The quilted cot cover business that started in my one-car garage in 2003 has seen some pretty impressive growth in the past.  During the first few years of our business, sales tripled annually.  Then, as the business began to mature and we gained a foothold in the industry, our growth “mellowed” to a still-impressive 50% more each year.

2008 looked like a plateau, with the year ending with 10% more sales than the previous year.  And while it was a good omen, I was still sad to see the days of 50% increases end.

After a rocky start to 2009, where year-to-date sales in the first six months were off by as much as 30% from the previous year, we began rebounding in August.  Steady gains in September and October – helped along by the 2009 NFDA Convention & Expo – prepared us for an absolutely crazy November and December.

How good was the upswing in business?  We ended 2009 with more than 10% greater sales than 2008! 

That’s right, in a down year, when most businesses are struggling to keep the doors open, we added 10% more sales.

So how did we do it?

First, we are fastidious (I love that word) about tracking our sales numbers and comparing our current figures with previous results.  On any given day, I check how we are doing compared with the same month in past years as well as how we are doing compared to the past month. 

While January and February were off the 2008 numbers, March saw an increase, which might have bolstered my spirits, if a healthy portion of that hadn’t been due to the Georgia Expo we attended.  I am careful to track how much of our business comes from conventions, wholesale customers and the website, so I knew that while our convention business was bringing in new sales, our other avenues were falling off.

April and May were not any better, but by that time we’d already begun a recovery plan.

First, I reached out to our wholesale customers, the ones who resell our product on their websites, through their sales reps and in their catalogs.  We offered an even-better wholesale discount during the summer, hoping to jumpstart our wholesale customers’ sales machinery.  I also began seeking out new resellers to add to our list.

In June, we signed up three new regional supply companies to resell our product.  Their exuberance about the product helped spark sales and the rebound began in earnest in August.

We also worked harder on the website, fixing some bugs in the search engine optimization and adding new designs to our offerings.  The new covers, while not huge sellers so far, have bolstered our line, filling in a few gaps left by discontinued fabrics that we can no longer get from our suppliers.

In September, we added “morgue cart covers” to our website, in hopes of capturing more of the hospital market.  Many hospitals use a cart with a metal-tubed framework to cover the body.  This has a fitted fabric cover over the top, giving the cart the appearance of an empty draped table.  Interestingly, the companies that sell the carts do a lot of advertising on the Internet about their great tables, but they never tell you how to buy a replacement when the one you have starts to look like crap.

We’re using our FluidBlocker nylon fabric to create lightweight covers that meet both OSHA and infection control requirements.  So far, we’ve sold several dozen of them are we’re looking for ways to get the word out to hospitals around the country.

The 2009 NFDA Expo exposed us to a number of new customers, with 113 covers sold during the convention.  Since then, we’ve been riding a wave that the convention created, with many new customers calling months later to buy “that great cover we saw at the convention.”

Like most companies, we spent a lot of 2009 cutting costs, re-evaluating our core expenses and rethinking strategy.  Because of intelligent decisions, a reluctance to shout “the sky is falling!” and an industry that believes in our product, we came out of 2009 better than we started.

How about you?  Did you take time during 2009 to differentiate yourself from your competitor?  Did you rethink your basic plan and search for new markets for your compassionate brand of funeral care?  Did you buckle down and cut some unnecessary spending?

If you’re still looking for something to improve your firm’s appearance and set you apart from your competition, why not consider one of our beautiful quilted cot covers?  They’re affordable, amazingly versatile (and protective, thanks to our great lining) and guaranteed to add comfort to any removal.

Visit our product site at www.cotcovers.com.

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