One of the best ways to make yourself and your business the best they can be is to learn from the success of others. That’s why we love to spotlight our members here at the blog. Today, you’ll meet Teri Patterson, founder of Body Systems in Rapid City, South Dakota.
Teri, who is a certified fitness instructor who plays ice hockey, with men, for fun (see picture), is the founder of Body Systems, a line of skin and spa products inspired by the rich tropics. Teri has been a member of the Indie Business Network since October 2008. I asked her to share a bit about her life and the Body Systems brand, along with some of her best business tips, and here's a little of what she said.
Q1 TELL US ABOUT BODY SYSTEMS
What started out as a hobby making good natural body products for myself and my family in 2000 (due to my terrible allergies) quickly became a full time business in 2002 when I acquired my first wholesale account, MGM Properties in Las Vegas designing and implementing the new menu of treatments at The Hotel's Spa. At that time I had no idea what “back bar” meant, nor how I was going to complete this order but my background in sales & marketing couldn't allow me to say no so I figured it out and fast. This began my true jump into the Wholesale Market for spas/salons which continues our focus till today.
As a fitness professional, health and wellness has always been the main focus with my product line. Being able to provide quality ingredients within healthy body products has been my concentration. But over the years, along with an increase in sales my thyroid and adrenal health declined prompting me to scale back on product offerings and also time spent working. Just in the last couple of years, I've finally brought balance back to my business life by streamlining products, created internal systems to get product out faster/easier and taken back control over my health. Now success in business means more about balancing health, sales & business progress instead of just increasing sales.
We now focus on select wholesale accounts with attention on private labeling, back bar products and a set line of retail products to spas, salons, stores, and resorts.
I'm happy to announce that, after years of trying, we are expecting our first child at the end of May.
Q2 WHAT ARE YOUR BEST SELLING PRODUCTS?
Our best selling products are Body Scrubs, Bath Bombs and Body Lotion, but our most popular product is our Wasabi Hangover Bath Treatment, which was originally created for a Las Vegas Spa. Most people think it's a gag gift, but when it actually makes them feel better after drinking too much, they become believers in nature's best ingredients.
Q3 WHAT BUSINESS PRINCIPLE DO YOU FOLLOW NOW THAT YOU WISH SOMEONE HAD TOLD YOU ABOUT BEFORE YOU STARTED BODY SYSTEMS?
Broaden your vision, but narrow your focus.
For too many years I thought that the more types of products we offered, the better it was for the business as a whole. I have learned that not every customer needs to be your customer or have their demands supplied by your business. Early on, I had not set procedures in place, and just kept adding products whenever a potential customer demanded it. I was carrying so many ingredients, packaging and supplies that I was overextended in terms of focus.
I still hear new entrepreneurs saying that when a customer complains, we as the business should just give them what they want. Fixing the immediate problem, maybe, but that doesn't help you keep focused on your own business goals. Customers are like toddlers … they will demand and want everything and anything if you are willing to provide it to them. I look back on all of the customers in the last 13+ years that had to have a particular product, they ordered once or maybe twice and then they went out of business.
Your business needs to stay focused on what you do best, and not what others want you to give them at some particular moment in time. A few years ago, I was up to about 25 fragrances in too many different products and I just couldn't continue to afford to have everything in stock at the same time. I couldn't focus on a key group of scents and products.
I narrowed our main fragrance offerings to 9, an have continued to eliminate products that are not in my long range plan for retail items. The wholesale line offers salons/spas/resorts the ability to buy bulk sizes in many different fragrance choices — but not the retail sized line. This instant focus on key products benefits my time management and inventory control. It evens allows me more focus on marketing a few key products instead of picking from a large group of products constantly.
Q4 WHAT SORTS OF THINGS DO YOU LIKE TO DO WHEN YOU'RE NOT WORKING?
If you ask my husband, I'm always working…. But normally I like most sports and fitness activities. I played golf since I was 4 yrs old, and eventually played at the U of Minn where I was also a coach. When I'm not pregnant, I play Ice Hockey on a Men's local team, and spend a lot of time outdoors. Now I've become a treadmill walking master and am lucky to continue teaching 2 Aqua Power classes per week. My real loves are history, archaeology, and genealogy. Right now, I would love to be sitting in a Mayan temple somewhere on a dig.
