Wits' End and other small businesses (1 Viewer)

Joined
Feb 20, 2017
Messages
661
Location
Tucson, AZ
Hello all,

I am going to stand on a (hopefully) short soapbox to share some thoughts with you. I recently found an email from Wits' End in my inbox. There were elements within that both caught my eye, and struck a chord. Said email is an update from Joey, the owner of Wits' End, and is pasted below. I find his words carrying substantial weight because I was once a small business partner with a good friend, as well as an employee of a home town startup. My own business venture failed, and the one of my former employer exploded and is thriving to this day. Having experienced the toil and stress of building a small business, as well as knowing how many sacrifices you make in the pursuit of the dream you're running down step by step, I am sympathetic to Joey's words. I also think about the amazing convenience that sites like Amazon now provide us. I can sit on my couch, browse endless listings to find just about anything I desire, and then see it arrive on my doorstep with no effort. Oftentimes, packages arrive the very next day. I love it! It is so easy, so fast, and so nearly a complete shopping experience that I always go there first. I have purchased many items on Amazon for use on my 80 Series, but they are mainly generic items for wiring, filters, or will-fit this or that kind of stuff. When I need model specific items to solve a niche problem with my garage hogging queen of a money pit I call Lexi Jo, I look to the collection of small and privately owned businesses that are run by people as nutty as I am for Land Cruisers. Retailers, vendors, machine shops with side jobs making cool bits, salvage guys working to keep beautiful sheet metal out of the crushers; their efforts all contribute to a hobby that makes me smile, and enjoy time wrenching, wheeling, watching videos, and drooling over all the rigs and cool bits I can't yet have. I like Wits' End. I like all the little items and clever solutions I have purchased from them. They make great stuff, and are one of the truly innovative little outfits that are coming up with modern solutions for unique needs relating to Land Cruisers. They are not Amazon. I accept that, and in many ways I appreciate that. They don't have endless resources. They aren't owned by the richest man in world. You also can't call Jeff Bezos direct, or email him with hopes for a reply. I like small businesses because you can. Amazon has in-sourced many elements of their business in an effort to eliminate the factors that would otherwise be outside their control. Small businesses simply don't have the resources to do such things. Vendors supplying lower level parts, raw or unfinished materials, finishing processes such as paint, powder, and anodizing, and to a huge effect, shipping and logistics, all have the power to affect a small business's performance and bottom line. Wits' End falls deeply into those dangers. It is simply part of being a little guy in the market. Another pitfall that can kill many small businesses is one that most people will give a confused look when told. Success, or rather too much, too quick. What I mean is, sometimes, the little guy's business can grow faster than they can keep up with, especially when there are only a few players in the company trying to cover all the bases. I look at this in a good light. That there are that many people wanting parts and widgets for their Cruiser is a great thing! Let's build awesome rigs and get out on the roads and trails. It does however come back to us, as supporters of the hobby, to keep situations framed in a reasonable light. We can't compare the little guys to the big guys. The rules are different for each. What the hell am I saying here in these ramblings? I am trying to challenge the thinking of how we have come to expect that every exchange be one of instant gratitude. One that is algorithm precise and devoid of a human touch. Let's cut the little guys some slack, and have the acceptance that if we want clever, high quality bits for our rigs, it will cost us something that is often in very short supply. Patience and understanding. Let's cut the little guys some slack for all the things that are well outside their control. Also, I won't even get into how Covid-19 has wrecked house on everything commerce.....rant over. The soap box has been kicked back into the shed.

Thanks for reading.

Jason

Current shipping and communication sucks

This newsletter has nothing to do with trying to sell you folks more of my crap. This is about managing expectations...again.

There is something I think everyone needs to be made aware of, I am one person running this company. I have my little brother that helps out. People seem to think I am this huge company. I am not. I'm one guy who recently moved to another state and uprooted my family in the process. Its only been four months now.

I don't run my business like a typical business. So anyone expecting a typical business will be left sorely disappointed.

I work 7 days a week. I work 20hrs a day. Very little interrupts this trend. This was NOT my intention in moving to Oregon. I intended to expand greatly both my business, my offerings and my personnel. The pandemic made sure that didn't happen.

