I got laid out by a nasty little bug so I figured I’d do a bunch of writing while trying to rest and feel better… Sorry if this rambles a bit.
As you all are painfully aware at this point, running Redpants has been an ongoing struggle for me. It’s a one-man show and I do everything myself - inventory management, packaging and shipping, website maintenance and development, content creation, customer relations, accounting and taxes, etc etc etc. As Redpants has continued to grow, so do the demands on my time, energy, and investments into the business.
I mentioned in my last blog post that I’ve rearranged my schedule so I can better manage both Redpants and my “real” job, and that’s helped quite a bit. There are other changes I’ve been trying to make in addition to that, and I think things are getting much better as a whole.
One of the huge challenges I’ve faced is scaling. I’ve turned away tons of business simply because I haven’t had the capacity to handle them on my own, nor do I bring in enough revenue to hire someone to help (due to both volume and margins). Of course, if I wasn’t turning away business, the volume would be much better, so it’s something of an investment chicken-and-egg situation. I’ve gotten inquiries from several investors over the last couple years but have turned just about all of them away as Redpants is my baby. That’s a completely different topic - I just wanted to mention it for a bit of situational context.
What I’ve been focusing on lately is restructuring how I run Redpants in general (no, this isn’t the first time). One aspect of that is managing over-sized shipments. A couple years ago I was doing shipments directly from Europe-based distributors to customers, but it wasn’t as smooth or seamless as I’d have liked, and there were complications at a couple points so I stopped doing it. As with all things in life, lessons have been learned, things have changed, and I’m getting ready to restart special orders for non-stocked and over-sized items that will ship directly from one of my distributors to customers. While this should help quite a bit, please keep in mind that there are still a few restrictions on what I’m able to source.
Along with this, I’m working with a couple companies that are looking to expand their global footprints. I started on this early last year with Aston Installations, bringing them to the US for a Tech Day. They’re hard at work getting installation-ready kits available for shipment and I’ll be offering those through my online store as soon as they’re ready.
Speaking of Tech Days…
Austin Tech Day is CANCELLED
Due to a few factors outside of our control, Redpants and Aston Installations have decided to cancel our upcoming Tech Day in Austin. We didn’t come to this decision lightly and sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this has caused.
As with the many, many things I fail at, I try to take a step back and look at what happened, what went wrong, and how to fix it. So let’s do that.
This was our first attempt at an event that was remote from Redpants or Aston Installations. The one we did last year was here in Tampa, so it was easy to manage and we had a “home base” to fall back to as needed. We wouldn’t have that in Austin, at least not to the same extent. A lesson we learned from the Tampa Tech Day was that we needed to make sure we had complete vehicle information in advance. Many of the components used for installations are hand-made for each specific car, based on the year, model, trim, and factory options. Making these can take an hour or two per car in addition to actual installations times. We found ourselves having to do this for a few cars last year, which created a stacking delay on installations. Granted, everyone was happy to wait and understood what was going on, but it was incredibly stressful for me, James, and Lenny.
I did create a sign-up form for the Austin event to manage this better, and it did help us prepare. However, another issue from last year presented itself. Last time, James and Lenny had an extra two full days of installations added onto their trip because people would see the product and then want it as well, even though they hadn’t signed up for an installation beforehand. We ended up having several people come over to my house to continue doing installations for a couple extra days.
It was great that they got as much business as they did, but we wouldn’t be able to do this remotely, like when we’re in Austin.
Based on the responses I was getting, I knew that was going to happen again. We had too many people on the fence about committing to an installation, and I know most would have ended up buying, but we’d have to rush to get them sorted and hand-make all the components for their installations, not to mention having to guess in advance what to bring over from England… it would have been a mess.
In the end, the bottom line was that it was too risky for Aston Installations to close their business for a full week, travel to the US and incur all those expenses, and then try to manage a last-minute rush for installations before having to head back home… and hoping that nothing went wrong whatsoever in the process. If there was even a single problem with a car, that car could be left half-finished or worse. All this together was just too much of a risk and we decided to pull the plug.
