THE PROCESS - CHAPTER 5 - CONTINGENCIES, APOLOGIES AND AFFIRMATION.
“The product is damaged - the hoodies were next to a machine that caught on fire. We have to start from scratch.” That was what our supplier told us 2 and a half weeks after we had placed our first order. The students had just started asking us about the hoodies and now we had to tell them that it’s going to take another 2 and a half weeks.
That particular situation set a precedent for how bad things could get. It also made us realize we couldn’t play the blame game. No matter what happens, even if it really isn’t our fault, as far as the customer is concerned, it’s our fault. We had to own it and react to the situation with that attitude. Shifting the blame would be unprofessional. Period.
We ended up delivering the product much later than when we were supposed to. Even after we got the product to the customers, we came to find out there were a couple of errors in the print. Some of them wanted replacements, some of them wanted refunds.
Throughout all this, we had a POC (point of contact) for the class who practically went through hell being caught up in the middle of all this. Handling the frustrations of the class, constantly asking us about the status only to hear responses of more delay. Thankfully, he was more understanding than we expected. However, we did some damage control too.
We made it a point to discount the hoodies - not necessarily the best move, but something we had to do. We also issued an apology after we delivered the product.
While this particular situation really gave us a tough ride, it provided a ton of clarity. We realized that making a big mistake starting out could end up being more of a good thing than a bad thing if you can pick yourself up to look at it that way.
We learned about logistics, supplier negotiations, customer relationship management, quality assurance, damage control, contingencies and managing expectations.
We also decided to have a solid conversation every time we made a mistake. Acknowledge it, sob over it a little, say “It’s good we screwed up.” and then discuss how to optimize for the problem statements. Make it a habit.
At the end of the day, we did manage to deliver the product. What we felt when we saw pictures of the students wearing our product, is hard to describe. When you start something from absolutely nothing, execute, and it manifests into something tangible, there is a certain joy and affirmation you experience that you will cherish and gain confidence from. Their overall feedback on the product’s quality was more than positive as well.
Thankfully, that experience is what we placed more importance in than the money we could have potentially made if all went well.
Now that we had identified the pain points, it was time to optimize our processes over the next few sales. So we got back to it.