Lately I have been getting a LOT of complaints from every area of social media and communications platforms. I understand and feel bad for all of them but there is only so much I can do in any given day. I am writing this at midnight on Thursday. Since Monday morning, til today alone, this is what I have been bombarded with:

• 142 incoming phone calls not answered (some multiple calls)
• 37 incoming phone calls answered for a total of...
• 15.4hrs PHYSICALLY talking on the phone
• 1048 incoming emails
• 206 outgoing emails (I think its more because I use three platforms for email)
• 842 emails I still need to answer
• 100s of cell text messages incoming (many I haven't replied to yet)
• 88 incoming Facebook Messenger messaged (the majority I have yet to respond to because I had to reinstall Messenger after it was giving me issues)
• 31 incoming Instagram messages ( only 4 that I have responded to)
• 29 MUD PMs I haven't even looked at yet
• 46 packages still missing
• $8000+ of refunds due to missing packages causing late orders (always fun)
• 255 PENDING orders that are literally all waiting on vendors to supply me with parts so I can fulfill orders
• Dozens of really pissed off people
• 32 product developments I'm too embarrassed to discuss/announce because there are so many people still waiting for their parts orders

I am not Amazon. I am not a call center. I do not pretend to have awesome customer service and when the service is good, its a fluke and it was because the stars aligned. I am stuck doing this the way I'm doing it because the plan for being here right now has been seriously altered by the current situation we all find ourselves in.

I blame no one for being upset at me for not returning a phone call or answering a text message or not shipping an order the day they order it. People have expectations. I'm here to say that those expectations need to be put into check while I figure out the new reality for Wits' End.

I'm not giving up. I'll never give up. When you get a reply on an email its me replying. When you call the number on the website, its my PERSONAL cell phone you are calling. You are taking to me. When an order comes thru and goes out, I'm pulling it and shipping it. I have my brother to help with assembly and dropping off packages to USPS and UPS and I'm thankful to have him. But everything else is still me.

Is the answer that I shut down the site? Concentrate on pending orders? Is the answer that I hire a bunch a people when I don't know what ugly turn this pandemic is going to take things and whether or not I can afford to pay for staff? Is the answer that I refund every pending order and go into hibernation for a year? NO! The answer is that I keep working 20hrs a day, 7 days a week until I can get caught up and have everyone NOT so pissed at me. But its going to take time. I'll get there and I'll make some changes along the way.

Thanks for taking the time out to read a glimpse of what is in my head right now. Right now, if needed, please just email me. I get spurts of time to respond to email. I DO NOT have spurts of time to sit on a phone call right now. If you are tired of waiting on me and expected Amazon, I'm sorry I failed.

Now that I'm done writing this, I have to go write an email to a bunch of folks waiting for some parts that a vendor just gave me some depressing news on, then I'm going to go pound my head on the desk until I fall asleep. Sweet sweet sleep.

Joey
 
Last edited:
Joined
Jun 30, 2013
Messages
818
Apparently he's never heard of delegation. If one is unwilling or unable to delegate, then the flip side is to manage orders to set proper expectations. Don't offer to sell things you when can't commit to delivery. That said, it seems like he took on too much and is over his head: and sadly, the stress is getting to him.
 
Joined
Oct 25, 2007
Messages
1,393
Location
Surprise AZ.
There is a point when starting a business that you must hire staff. That said, to get to that point often means driving yourself to the point of failure. Working 7 days a week, 12 hours a day. Investing all your time and money to make the dream happen. You get to that point and then something like COVID happens. It kills your projected future and possibly your business.

I have been there. It (life) sets you back in your seat and tells you who is boss. You can either accept it or, fight back. I think Joey is fighting back. His client pool has shrunk as people are not spending like they did 6 months ago and many are not employed. He has to do what he must to make his vision work. Yes he will be late on orders and communication may be an issue but, he is striving to make it work and I, for one, will continue to support him (just got anonther small order from him).

We are a small community folks like him and Phil stick their necks out for us and bring us products we can't forge ourselves. These people are sticking their necks out for us, yes they are looking to make some dough but the love of what they are doing comes first. Again look at LCP, tell me he doesn't love this and is only doing this for money.