What We’re Doing Different
I was trying to make the Tech Days a free-to-attend event with costs completely covered by installations. To bring more people in, a buddy of mine in Austin organized a road rally for the day before the Tech Day. We wanted the weekend to bring people together and at the end they’d get some awesome upgrades to their Aston Martins. We did have a good number of people signing up to attend the rally and Tech Day, but not enough signing up for installations, and thus preventing us from making the event financially feasible.
While they’re wildly popular in the UK, most Aston Martin owners in the US haven’t been exposed to the work that Aston Installations can do. That lack of exposure in the US makes many people hesitant to commit.
So… I’m going to fly my happy ass over to England.
I’ll be taking a videographer with me to cover the trip, get a bunch of information about Aston Installations and their products, and another company or two that I know a lot of people are interested in hearing more about. We’ll be documenting the trip, products, and companies to help better inform customers of what they’re getting. The goal of this is so people will be more comfortable with committing to installations and product purchases, helping us lock in the financial requirements for the Tech Days.
I’m also going to start charging for Tech Day attendance. The money will be going towards costs (like lunch, table/chair rentals, etc), and attendance will include other perks to make the pricing more worthwhile. I can pretty much guarantee the attendance fee will not cover the actual costs for the event (1-2 roundtrip domestic plane tickets, 2-3 roundtrip international plane tickets, lodging, food, and business closures, not to mention the costs for the event itself… yeah, this isn’t cheap). But it will at least help reduce the financial burden of the events. I’m also going to be reaching out to sponsors to help either lower our costs or offer a value-added thing to make the paid-attendance worthwhile.
And that’s where things are. I hope that clears things up and helps shed light on some of what’s been going on with the Tech Days and why they’ve been so difficult to organize.
Getting Japanified… Again
Some of you are aware that my dad had some serious health issues last year. Here’s the short version of the story:
I was at the airport picking up James and Lenny, who I’d never yet met in person and were flying in from England for the Redpants Tech Day that I hosted in Tampa last year. My step mom called me while I was making my way through the main terminal of the airport and I could tell something was wrong. She’s worked with doctors her whole life and knew how to read between the lines of doctor speak. She was in tears and could barely hold herself together enough to talk. My dad had been diagnosed with cancer and it wasn’t a good initial prognosis. The doctors had said they only get one or two cases that bad each year. I sat at the bar in the airport and cried while I waited for a pair of strangers to arrive from an ocean away. A week or two later she called me with an update. “It’s worse than we thought.,” they told her.
Fast forward a year and my dad beat the cancer. I’ve always wanted to take my dad to Japan, and now we had the perfect occasion. My dad’s birthday is on May 31st, and we’ll be spending it at a baseball game in Tokyo. We’re celebrating his birthday, cheering for beating a life-ending affliction, and I’m showing him my appreciation for raising me and my brother, which was not easy by any means.
I’ve mentioned that I don’t really pay myself from Redpants income. What I do, however, is save up the points I get from my Amex, and I used them to buy us roundtrip first class tickets, something neither of us have experienced. Speaking of experiencing things - my dad has never had a passport until he got one for this trip!
This is the very short version of what’s going on, and I’ll be writing a full story about why this trip means so much. (Let’s just say it’s something I want to write at length and have commercially published… it’s that much of a story.) The main takeaway for now is that Redpants will probably be closed while I’m gone. I may be able to have someone covering shipments but haven’t finalized that yet.
Travel and Stuff
In addition to the trips to Japan and England that I’ve already mentioned, I’ll be going to the annual AMOC event at Lime Rock Park, Connecticut, in June and another AMOC event in Victoria, BC, Canada, in July. The AMOC events are basically weekend trips so neither should cause more than a day or two delay for shipping out orders.
I’m testing out an events calendar for all the stuff going on since more and more is getting booked, and I’ll link to the calendar once it’s ready.
Okay, I think that’s everything. I’m going to try to pull myself out of bed and stand long enough to get some work done…………….. or maybe just take more medicine. I feel like hell.