The 1000 Days Rule

Right before Touchstone was incorporated, a very wise man, my grandfather, sat down with me and told me, “Every business cycle similar to every relationship in life, has to go through a period of 1000 days to know if the relationship or the business would actually work the way you want it to. Give your company a 1000 days and you will know what works for you and what does not.” It is essential to review a business model you make, but when is the right time to review it? There are loads of philosophies available online on this topic which could help you understand when to review your model, one of the most famous one would be “The 1000 Day Rule”. The first 1000 days are the most critical days of a new venture and it also holds good for a new launch or a new long term strategy.

After a 1000 days of running a venture, you would realise what is it that drives it and what is it that needs to be reviewed. Below are some questions which you could spend your time on after you cross the 1000 day mark. The intention of asking questions is that every venture works differently and hence every question gives a different answer:

  1. If you offer diversified products or services, what is it that gives you the maximum outcome?
  2. The product/service which gives you the maximum outcome, does it have the potential to become your core business?
  3. Of the various strategies you run, which ones should you choose?
  4. The chosen financial model, does it give you the maximum ROI?
  5. Of the huge number of vendors you work with, whom can you trust to build a long term relationship?
  6. The quality you maybe stressing on, is that the best?
  7. The accounting process of your organisation, is that the most efficient?
  8. The inventory system of the business, can it be improved?
  9. The employee tracking system, does it deliver?
  10. The motivation you need to offer, is that the finest?
  11. The expansion model you intend to work on, do you need to re-think?
  12. Of the geographies you work on, are they confined or too large?
  13. Employee number in the company, are they enough?
  14. Marketing strategies, do they make the right noise at the right places to the right people?
  15. Investment you made or investors made, are they rewarding?
  16. Fun created at the work place, does it need a check?
  17. The payment cycles you follow, is it a win-win?
  18. Long term, medium term and short term plans, do you need to review them?

Each of the questions above, need to be answered in detail. Once you have succeeded in doing so, you would be prepared to face the future in a more systematic way. The disclaimer here is, this have been learnt from running my small organisation, these may or may not hold good for your requirements. Please forgive me if I have not been successful in covering all the important points.

The Art Of Professionalism

“Professionalism” is a very loosely used description to an individual’s business temperament. Individuals think if they are well equipped with the English vocabulary, they carry professionalism. But then, what is it that defines the word professionalism? Defining the word is difficult as it is a perspective of an individual’s opinion. I am trying to make an attempt to examine what is it that could add to portraying professionalism.

1. Under Commit, Over Achieve

Yes, this is a tip which adds to professionalism. It is critical to commit to clients or business partners below your delivery levels but achieve above those expectations you’ve built. No, this is not a marketing gimmick! There will also be times when you would deliver only to the committed levels and hence you would still display professionalism. This is applied in cases of: delivery of products and services offered to clients, pricing of products and services, payment time lines to vendors, etc.

2. Black & White

Any business deal should have all the terms and conditions in printed, written format. There should be no place left for assumptions or wild imaginations. Humans have a tendency to take certain things for granted and details regarding a business deal is one of them, this usually happens when there is a repetition. Clients and business partners appreciate that all minute details discussed are penned down and there are no ambiguities left.

3. Cover The Loop

When you start something, drive it till the end. Perseverance and follow up systems should be powerful that once you open a loop, you know it will be closed. This always proves that you are under control and have a drive to deliver. It is critical in any lead generating mechanism as conversions happen only after dedicated perseverance.

4. Nurture Talent

The fastest way to grow in your career is when you train talent to take your place. Only when they reach that stage of their career, you would be able to take your step ahead. This also ensures that the entire organisation follows the same process and also that professionalism flows from top to bottom. The added advantage of nurturing talent is the learning process for yourself never ends.

5. Stick To Your Commitment

I am reminded of a line from a Hindi movie, ‘Once I commit, I do not even listen to myself’. Professionalism is an outcome of promises and commitments upheld. At times this is possible by suffering a financial loss, but the goodwill profit you build would make up for it. When you do suffer a financial loss, do keep the other party posted that you would still maintain your commitments despite a loss. This will be appreciated and aid building a long term business relationship.

6. Process

Process is a critical part in building world class organisations. Process driven account keeping for internal and external reasons, will not only give you the peace of mind but also portray professionalism. Even while driving sales, following a process would add to higher conversions. Individuals would be more than pleased to work with an organisation where they know that the process followed would drive their requirement till the end. Processes would also ensure a Win-Win situation with employees, vendors and business partners which I shall elaborate further on.

7. Happy Quotient

Happy quotient is a measure which is best judged by the ‘quality’ of your product or service. The finest quality of a particular product or service will not only ensure continued business but would also ensure Happiness. Even while dealing with other business partners, if you do pay an extra buck and expect supreme product or service by a vendor, he would be more than happy to provide you with it. Quality benchmarks acquired must be maintained or risen every time!

8. Thank You

Many a times, once a business deal is completed, organisations forget that the other party yet exists. A relationship does not start and end with that one deal, but it only creates a foundation for the future. Small steps taken like – to connect with a client to take feedback, thank a vendor for the quality maintained, appreciate the timely delivery of the courier company, be thankful to your employee who ensured that the job was done – do go an extra mile in portraying true professionalism.

