By Nick Palmisciano
Today I had to post a video about how my company has dropped the ball on orders in the month of September.
The only real sleep I’ve had in the past two weeks has been falling asleep in front of a laptop on my couch, because when I actually lay down my mind races to all the production problems we’ve had recently. My mind tosses potential solutions over and over and over again and I cannot find any respite from the stress.
In ten years of business, we’ve only had three better business bureau complaints. This month we’ve had eleven.
I’m letting people down. And there is nothing that eats me up more than letting people down.
I’m not writing this article as a sob story. I’m writing this for two groups of people: the entrepreneurs out there and the vets (and civilians) out there that are having a hard time with life.
In 2015, as Ranger Up kept growing and the challenges of making the movie Range 15 came to a head, our turnaround time slipped from shipping the next day after an order arrived to 5-7 days after an order was placed. We made lots of changes in structure, processes, and personnel, and while we made some improvements, we weren’t satisfied that we were producing the results for the customer that we wanted. So we started looking around and talking to those who were the best in the business. We wanted to challenge all of our assumptions and see if we could come up with a better solution.
We ultimately made the determination to partner with a best-in-class center in Atlanta with a stellar reputation. Not only could we reduce the time from order placed to fulfillment, but by moving one zone to the left, we could reduce shipping times by an average of a day. This would be a big win and would help the customer get better service and would help us develop higher end products and content for the customer.
We did all the research we were supposed to do. We did more prep than you can imagine. We spent tens of thousands of dollars on IT integration. We had back up plans and checks. But we have never moved a warehouse before. And we botched it.
About 40% of the orders from September are late. Even though we’re catching up more and more every day and will have this problem resolved soon, I know there are some customers that will never buy from us again. I know that others are aggravated and will shop from us with kid gloves for the near future. And I hate that. I hate that more than you can possibly understand. We are not lazy here. We don’t do anything without a full effort. We want people leaving RU with an amazing experience, and when we fail it eats away at me. And it isn’t something that bothers me at work and then when I get home it fades away. It invades my thoughts. It slides into my moments with my family. It keeps me from relaxing. All I think about is the work.
That is the entrepreneur’s life. We did everything we knew how to do to make sure we succeeded and we still didn’t. Will we? Of course. Will this ultimately be better for the customer? Yes, it will. Will it take a while to regain that trust? I hate to say it, but yes, it probably will. And that is going to gnaw at me.
I’m telling you future or current entrepreneurs this because when you’re starting out, it is very easy to look at guys like me, or Evan Hafer, or Mat Best, or hell – even the real success stories like Mark Cuban or Elon Musk, and think, “man, they have it figured out.”
My path in business is marred with failure. For every high, like watching Range 15 hit number one on Amazon and number 2 on iTunes, there are ten catastrophic lows. In fact, the only reason I am likely still in business is that I learn from the catastrophic lows and am too stupid to quit.
I know, objectively and logically, that the move to Atlanta is good for Ranger Up and good for the customer, but that doesn’t make this feeling in my stomach go away. That doesn’t make me any happier. That doesn’t make receiving emails from fans telling me I’m an embarrassment any easier to handle.
Ranger Up is regarded as a successful business and I as a successful businessman. I get held up on social media and in articles as a success story, as an example of how to win. The truth is that while RU has done well, what I remember most is all the times I have come up short, all the times I’ve let customers down, and all the times I was here standing alongside amazing employees until 4am trying to work our way out of my mistakes.
And we’re doing it once again. Ranger Up NC employees are gearing up to join the 24/7 staff in Atlanta to help get them through the transition. We have some great things on the horizon and we’ll hit a new high. But in the back of my head, I know there will be new challenges, new failures, and new dark days.
There is no one special out there. Not me, not Evan Hafer, not Jarred Taylor or Mat Best or Tim Kennedy or anyone. You, the guy or girl toiling with your new idea, trying to get likes on Facebook, trying to get your first couple sales this month, are dealing with the same challenges I dealt with. If you’re willing to suffer, you’ll get through it, and you’ll eventually be sitting where I’m sitting, trying to fix a massive logistical issue. And if I’m lucky and am willing to suffer, I hope to be dealing with a greater problem, like Elon Musk’s exploding rocket or Mark Cuban’s challenge of getting people to understand his Cyber Dust application.
And even if you’re not an entrepreneur, this is no less true. There are days, and months, and sometimes years that just don’t go well. You got divorced, you lost your job, money is tight, a friend turned their back on you, etc. It’s very easy to get lost in your head and think you’re the only one in the doldrums.
I’m here to tell you that you’re not special and that’s a good thing. Life is hard for just about everyone. On social media, it seems like RU Life is nothing but a good time, but that isn’t the reality. I love to see people laugh at our videos, and I love to see people go to our movie, and wear our clothing. Those are the absolute highs. But the reason the videos and the movie and clothing exist is because of our ability to weather the lows.
I’m weathering a low right now, and I simply want all of you out there doing the same to know that you are not alone. There are no anointed ones, in business or in life. We’re all in this together.
Hang in there.