Q5 WHAT IS THE MOST VALUABLE PIECE OF BUSINESS ADVICE YOU CAN GIVE SOMEONE WHO IS STARTING OUT TODAY?
Grow at a rate that still allows you to maintain focus, balance and growth.
If you can't control all of your systems, products, and inventory then you are not in control but instead are constantly being reactive instead of pro active. There is a huge difference. Sort of like when someone says they are really busy but they never get anything done. You have to produce results and keep moving forward for your business to succeed in the long term.
I see many entrepreneurs not setting up their systems of conducting business before moving forward. No terms for wholesale ordering, no set inventory controls, no overall guidance that they follow consistently
We were discussing how to handle wholesale minimums at the Indie Business Network private member Facebook page not too long ago. I saw too many saying that they determine their wholesale terms differently for every potential account. They aren't thinking about the long term. They are allowing the “potential” customer to dictate how they are going to move forward.
You've got to focus on the long term or else you are just moving really fast, exhausting yourself and getting nowhere. I made the huge mistake for my first several years of not putting my terms and procedures in place, and then working too hard in all areas. I always thought I would have “time later” to catch up on setting up procedures, getting adequate rest, and paying attention to my overall business set up. I thought I just needed to focus on sales — on getting product out the door and providing everything for everyone and getting those orders.
I didn't think in terms of designing my business up front for long term success. My health suffered, my business suffered, but now, I'm on track. I advise people not to make the same mistakes I did. Be focused from the very beginning to avoid having to work too hard to get nowhere.
Q6 WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO KEEP YOUR BUSINESS GOING WHEN THE MOST CHALLENGING TIMES COME YOUR WAY?
Oh this is a hard question. Everyone has their good days and bad days. Feeling “alone” in your business is quite common. When I started my business, no one I met understood how I manufactured products myself let alone without a brick-n-mortar location. They would just keep asking if I was a reseller of some national chain's product and went door to door with my catalog. Add in the fact that I have suffered for many years with adrenal and thyroid problems due to the stress and lack of balancing work. Not being able to work when you want or as long as you need to during the day because you're exhausted makes you even more “stuck” and not moving forward.
I think the first thing was that I finally started to get my health in better order…I started to not feel guilty for taking care of myself first. Then I created a very small little community of industry friends that I can turn to when I need help, encouragement, or just to lend an ear back and forth.
I really don't think you can be an entrepreneur by yourself. You need support. You need a balance of workand health and family to keep all systems moving forward in a pro active way. Otherwise you fail — first in one area and then the others areas.
So after saying all that, truly my inspiration to keep going in my business when it's difficult is achieving a balance and making sure I'm moving forward productively. I schedule workouts that don't exhaust me but make me stronger. I schedule down time to focus on family and friends. I do business designing, as I call it, when I just step back from everything I try to look at my business from the outside in and see how I can design the different aspects from labels, to marketing to production to fit into my overall goal of growth for the long term.
I look at the things that put a smile on my face (business or personal) and keep focusing on those things. I focus on my ideal customer. I focus on my health, and when I feel good and customers are happy with products, then that's what encourages me to the next day and the next after that.
Q7 WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT BEING A MEMBER OF THE INDIE BUSINESS NETWORK?
Over the years the hardest part of running an internet-based business was finding a community of people that understood my challenges, and particular situation. I remember going to numerous banks for a loan and no one understanding what an internet business was or how it functioned. I joined local women's groups but everyone assumed I was reselling product not making it myself or that I had to have a brick and mortar location to survive. It wasn't until IBN that I had a resource of information that was adapted toward my business and my needs in that business. The sense of not being “alone” is priceless… for my business but more importantly for my health and wellness.
You can learn more about Indie Business Network membership and the benefits we offer (including affordable product liability insurance, coaching, and mentoring) at this link.
LEARN MORE ABOUT BODY SYSTEMS