9. A Win-Win

While dealing with clients, we always expect that the price they pay should always match up to the quality you provide, creating a Win-Win. The same holds good also while dealing with vendors, business partners, employees. It is imperative that all payments to be made are done on timely basis. Business partners and employees value this deed and would look forward to working with you more often. This also facilitates improved quality standards, thus creating a Win-Win!

10. Flexible Return Policy

Nobody wants to manufacture a bad product/service. But at times, the expectation of a client could be higher than your delivery. At this time, the return policy you follow should be flexible enough to accept the return and replace the product/service in minimum turnaround time. This will go a long way in creating a comfort level for the client which will guarantee that they work with you again. Professionalism is at its best when you are willing to accept your weaknesses or mistakes and amend accordingly.

11. Attitude & Commitment

Though this is the last point here, this is the first step towards professionalism. Only if an individual is willing to learn, has the attitude to make an effort, is committed to build a world class organisation, the art of professionalism can be achieved. The attitude and commitment of an organisation which strives towards achieving all of the above stated points will eventually portray effortless and natural professionalism in everything they do.

A Merchandiser’s Diary

In my earlier article ‘Gifting Shifts Gears’, I had mentioned:

Gifting companies priority should at all times remain to look for products which are innovative, can be connected to themes, can be customised, can be delivered within a shorter time line, can be presented or packaged well, can be transported across geographies and to top it all, if the product can be termed as “priceless”.

  • A merchandiser’s duty is to look for innovation. Every client when done with the requirement of the regular shelf products, will hunt the market for products which are not usually seen or not heard of frequently. A client usually has a picture of a particular product in their mind but finds it difficult to communicate it. It is important for the merchandiser to understand this need of the client and create a product or look for a product which fits into the client’s imaginary picture. Once this is done, it is easier to take the next step ahead and fit it into the theme.
  • Themes are the latest trend and will continue to drive the gifting sales for a long time now. There is always a theme for every occasion when a giveaway is needed, it could be a festival, a launch, could revolve around a product, an agenda for a seminar/conference, to motivate employees, to appreciate the effort of employees or distributors, to welcome guests or a souvenir for guests, could revolve around a partnership and so on. The right idea when turned into a product which fits the theme is the key to all approvals. Theme chosen preferably should not be of a religious frame since it could hurt emotions.
  • A product which can be customised as per a client’s requirement is critical. Customising a product includes the most critical customisation which is to add the client’s branding. It is very critical to give a branding the right effect as per the target audience to ensure maximum brand recall. On occasions, client would prefer a loud branding because the target audience need to be aware of the message involved with the gift. And on other occasions, the client would prefer a very subtle branding depending on who the gifts are going out to. Customising also involves other options like including the corporate brand colours or adding an idea to the product which relates to the client’s portfolio or modifying the product to give it that right look to fit the target audience or including/excluding some parts of the product to fit the budgets and so on. A merchandiser who works with manufacturers can most of the times offer all of the above with added advantage of cost.
  • A client would always call and say, “I want the delivery of the gifts yesterday!”. Every client and every gifting company always have disputes with this aspect of an order. The client is always in a hurry and is always approaching deadlines with respect to the need of the giveaway. Firstly, more often than not, the client takes their own sweet time to approve the product and then complete the necessary documentations required. After which, the client further delays the process by not sending the artworks involved with the branding of the merchandise. I do not intend to blame the person from the client’s office for this since it usually is a long procedure which the client has to follow but speeding up this process will save most of the disputes regarding time lines. A merchandiser also in the spirit of turnover and sales, intends to false promise the clients regarding delivery time, it is always advisable to budget in some extra time for unforeseen circumstances which could further delay the deliveries. A merchandiser who maintains the delivery time as committed for at least three orders can expect a long term relationship with any client.
  • The way a product is presented or packaged directly increases the value of the product by two times. Packaging is a very essential  part of any gifting idea. Even If a regular T-Shirt is given in a well packaged box rather than the plastic cover usually used, the receiver of the gift would appreciate the gesture a lot more. The packaging of a product at times, is either equivalent or even higher than the price of the product itself. Special attention by the merchandiser to a minute detail of the packaging can increase the perceived value of the product to a large extent. There are companies whose business is only to create innovative, unique, classy styles of packaging and their businesses are thriving because packaging is now a very essential part of any gifting idea. There is not gift complete without a gift wrap (read Packaging).
  • While choosing a gift, it is imperative to choose one which can be transported to geographies without breakages or damages. The practicality of the product to be transported from the manufacturer to the merchandiser to the client and further to the final consumer in one piece without damaging even the packaging, is critical. The transport companies usually ignore the ‘Fragile’ sticker stuck on the boxes and throw the boxes around to reduce their burden. If there are damages to a product, not only does the merchandiser suffer losses but also loses goodwill, as the importance of the product reaching on time for an event is defeated. The merchandiser should be willing to replace the products on a priority basis in consideration to a long term relationship with the client. The merchandiser should be willing to pay additional to ensure the products are well packed to diminish any damages or breakages. Hence, products presented to a client for approvals preferably should not be delicate.
  • Priceless – of inestimable worth, beyond valuation, invaluable. A merchandiser must pursue ideas or products which are so unique in nature that once gifted, the receiver finds it very difficult to find the true worth of the gift. If this criteria is attended to, the gift in its true sense will be called a “Gift”.