Scaling your business by buying in bulk.

Reflecting on the first season of my podcast, The Build, I listened again to our very first episode. Ben Levin told me about the biggest lesson he learned from developing fatCoffee for sale in American grocery stores. It’s something that should be obvious to every business owner, yet we overlook it so often:

It’s cheaper to buy things in bulk than it is to buy them at retail. Buy a case of something at Whole Foods and they’ll give you a 10% discount. Go to the ingredient producer, the farm, and you might be paying 10% of the retail price for the core base ingredient.

Thinking back to the very first retail business I ran on my own—a quasi-legal flea market stall at a flea market at the Jersey Shore—I sure learned how to buy low and sell high. I moved from selling Badge-a-Minit buttons at a 400% markup to selling bottles of bug itch gel that I bought in bulk with help from a friend who had access to a medical supply catalog.

For many of the startup founders and small business owners I work with, staying lean and nimble often means “paying retail” just to get in the hunt. That’s okay in year one, or even quarter one. But I’ve found that using these techniques to scale up your business can help you shrink your overhead, delight your clients, and scale your margins:

  • When I walk new clients through a discovery session, we start talking about the first dozen articles we’re going to work on together, not just one or two. My team can spread the amount of time it takes to learn the tone and style of a brand over a longer engagement, significantly reducing the cost of each component for the client.
  • Likewise, when I interview prospective freelancers for our content strategy agency, we’ll talk about the first six or seven pieces we’re going to work on together. It’s no good for me or for my client when we spend a lot of ramp-up time just to work on a single piece.
  • More and more of our proposals reflect a flat rate for the value our team can deliver, instead of the “nickel-and-dime” feel of an hourly invoice. After all, if you’re hiring us to build a product that will earn $100,000 and you’re comfortable paying us $20,000 it’s incentivizing us to be efficient and not to charge you extra anytime we screw something up.

This could be the biggest problem I’ve observed with bidding-based freelance writing services: the market seems to have set a flat rate for a particular word count, but that doesn’t take into consideration the time and attention required to generate a meaningful story for a client.

And even though our “sharing economy” and concerns about cash flow have taught us to value breaking goods and services into their smallest component parts, dealing in bulk reconnects us with our commitment to grow our companies and with our sense of the abundance around us. Whether it’s something as simple as stockpiling six months worth of toilet paper from Costco, or making a commitment to a flight of a dozen creative assets, “bulk buying” can orient you toward business growth.

Joe Taylor Jr. has produced stories about media, technology, entertainment, and personal finance for over 25 years. His work has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Financial Times Television, and ABC News. After launching one of public radio's first successful digital platforms, Joe helped dozens of client companies launch or migrate their online content libraries. Today, Joe serves as a user experience consultant for a variety of Fortune 500 and Inc. 5000 businesses. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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