They do it to help, because they enjoy people and this passion and lastly to make money (IMO). Support those supporting our passion, if we don't, we wont have some of those delicious goodies we drool over but, more importantly, we are not helping those who try to help us and loosing a valuable part of our community.
 

NLXTACY

Wits' End
Supporting Vendor
Joined
Dec 7, 2007
Messages
26,828
Location
West Hills, CA
Apparently he's never heard of delegation. If one is unwilling or unable to delegate, then the flip side is to manage orders to set proper expectations. Don't offer to sell things you when can't commit to delivery. That said, it seems like he took on too much and is over his head: and sadly, the stress is getting to him.

I wish I could say you were right, but you are incorrect on every point.

* no issues at all with delegation
* commitment to deliver is a game of garbage in/garbage out. Vendors give me schedules and I pass those on to customers. Schedules not met and now that information given to customers is no longer accurate. Rinse repeat.
* took on too much? Please, this isn’t my first rodeo. My last business I had 52 employees making thousands of products for the film industry. That was too much some days. Wits’ End doesn’t even play in that same ballpark.
* no the stress isn’t getting to me. I don’t let stress get to me the way most folks do. A heart attack and three cancers let me see that stress isn’t something I need to worry about.

My problem is I don’t like feeling like I’m failing at something. I moved my business and my family to Oregon to expand, by a wide margin. The pandemic derailed that entirely Which occurred the same week I moved. The stress doesn’t bother me. I strive under pressure.

I am just tired of vendors delaying my own products. But I understand why. They are dealing with the same things I am. Unfortunately some customers could give a crap and I get that. So this is me trying to keep my foot on the gas knowing full well that I’m not going to make everyone happy and that’s quite alright.
 
Joined
Dec 22, 2017
Messages
18
Location
Tallahassee, FL
I'm one of those customers that Phil returned money to (battery bracket kit). His email explained it and I'll patiently wait till the parts come in and he sends out the emails that the kits are available again. No worries at all.

I recently put an order in with Joey at Wit's End, too. I literally asked him if he could ship out the same day (was in a time crunch) and he DID IT! He didn't have to, but he pulled it off before the end of the day, late in the week to boot ('coulda been Friday -'can't remember). He even had to split the order because some of the parts he had to ship out shortly thereafter. Looking back on it, that was even more impressive than I first thought!!!

I'm VERY impressed with Joey. His products are top notch and his communication via text and email was superb. I'm a VERY happy Wit's End customer.
 
Joined
Dec 22, 2017
Messages
18
Location
Tallahassee, FL
...and just as expected, Phil just sent out the emails this morning to all those refunded. As I said I would, I placed my order for battery bracket. No drama. Thanks Phil. -Ivan
 

OffGridOverland

Overland Anywhere - Anytime
SILVER Star
Joined
Jan 21, 2015
Messages
483
Location
Litchfield Park AZ
I haven't been on here in awhile. But I also agree that C19 created a huge mess. And some people just don't get it.
McLaren almost went bankrupt over it as well. We had outside suppliers failing, work shutdowns, and crazy shipping issues. McLaren ended up with a 325+ million dollar loan to stay afloat. And I was also caught in the middle of it myself. Working for them. Moved to Seattle, watched everything fail in front of me. And ended up heading back home to AZ. But hey, No risk, No reward!

People don't understand we are all human. We all shoot for the moon and we try as our families depend on our success.

I hope things start to level back out. It's been a rough road for a bit.
 
Joined
Jan 22, 2014
Messages
333
Location
Chandler
Don't know the business. Do know that COVID has wreaked havoc everywhere. Lots of supply issues. Be thankful you have your health, the funds, and the ability to order stuff while being frustrated it didn't arrive the same day.

There's my soapbox. Be safe everyone.
 
Joined
Dec 22, 2017
Messages
18
Location
Tallahassee, FL
& I received my battery bracket from @LandCruiserPhil today. Well made cable! No drama. It's a pleasure doing business with you also, Phil.\

I agree, @Clunky ... I can't stand myself anytime I order anything from Amazon. I avoid it whenever I can. It's like walking into walmart... something else I don't do often at all... wrong as two boys hump'n. :lol:
 

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