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How To Build A Business When The Supply Chain Is Unreliable

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by Jordan Erskine, Co-Founder & Principal for Dynamic Blending

It’s a tough time to be an entrepreneur. Over the last two years, access to financial capital has fallen, inflation reached its highest rate since the 1980s, a global talent shortage made  recruiting and hiring loyal employees a nightmare, and supply chain disruptions have rocked the world’s economy.  

Despite all of this, and in some cases because of the shift in how we’re thinking about work, the growth rate for new businesses has been at record-breaking levels for three years in a row. Startups aren’t slowing down, they are speeding up. 

So how do you build a business when access to basic resources is not a guarantee? The short answer: you have to think like an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs are creative, innovative,  and used to overcoming challenges as they implement ideas that no one else has ever tried. 

The power of positive thinking will carry you far, but the long answer to how to move forward with a risky new endeavor in an uncertain world is a bit more involved. Let’s explore five concrete ideas that can help you start and grow your business even facing an unstable supply chain. 

1. Always have a backup plan.

A new business venture requires thousands of hours of planning, building partnerships and taking on a lot of paperwork. It would be easy, in the exhilaration of finally finishing up some of the tedious parts of starting your company, to be content with a streamlined, simplified supplier plan. 

Unfortunately, if you are relying on a single supplier for any of your company’s vital resources, the odds are high that you will eventually run into trouble. There is a long list of historic catastrophes featuring tsunamis, fires, government red tape and even a shipping container stuck in the Suez Canal that cut off the supply chain to big-name companies. To mitigate this, you should have multiple suppliers, when possible, and check in with all suppliers and your internal team about what would happen if anything went wrong. 

2. Produce in-house where possible.

Hands down, the best way to avoid supply chain disasters is to manage your own supplies as much as you can. Of course, not everyone has a manufacturing facility at their disposal, but there are other ways to produce at least a portion of what you need. 

3D printers have become amazingly affordable and offer even small businesses a great way to produce custom parts right in their own building. Other types of production equipment can also be rented to reduce costs. As you think about your most crucial needs as a business, try to find creative ways to create those materials, instead of relying on outside sources. 

When it isn’t feasible to produce things in-house, the next best option is to keep production as local as possible. Companies who already sourced raw materials from their native country were naturally better off during the COVID-19 pandemic, where shipping between countries got very tricky, very fast. 

3. Scaling is Key.

Staying on top of supply chain developments is tricky enough when you are starting a business, but as your brand grows, things will only get more complex. In an uncertain economy like we have now, scaling smart is incredibly important to the success of a new company. 

As  control of your business becomes more fragmented, control of your supply chain tends to follow. Instead of scaling too quickly and making a mistake that you can’t recover from, keep the long-term mission and goals of your brand in mind as you scale up. 

4. You’re only as good as the people you work with.

Problems will happen, there is no way around that. Whether by human error or natural disasters, businesses will face disruptions to the supply chain. That’s why it is so important to build a team of capable, trustworthy individuals that can be relied on from the very beginning. 

How a company responds to hiccups in the supply chain is almost as important as avoiding them in the first place. A great team that works well together can come up with creative solutions faster than a disjointed team with constant turnover. 

5. Don’t leave quality behind.

When nature interrupts even the best laid plans, most customers are fairly forgiving. As a group, consumers are not so willing to forget wilful quality problems. That is why it is vital to decide on what high-quality looks like for your brand, and stick with it no matter what. While you may be able to add luxury packing or faster shipping later on in your business, you can never step back from quality. 

In 2012, Nyetimber, a British wine company, put this theory to the test. A record-breaking rainy season completely destroyed the brand’s grape crop. Nytimber, famous for making wine only from their own vineyards, decided not to harvest the grapes or import grapes for wine-making that year. No doubt the company lost money in the short run, but in the long run, Nyetimber gained priceless respect and thousands of newly loyal customers for sticking to their usual quality standards instead of taking the easy road. 

Don’t let dramatic headlines about supply chain disruptions discourage you from pursuing your dream of starting a business. With a few adjustments and some out-of-the-box thinking, now can be as good a time as any to jump into entrepreneurship.

 

Jordan Erskine

Jordan Erskine has almost 20 years in the beauty/skin care industry. Jordan currently serves as Co-Founder & Principal for the award-winning contract manufacturer Dynamic Blending. He has spent his entire career in the manufacturing and R&D world. In 2015, Jordan decided to start Dynamic Blending with Gavin Collier due to the huge need for innovation in a stale industry, contract manufacturing.