Sometimes the only way to reclaim your former glory, scale up, and succeed is to go back to where it all started—the bottom. And that even applies to YOU—founders, CEOs, Rainmakers, or whatever title you’ve emblazoned upon yourself. The concept of going back to the start was famously explored in Season 3, Episode 1 of the critically-acclaimed series 30 Rock. Rightfully named the “Do Over,” this episode follows Jack Donaghy as he attempts to climb the corporate ladder of NBC and relearn its operations…all over again.
From the Mailroom to the Boardroom
DTC and CPG companies should take a hint from a famous episode of 30 Rock. Why? Because for the past ten years, investors have been pouring money into startups with nothing other than a stern: “make my money grow” attitude. And of course, the best way to make an investment grow is to pour more money into a startup that’s burning through cash at a rapid rate…it’s the sunk cost fallacy at its finest.
With a seemingly unlimited supply of cash, startups transformed into a guest at one of Gatsby’s parties—they indulged in extravagance without a care in the world because they weren’t paying the bill.
Even after a startup discovered product-market fit, they still spent capital in wildly inefficient ways. They became hyper-focused on acquiring customers at an exponential rate which translated into rapidly expanding employee headcount and foolishly spending money all in the name of growth.
What better example of this than Casper? The company famously attempted a pivot from “mattress brand” to “sleep company” with nightlights and CBD gummies. This IV line of VC money often leads brands to navel gaze, leading to their losing the plot. While Casper is one of the more extreme examples, many startups were still willful participants in the “grow, grow, grow” at all costs strategy—their founders gallivanted among the speaking circuit discussing their startup, selling inspirational, business books like “You Can Do It Girl!” and dolling out words of wisdom—when in reality, the real truth of their business looked pretty ugly.
But once VCs started coming to their senses and realizing that pouring money into an inefficient operation doesn’t turn into ROI. Startups had to adapt and change. In fact, they had to reconcile with the unavoidable truth: they’re in business to make money not throw it away. All of this meant they had to re-evaluate their entire business and operation. Startups had to figure out how to scale sustainably.
They had to assess their business from the bottom up, and just like Donaghy, go back to the “mailroom.”
Growth or Sustainable Growth? Pick Two.
The only way for a startup to grow sustainably is by achieving cost-effective fundamentals. There are a few key questions all startups must ask themselves:
- How flexible and adaptable are my operations?
- Where are the bottlenecks?
- Where am I hemorrhaging money?
- Where can I save money without sacrificing the integrity of the brand and the product?
To succeed in the startup world, there’s one “F” word we should all remember. “Flexibility.” Flexibility is the name of the game. Why? Because it gives your business a better chance of succeeding during unpredictable times. And it’s nearly impossible to be a flexible, adaptable business if you don’t have effective operations.
Effective operations are also important for foundational reasons such as being able to raise more money from VCs by proving your business model is sustainable OR scaling profitably without the influx of more capital. Maintaining optionality is critical for success.
The best part about leaning into operational efficiency is that it naturally lends itself to being an effective marketing tactic and customer acquisition strategy. In the past, startups have become overly reliant on paid ads, SEO, influencer partnerships, beautifully branded products, and over-the-top marketing stunts to win customers and amplify brand awareness. While this may work in the short term, it’s not the way to play the game if you’re trying to be in it for the long haul.
So what am I supposed to do?
To grow up as a DTC brand, you’ll need to work your way out of the mailroom. The next stage of growth beyond funding and startup capital is being a promise-keeping brand. Customers don’t trust companies that break promises.
And where are promises most often broken? Shipping.
Shipping has inadvertently become the holy grail of HOW consumers identify and dissect your brand. If we can’t trust that your brand is going to ship and deliver the product on time (and all in one piece)—what can we trust about your brand? Is it actually vegan, non-GMO, and cruelty-free? We’ll never know if the product never arrives.
When it comes to shipping, the classic adage sums it up: actions speak louder than words. To win, you have to run a promise-keeping logistics organization. There are just too many choices in the world today for consumers to feel stuck buying from a company that breaks its promise.
Ship It, Ship It Real Good
The idea of shipping and shipping fast isn’t a hot take at all. Amazon has perfected this and created the consumer expectation that everything should arrive the next day or even the same day. Amazon has essentially turned every customer into a Veruca Salt, “I want my Athletic Greens and I want it now!”
Amazon’s expertise in logistics and ability to meet consumers' shipping expectations is one of its most significant advantages. People go to Amazon because they know they can count on it, and Amazon leans into this in their marketing. In fact, their marketing is their exceptional shipping.
The only way that startups can compete with a behemoth like Amazon and also lean into reliable, speedy shipping as a marketing tactic is to have exceptional shipping operations. But it’s easier said than done. Over the last 24 months, freight has become 300% more expensive. The cost to transport products from A to B is becoming a pain point for businesses—especially small startups.
Many SaaS platforms have taken notice of this and built platforms to help small startups have an Amazon-worthy logistics center.
Funding Your Supply Chain
This guide was made possible by our partner, Wayflyer; who happens to be one of the most popular solutions that DTCs and CPGs use to get access to non-dilutive capital. Wayfler’s platform gives funding for freight shipping and has become the one-stop shop for freight shipping. Before diving into Wayflyer's latest product, it's critical to lay the groundwork for why this company knows what it's talking about. Wayflyer was founded in 2019, and its first product was a flexible financing solution, simply called Funder.
With Funder, eCommerce businesses could get immediate access to capital that could be used as the startup saw fit. This revenue-based financing is great because it's not VC money AKA founders don't get diluted. Founders could get money to grow their business without losing any ownership. Wayflyer's solution worked. Thousands of eCommerce companies and some of the most well-known names in the DTC world (i.e., Branch) have used it. As a result of working with so many eCommerce companies at various stages of growth, Wayflyer saw firsthand the pain points that startups face every day. And the most common thing they heard founders complain about was shipping and the freight process.
The freight shipping process was convoluted, messy, and expensive. Of course, COVID only made this worse. Freight costs have become a huge line item in DTC & CPGs COGS—or cost of goods—sold.
Introducing Freighter. You’re funded, but what next?
Since Wayflyer helped 2K+ eCommerce startups get access to non-dilutive capital, it only makes sense to help those same merchants bring large volumes of shipments to freight partners and obtain lower market rates. And savings is just the tip of the iceberg — just think of the administrative burden that your employees no longer need to bear! With the ability to track, manage and plan your Freight process from the Shipper dashboard, you can save a serious amount of time.
As a company that's always looking to serve their customer, it only made sense for Wayflyer to create a product that directly dealt with shipping costs. Conveniently named Freighter, this tool allows startups to take back control of their cash flow with flexible remittance terms, so teams can focus on implementing other operational efficiencies necessary to sustainably grow their business.
With Freighter, Wayflyer takes care of the shipping costs upfront, and startups determine the remittance terms that best fit their plan for growth.
Freighter has the potential to give companies the ability to compete against the Amazon's of the world and use their OWN shipping times as a marketing point!
Want to optimize your Freight shipping process? Wayflyer built Freighter to help eCommerce founders streamline the burden that is freight shipping.
Future Commerce subscribers get exclusive early access to Wayflyer Freighter.