October 2016

Deliberate Practice: Survival in the Post Regulatory World


“It’s the end of the world as we know it,” claimed Michael Stipe from the rock group REM in 1987, and it seems that every decade an event or occasion pops up that makes us believe it.

This year it happened in the form of the FDA deeming regulations.

We were given a glimpse of these proposed guidelines in April 2014, and many speculated about whether the final decision would follow the initial draft document, or if it would be radically altered.

There were concerns over the grandfather date, also known as the predicate date, and if it would be moved from February 2007 to August 2016. We wondered if guidelines would be created regarding the manufacturing of e-liquids, online sales and flavoring.

The conclusion is that some things were addressed and others were not. In addition, some issues that were covered seemed vague. So now what?

Deliberate Practice

Some people are fortunate enough to be born with natural skills. Child prodigies that play piano before they can walk, runners that are naturally swift and beat everyone in the neighborhood, and savants that can recall where they were every day of their lives. These are natural born talents and are difficult if not impossible to learn.

So how do we become “good” business people?

For most, smart business sense is not a God-given talent, but is a skill honed by experience, by education, and by failure.

It is said that experts are experts at maintaining high-levels of practice and improving performance, and that is the core of developing a smart business mind and a successful business.

If you practice the wrong way, you will almost certainly be guaranteed to fail. The finance blog, Financial Digest defines “deliberate practice” as being “…a highly structured activity with the specific goal of improving performance.” Sounds simple enough, right?

Yet many do it improperly.

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Here are some easy and quick steps for running a successful vape business, or for that matter, any business:

  • Understand your market; which means, who you are and how you fit into the big picture. That includes business out-side your city, state or country.
  • Learn from those who are doing it right and better than you. Don’t copy them exactly, but pull out valuable lessons that you can incorporate into your business.
  • Surround yourself with a team that aligns with you. “You can fail by yourself, but you cannot succeed alone” is a quote I have repeated many times.
  • Find experts’ help and listen to them. These are usually people that can share “life lessons,” and they don’t have to be in your field.
  • Be open to and willing to partner, collaborate, work with others, etc. Use whatever terms you feel most comfortable using. “Let’s work together, dammit!”

Action Steps

These are all good in concept, so let’s drill them down.

Understanding your market: Look outside your particular piece of the universe and understand what the vape space is doing. That means domestically,
as well as internationally. This small circus run by cowboys just a few years ago is now a mainstream industry. We have advocates and political connections and legal teams and obstacles on a daily basis.

Learn from others: If you are in the e-liquid industry or have a retail shop, you will see others that are crushing it and do-ing it right. That doesn’t necessarily mean you are doing it wrong; it just means they may be better. Find out how and why. Don’t copy, but look at the lessons that can be learned.

Your team is vital and you can only be a control freak for so long. Delegation and trust can be difficult, but it’s important that you find a team of rowers to help you row your boat in tandem.

Finding expert help can mean industry specific help or generic help. I have worked with over 800 different businesses in hundreds of different areas and found that most face the exact

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same challenges and have the identical problems. There is no lack of educational material and be sure to look outside the vaping industry. There are lessons to be learned that go back dozens if not hundreds of years. Think “The Art of War” or “Think and Grow Rich.”

Collaboration is vital in today’s world. I can share a personal story of my business model called “Level 13 Liquids.” This is a private label store brand of dozens of flavors that any shop can offer. I almost abandoned the idea due to the August 8 product deadline since I was unable to bring my concept to market. Enter my new partners, “Small Batch” that had a business model which needed flavors and a quality laboratory. Now enter the third component, e-Pure Labs. They were able to offer flavors for my B2B model as well as Small Batches’ B2C model. It’s a win-win situation.

Are You Here to Stay?

When VapeMentors began in 2013, there were an estimated 1,500 vape shops in the nation and less than 500 e-liquid companies.

Within a few years both these numbers grew exponentially and at our peak may have reached 9,000 each. Those numbers will never reach that lofty plateau again and the space is shrinking already.

By 2017 we may see those number cut by 50 percent and a year later, cut another 50 percent.

Who will survive? Will it be you? Will you be crushing the competition and making a good living? Or will you look back and say, “I remember when…,” or “If only…”Don’t live in regret; the answers are in you. Let your mindset motivate you and allow deliberate practice to take you there.

See you in 2018!

Norm Bour is the founder of VapeMentors and creator of the VAPE U online programs. They offer services & resources for anyone in the vape space, including vape shops, online stores and e-liquid brands. He’s also the host of Vape Radio, the largest vaping radio show in the world with more than 1.3 M down-loads. Norm interviews the masters of vape and thought leaders in the vape space. Contact him at norm@VapeMentors.com.