The summer has flown by and I am amazed that I have not posted a blog article through it – must mean I was having a fun summer, yes – I was!!! Now that it is fall though, it is the time to get things done. I remember when my kids were in school, September always meant the start of the year, much more significant than the actual start in January which was just a date on the calendar. September was a new grade, new class, new university and all those summer memories quickly become distant. It is like digital equipment that you can “Press the Reset Button” on and everything is fresh, new, vibrant – ready to be programmed. September marks the beginning of fall when Mother Nature brings her circle of life to the next cycle with falling leaves and dormancy becomes dominant – she has pressed the Reset Button in preparation for the winter and spring. I love September for that reason, it represents closure of the past season and freshness for the new season – I can’t wait to see my first spawning salmon migrating up our local stream, the ultimate Reset.
The “Your Fired” Reset
So in business the Reset Button also plays an important role. Probably the most common time it is pressed is when we finally decide that the employee we have not been totally satisfied with must final be freed up to go and pursue their future, yes, some call it getting fired, but it is a Reset. A Reset for the employee to find their passion and a Reset for the company to fill the role with a better fit. Both will benefit from this in the long run and the experienced entrepreneur realizes that the next time they will press the Reset Button sooner instead of procrastinating, cajoling, brow-beating, humoring, training or what-ever else they tried in order to get the square peg into the round hole. Perhaps even reaching the state of being able to achieve this in the interview stage and avoid the wrong hire altogether.
A Reset Close to Home
A recent Reset Button I have had to push with my most recent business, the Interlock, revolves around the manufacturer we chose to produce the seat post for our product. This manufacturer in Taiwan is one of, if not the biggest producers of bike seat posts in the world – turning our hundreds of thousands a year. We reviewed 3 separate seat post manufacturers and since this was the biggest and could possibly directly result in sales to other companies that use them to manufacture as well when they see our product in the manufacturer’s showroom we all agreed this was the company to go with. Unfortunately, we came to experience what I could call “low man on the totem pole” syndrome – as turnaround time seemed slow and then when it came to producing our product we had to reject the first two runs as cosmetic defects were evident (although functional performance and testing was perfect). The 1st sample production run should have never been even been presented to our Agent – so evident the cosmetic flaws were for a product that we are positioning in a premium category and the manufacturer was charging a premium price for. The 2nd sample production had only marginally improved but the turnaround time again ballooned – making our time to get it to market excruciating long, and still without the perfect product we have envisioned.
It is a Hard Button to Press – the 1st Time
So the choice, just like firing an employee, has to be to Press Reset and allow us to put in place a manufacturer who we believe will deliver us the product we have designed in a flawless state; in acceptable time frame and at a reasonable price. In fact – it looks like the new manufacturer we have now switched to can get the whole process completed 15 days faster than the first for the first run (since they have to make the mold in that time period as well) and then in half the time after that compared to the first manufacturer.
It was a tough decision as we now have over $100,000 in pre-sales and contracts for another $350,000 over the next 10 months and we will have to go back to those distributors and explain how and why we have fired our manufacturer, Pressed Reset, hired a new one, and that the product they were expecting at the end of September will now only be available in the middle of November. But I believe that our dedication to getting the product right – especially on our first deliveries is tantamount to success – as we only have one shot at product first impressions and delivering a flawed product, even if it is just minor cosmetics, will taint us and our reputations. We will back up our decision by offering refunds of deposits paid on those first pre-sales to distributors – but I am hopeful that the rationale behind our decision to Press Reset shall resonate with the premium company we are building and the pre-sales will stick with us. Like the first time firing an employee, this type of firing is no easier – and hopefully can be done sooner if a similar situation develops.
Summertime and the Living is Easy!
Could we have Pressed Reset earlier on this decision? Possibly – but with the summertime always adding in its own set of different operating challenges (who is on vacation when and for how long) it would have been difficult. It is still difficult – but just think if we didn’t and a year down the road we are continuing with the same issues and delays. Just like in staffing the minute you think you should fire someone, or Press Reset, is the time to do it – the same applies in other business areas like this manufacturing issue. The wisdom in this lesson: Don’t procrastinate!!!
Listen to Intuition
In hindsight I now have to admit that in the original interview process with this manufacturer there was a point in the conversation where the senior engineer joined us to review our prototype and his first impression was that it could not be done – that the type of seat post head we designed was too radical a departure from the standard post from an integrity standpoint (which subsequent stress tests disproved – our seat post was as strong and durable as any other out in the marketplace). My gut instinct, my intuition, at that moment was to Press Reset, go with a different manufacturer from the start – and I now wish I had and saved us 120 days of frustration. Easy to say in hindsight – but glad we didn’t wait too long.
This is part of the entrepreneurial business life – making and executing decisions on a timely basis. The faster we recognize that something isn’t working properly the quicker we can Press Reset and have a fresh clean slate to work with. Our long term success depends on it!!!!