When To Launch
June is a special month for my Company, 21st June to be exact, it is the day we commenced production in 1996. Our factory was finally ready in March 1996. However we were unable to start as there was a power cut. We watched helplessly as the peak season rolled by and we twiddled our thumbs. Finally, with the rains came the electricity and believe me we cursed all and sundry for the lost opportunity.
The next three months were hard, but by the end of August we were singing a different tune. We no longer believed that we had lost an opportunity. Rather we believed we were fortunate that because of the delay we were forced to launch during the off season.
Our rejection rate in those early months was close to 28%. Power failure accounted for 90%. This was easily rectified with the addition of a generator. The balance, attributed to employee training. Training took a longer time as everyone had to understand the technology in a factory situation. The theory seemed so simple.
I can only imagine the situation had we launched during the peak season. Far from capturing the market we would have cut a sorry figure with delayed deliveries and shoddy service. This would have irritated our new found dealers and direct customers. It is said that, it costs ten times more to add a new customer than to retain one. Surely we learned our lesson, but were spared the hard way.
Yet launching at the start of a new 'season' is the flavour of the day decision. Just check out the advertisements launching new restaurants at the start of every season in Goa, then check out how many were still around in the next season. Also look for restaurants which start pre season and usually they are around until the next season starts.
If you have watched kids play with body boards in the surf, you will notice it is the ones who struggle with little waves, who finally get far enough and catch the big wave for a ride back to the beach. A big ride means lots of spills initially on the way out. After some trial and errors, the kid figures it out and he rides back easily with every outing.
With a pre season or lean period launch you can address the bugs in your system; the falls will be small and can be managed. A supplier may need to be changed because his material is substandard and since you are doing things at a slower pace you can catch the defect.
Maybe, I am old fashioned and my idea of slow and steady might seem like a plodding strategy. For those who wish to hit the ground running, I would recommend lots of dry runs to fine tune delivery strategy and remove system bugs. In addition, the team must be in place for at least 2-3 months before launch date so that they develop an understanding among each other. This would pre-empt but not close out all interpersonal issues which eventually plays a huge role in the eventual success. Last but not the least the boss must be free to look at customer issues immediately and close them to the customer’s satisfaction.
I know of an incident where a customer at a new upscale restaurant in Panaji was dissatisfied with the service levels. However once the owner who was not present, got to know, he not only apologised but reassured the customer of meeting his standards the next time and door delivered a free order to make up. Imagine if you were the customer, I am sure you would have been delighted.
Compare this to another swanky restaurant in the back of beyond in Verna. It was a weekday and the place was full. Customers waited for their orders, comments were being exchanged across tables. The owner who was present at the the time coolly sipped his drink behind the bar and looked the other way. So you could take a guess as to who would be around longer.
At the end of the day, a launch is important but so is handling the frontal end after launch.