Slightly off track…

I know I was explaining our journey into developing a new product and trying to sell to retailers etc. However I am just having one of those days where we really seem to be getting just about nowhere…

Just had an email back from Paperchase who where, to be honest, the quickest in shooting us down even if it was from the assistant buyers assistants assistant.  This can only be a good thing, as the rest just have our hopes building and mounting for months on end! The rest of the Retail Stationery Industry spends so much time in ‘Meetings’ I am actually amazed they get anything done! Its a wonder how new products are ever brought to market when they struggle to email you back after 5 weeks.

A yes would be great, but even a no would be a positive thing, at least then we would be able to move on and take a new direction rather than feeling as if we are rowing a boat north, south, east and west all at the same time only to be interrupted by colossal waves at the very moment we actually seem to be heading somewhere!

I understand that the people we deal with have high powered jobs, and that they are very busy, that they struggle to have their dinner before the end of the day. However from the little mans point of view, this lake just turned into the Atlantic and the sharks are choosing to attack each other. I used to think I was a small fish in a big ocean… but I realise now that I am a lonely plankter aimlessly wondering and the sharks don’t even care if I do or don’t exist…

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.”~ Thomas Alva Edison

When is work personal? Redundancy maybe?

So, beginning the procedure was not easy; consultations, letters, phone calls, all with people who for the vast majority I had grown up with, some who had been there every time I came to visit my Daddy at the office, all who had made a fuss over me, bought me birthday cards and made me feel completely accepted into the company when joining in April. My heart saying lets carry on, lets see how we go, my head saying do this now before it is too late.

Looking back I could not have done it any other way, it had to be then. I know I did everything right and I made sure at every stage we consulted each employee, probably too much to be honest. But if I have learned anything, it would be always over consult! Over 80% of redundancy cases stem from the employee feeling that they were not consulted enough about the decision.

It may take longer but as we had no budget for legal advice other than the FSB (Federation for Small Businesses) we needed to get it right, a case for unfair redundancy would have potentially finished us.

And so after 3 staff meetings and 2 individual consultations with each employee, we began the selection process. I decided to let the employees know via letter, which would arrive on a Saturday so they would not have to come into work.

We only had to make three redundancies, I could not imagine that kind of turmoil on a large scale. Two out of the three took the selection as it was intended, fairly, based on attendance, punctuality, responsibilities, and qualifications. One took it as though it was totally personal and gave me a bit of a hard time about it. I understood it completely, I know I would be angry too, so all I could do was stay calm, agree and try and aid their acceptance about what was happening. I don’t think we ever quite got there, they left ‘sick’ and never returned, in good faith we still gave them all of their redundancy and holiday pay. We didn’t want it to end like that, but I suppose it just got too personal…

“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” ~Robert McCloskey 

Onwards and Upwards!

So I began calling all of our contacts, sending more and more emails, new mail shots, I even started putting an emphasis on Facebook and Twitter, but still no bites. We began organising a new trade show, one which would target a more specific market. If our experience with the NHS had taught us anything it was that, buyers do not want to buy, once the consumer makes a need and want known, buyers have to buy! We had only met the buyers at the Stationery Show, no one who would really use our product had actually seen it yet.

We began organising the Office* show, this would target PA and general office workers who use products like ours everyday, frequently! This was my first opertunity to really get my teeth into orgnaising an event and all that goes with it.

So with only google as my guide I began; booking hotels, finding parking spaces, buying promotional products, making samples and organising stand design.  I  am certain that my obsession with organisation from my teaching days really helped me here. Working alongside my Dad, the most disorganised man in the universe, (that’s not even an exaggeration, his desk resembles a land fill…) I needed my slightly irritating organisation obsession. I really enjoyed the organisation process, I got to use all my favourite things like filing, colour coding, post-it notes, journals, even shopping in the good parts! An as weak as I am in other business areas, I actually think I did a good job with this. I had found something that enthused me, made me really want to get up in the morning and make that drive to work.

Then the sales stopped completely, no more long term contracts, no small orders on a weekly basis, no leads from the show. Struggling to make a profit I had to turn away from the fun and fast paced work I had been doing and turn to learning about redundancy procedures. And so after a visit to the library I found my life changed from the happy go lucky role I was enjoying to possibly the grimmest role in the factory. Some one needed to learned what to do, and to make some tough decisions, and I knew my Dad didn’t have time, so I raised my hand.

A wise person decides slowly but abides by these decisions.~ 
Arthur Ashe 

When we started April 2011

In April 2011 I left teaching to join my Dad, we started with a trade fair in London called The Stationery Show. It was great and I actually loved it! We had good feedback from the buyers and for our first trade show I think we did quite well. We had lots of interest, we met lots of great contacts, and we even managed to get advice on how to improve our product from some of the industry buyers.

( I suppose I better mention what it is we are trying to sell , it’s not a major part in my blog so I’ll keep it brief, it is called the Expansion File, it basically replaces lever arch and ring binder files as it can do what they do easily! My Dad designed it and we have just got a patent on it. I find it physically difficult to say it but my Dad was actually right about this, it works and it’s a good product… he is apparently always right but I beg to differ!)

However once we had returned from the show we found the phones quiet, emails ignored, and worst of all our confidence hit.

Then we got thinking, whilst at the show I remembered one gentleman approaching our stand, he loved the files, and thought they were a fantastic idea, ‘Where do you buy them from?’ he asked, ‘We are the manufacturer’, my Dad replied and before my Dad could elaborate the man stated, ‘Oh well in that case I’m not interested, I don’t buy from the UK’. Stunned by his attitude towards us as a British manufacturer I was concerned about what others at the show may think, and after a look around the rest of the show I found that we were probably one of,  if not the only British Manufacturer in there!

Our prices were not extortionate, and our product didn’t need to be bought from abroad, I was happy that we were a British Company that uses British suppliers and materials. I think it’s actually something I’m proud of.

Onwards and upwards I thought, let’s start contacting them all AGAIN and let’s get back in touch with the NHS too, try and sell more than our new product, let’s tell them about the other things we do too! And so leaving my teacher training behind me I ventured even further into the unknown.

 “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.”
– Muhammad Ali

The Start

As someone completely new to blogging I am not sure where to start, but here it goes anyway…

I work for Oak Filing, it’s a small family company based in Wigan (not the most glamorous place but home is home), and this financial downturn is doing us no favours to say the least. I am the daughter of the family and have hopped alongside my Dad to try to launch a new product in an attempt to get us through the gloomy credit crunch which is currently chewing away at our profits like a hungry Rottweiler, and what’s even more worrying is that it’s showing no signs of getting full!

Seeing as my Dad has always worked with hospitals and I am a primary school teacher by trade reaching retailers is proving not only difficult but currently impossible! I thought that maybe if I started this blog I could share this experience as there isn’t really much out there in the way of advice on this kind of thing, (unless you want to pay for it) so maybe you could benefit from my mistakes, someone should! Also I thought I could get some input from you…

Our journey started about 5 months ago…

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step~Lao Tzu quotes