Own It! What to do when things in your business really *%$& Up
Anyone who is a business owner or entrepreneur will tell you that running a business is HARD! ESPECIALLY when things do not go well.
As the owner of a business who has experienced some major upsets lately the only thing I can reconcile is how much I continue to learn. And the only things I know for sure is that I am the only one responsible and I need to own it.
As Nerida Hansen Fabrics grew there have been many, many more challenges than fun times. I have been navigating through challenging world events for the past 3 and half years, most of the time holding on for dear life, sometimes with my eyes shut tight.
My ADHD brain isn't naturally geared for organisation and executive decision making. An unfortunately a lot of that was required over this time. I need that guide book called "How To Run Nerida Hansen Fabrics through a Global Pandemic and Popularity Explosion" but apparently nobody has actually authored that yet.
Through all this, signs that my work was worth fighting for kept me moving forward. Even after the onset of Covid, when I felt lost and uncertain, seeing all the sewers out there making such beautiful things and enjoying my curations spurred me on.
In 2022 I thought I was totally spent. Shanghai closing down from Covid19 with all my 2022 winter stock on it's shoreline was the last straw. But after the roughest few months of uncertainty, packing up my warehouse and making staff redundant there was still excess inventory to sell so I soldiered on. I think I did stuff others would have left far behind. It was so hard, and I did not rest.
But then early in 2023, two opportunities presented themselves to me, which provided solutions that would allow me to focus on what I'm truly passionate about – designing textiles and producing sewing patterns. Seeing the power of collaboration with the recently-released Verhees Collections has been life-changing. To have many more fabrics out in the world with my indelible stamp, without all the pain of manufacturing is more than I could have ever wished for.
Still in transition, I am not quite there yet but the light is at the end of the tunnel.
The shift requires a significant transition which in itself is presenting many challenges.
The obligations to my new partners meant I would be closing down manufacturing. Without much warning, I was needing to shift gears, and to honour commitments to existing suppliers I had to move a LOT of fabric and quite quickly.
I thought it would be a suitable way to end the manufacturing game - reward my customers with near-cost pricing, use an amazing sale to clear eight months of inventory in the limited time frame I had to move to my next phase of business.
I wasn't sure what to expect, and the overwhelming interest in the offer caught me off guard.
The first mistake was a doozy - I sold products online at the same time that had different production windows. Before I knew it, I had hundreds of orders that had up to 4 different delivery dates on them. With one freight charge.
An overwhelming amount of customers ordered, which created confusion and chaos and so I tried to make adjustments to the orders that were placed with my supplier. My non-existent eye for details meant more mistakes were made which would have ramifications for customers who ordered.
Given I had only charged one postage fee for fabrics that were now coming in at hugely varied time frames I needed to budget very differently.
All this time I did not know what the right solution was. Not only did I feel a sense of obligation and responsibility to my new suppliers and partners, I had new obligations to upset customers which was so much worse.
Juggling the new exciting opportunities alongside the order chaos of my closing sale proved more challenging than I could have ever imagined, and our customer service was unprepared for the high level of inquiries, which naturally lead to complaints.
With no margin left due to the discounted prices, I faced tremendous pressure while trying to untangle the web of broken orders.
I ended up paying significant extra costs for postage and issuing refunds to customers who were understandably upset at the delivery time frames.
Living five hours away from my warehouse, I struggled to manage these issues physically which also made it difficult for me. I cannot compute situations well without observing the physical space. It is one of my more significant cognitive challenges.
Our customer service fell short of expectations, upsetting people and subsequently, my staff and myself.
Kat and our staff care deeply, and it's been tough to watch them battle to fulfill orders knowing they cannot provide the solutions customers want, despite trying their best.
Reading comments by customers online was very upsetting and at times very hurtful. There has also been a lot of confusion around my business generally, not just with outstanding orders. Customers have been upset at the significant changes to my business and I was not communicating in the right way.
If I could describe the past few months in anyway, I would say that I was "back in the ring". Just like Covid, waking up at 5.30, boxing gloves on, in the ring with all the to-do's and pressures flying at me all day until I collapse at midnight. My tenacity keeps me there, my focus thankfully enhanced with ADHD medication. But lately there have been lots more bruises than normal. I have been too tired to duck, too busy to see the next punch fly.
But in regards to hurtful comments online I need to own those. It doesn't mean I let them harm me, but I am ultimately responsible for them. I know the people in my midst are far from hurtful. Even the kindest people have a right to lose confidence and be angry when they pay for something that has not arrived.
I have always known that trust is so important when it comes to customer service, but I was fiercly reminded of it through this experience.
I have always been so proud of my team's ability to deal with complaints and resolve issues with ease, and it feels sickening to think that you have eroded that trust.
One of the dumbest things I did was close the clearance site when the stock was spent. When the clearance site closed, I didn't think that I was also shutting down those terms and conditions and expected delivery times, or for some people, even a contact email.
Through my haze of preparing for the "New Era" I was tied up in knots and could not provide my team with the help they needed. With so much to do and deal with I started to spiral into cognitive decline again, which only ever results in further mistakes.
All of these difficulties could have been managed differently, but I honestly did not know how to play out this transition. Hindsight is always useful to see where there were alternative approaches.
In the case of recent customer service chaos, the ordering sequence, the communication , the availability and transparency of the details of the biggest sale I have ever had could have been SO. MUCH. BETTER.
ADHD can create both beautiful creativity and boundless energy, but it can also lead to disorganization, time management challenges, and imbalance. If you know anyone who lives with ADHD they will relate to the crippling noise and hyperactivity - it is extremely tiring for everyone around you, including your customers.
I am exhausting. But I also caring, creative and kind. I also have enough self-awareness to know that regardless of my neurodiversity I am the only one who can control my behaviour and decisions.
I think this is true for anyone in business, Spectrum disorder or not.
There are many external factors which dictate how easy or hard things are, and as business owners it is easy to get mad and angry at these factors out of our control. It is also easy to blame delivery delays, the US exchange rate aginst the Australian Dollar, poor quality or being short-changed by a suppllier. Understandably, in a perfect world everything would go as planned. But ultimately as a business owner you need a safety net that puts your customers first, so when things get tough they are still comfortable. Without Customers, you have nothing.
And so I still don't have any concrete answers to any of it, but I do have some reflective actions that I think will appease the situation.
Rest assured, I am Owning it.
To Customers Affected by the Pre-Sale
It is my priority above all else right now to make sure my customers are comfortable and up to date with the status of their orders, and any other actions they can take.
For those who have been affected I have prepared information including a schedule that gives you a guide to the remaining deliveries HERE.
I have included my phone number and email that you can contact me on to discuss what is important to you.
With many apologies and deep thanks for your patience
The End of A Beautiful, Exhausting & Life-Changing Era
My Sustainability Journey
Sustainability is at the core of everything now. Environmentally, socially, morally. There is SO MUCH MORE to Sustainability than local production or organic fabric.
My biggest learning is that SUSTAINABILITY IS A JOURNEY, NOT AN END RESULT. Very few companies have it right, but we all need to begin somewhere.
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