5) Do you always / sometimes / never accommodate clients when asked for
discount for "bulk buying"? Do you take all the scenarios into account
when pricing, deciding which clients are going to receive "preferred
customer status" and so on? In other words do you have a formal discount
policy in place and can you project the cost accurately over the next year?

6) When refunding items returned by clients are you able to correctly
itemise all the costs involved? Are you able to project these costs over
the whole financial year? If so, do you have a mechanism in place which
triggers readjustment of pricing to accommodate these costs?

I have a lot of other questions, but don't want to overload my brain
tonight! This sort of subject usually has me lying awake ruminating for
hours, when I should be in Never Never Land. Oh, well...


Janet Kaiser
TRUTH is too precious to tell every fool who asks for it...
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