I spent some time with an old friend, Joseph, yesterday. We met at a restaurant between our two offices for lunch. The food was good and the conversation even better. I asked Joseph to catch me up on everything that has been going on; the last I’d heard he was taking over as CEO of a company that had just issued a recall for a defective product. Joseph was hired with the expectation that he would handle the whole thing and save the company. This defect had led to a few injuries, and although they were only minor, the previous CEO had resigned in disgrace. While this does not sound in any way like a job I would take at that particular point, I admired Joseph’s ability to walk straight into a problem and calmly lead the company out of a PR disaster. I asked him how he did it because I thought that my readers might appreciate it and possibly learn something new.
First, nice guy that he is, Joseph said that he had a good team around him. Everyone at the company was ready with suggestions and a positive attitude, which goes a long way toward showing a united front and actually solving the problem. After the company did some research, it turned out the defect didn’t actually come from the design or manufacture process; it was a problem with a specific part that they ordered from somewhere else. He pointed out that the key to winning the public back over was to own up to the mistake immediately. With a recall, there weren’t many places to hide, so he didn’t try. When the company contacted people to notify them of the recall, the notice explained exactly what was wrong. He also assured consumers that they would no longer do business with the company who made the faulty part and that they would now be making it in-house. With a clear solution in hand, consumer confidence was bolstered and they were able to recover.
It took a total of about two years to get the company back up to where they had been. Once that happened, he received an offer to work for another company, this time one who manufactures space heaters. The first thing he did when he got there was to bring the design team back to revisit their best-selling item, a bathroom heater. He asked them to review everything about it to make sure that it outmatched competitors in safety, features, and values. He focused most of the company’s media efforts on the relaunch of this new heater, marketing it as the best bathroom heater available. They made the design more appealing and sleek, added features like a timer to have it go on at a set time, and packed it with the most up-to-date safety features. They also revisited the price, and since the new heater was actually slightly smaller and lighter, it used less in plastic and cost less to ship. They lowered the price to pass these savings directly to the consumers. The strategy worked and sales increased.
I sincerely hope that Joseph has nothing but success from here on out and that you found it interesting to read about.