Learned from: MZM Group writing project
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Dilemma in progress

Don't read the title wrong, this is not a post about the progress of/in a dilemma, this is will be about a dilemma we are (well, I am) facing in the ongoing "progress of our business" i.e. growing - taking us ever further.

Last Friday I had my monthly meeting with Richard C. (business consultant - and friend). And although I had told him not to bring more new ideas - the dust from the Exhibition has hardly settled, plus many other busy activities had to be done and dusted - of course Richard brought 'food for thought' with him. Not to implement straight away or next week; the only promise I had to make was to ponder about it.

And I have, pondered that is. And find myself facing a dilemma: diversify further or not to diversify further.
Some background first. We have two types of 'customers: GSI-ers (customers mostly in the East Kent area who Get Someone In - us - for both the supply and installation) and DIY-ers (supply only - all over the UK). At the moment it's roughly a 50/50 situation, but the number of DIY customers is growing. And that on its own is giving me a bit of a logistic headache already.

Both types of customers are 'served' in the same way: quality products, quality (free) advice and quality service and after care. The DIY-ers take up the least of time we have to spend with: first contact made through our websites, emails and/or phone calls are exchanged or visit to our showroom made, requirements discussed and order placed. (And then sometimes the logistic headache starts: not all products ordered come from the same manufacturer/supplier. If the customer lives in East Kent, not a problem, but more and more come from further afield - try 300  - 400 miles up North or up West!)

Because of these two facts: more DIY-ers and least time (read costs) spend Richard suggests to increase the effort on this group in a way that doesn't costs too much extra time or attract extra costs. He gave a really good visual picture of this:

Candle lit versus self-serviceImagine one building containing two restaurants: one 'self-service' and one 'candle lit diner'. Both restaurants are served by the same kitchen.

Meaning: same quality products; differently presented, differently served and hence different total price.

At the moment our 'restaurant' has candle lit tables, but the sign outside states: self-service possible.
All patrons come through the same door (showroom, websites, emails, phone) into the same 'candle lit place'. The diners are escorted to their table and full service is bestowed upon them; the 'self-servers' place their order at the 'bar' counter, wait at simple undressed tables and when their number is called collect their order (read: is delivered directly from supplier) or if the waiter is in their neighbourhood brought to their table to 'take-away' (read: delivered by us from our small storage facility).

The idea now is to take those few simple undressed tables out of the candle lit restaurant and place them and more in the dedicated 'self-service' area (I really like this visual picture!).
The signage has to be precise too, so no 'posh' diners end up by mistake in the self-service canteen or vice versa. Meaning in real life: different scripting for both types of customers on the websites. That's not really a problem, we already have two different domain names - why you can read in my novel - which now are very much integrated to portray to be only one website.
And our Mamut CRM-program already enables me to send out different scripted emails (half-automagically) to the different types of customers/prospects.

No, my dilemma is the logistic headache. Are we still too small to handle more DIY orders from all over the country? Do we turn our online showroom back into a online shop? If so, do we make all high quality products available online or just a selected few? How are we going to price small orders or combinations from different suppliers?

Back to the self-service restaurant: imagine coming in and choosing a 'set-meal'. Starter, main dish, desert and a drink on one tray. You take the tray from the display and walk to the check-out to pay. No problems.
Imagine choosing just a cup of soup. You still have to pay for that large tray it sits on. That's a problem.
Or imagine choosing a 'set-meal' but you ask for the normal coffee to be swapped for decaffeinated coffee. A cup of decaffeinated coffee is sitting right there on display, next to your 'set-meal'. But swapping something of a 'set-meal' costs extra, the counter person tells you.
That's a big problem.

I know the DIY area is a very wide (whole country) area and a growing area too. Specially our DIY-ers. They are not interested in the cheap and cheerful products of the normal DIY-sheds (B&Q, Wickes, Focus) or the cheap 'dedicated' retail outlets for floor covering (Floors2Go, ToppsTiles). Our DIY-ers want quality products, durable products, quality advice and quality service. They know the better quality they buy, the easier it is to install themselves (and hence saving fitting-costs, which enables them to buy the more expensive and higher quality products anyway).
And our existing experience already tells us that our DIY-customers are loyal customers - ambassadors even. And we do want to cater them better, simpler and more.

Hence my dilemma. How do I tackle this logistic headache, can I tackle - as small retailer without stock - this headache? Should I try with a few simple 'set-meals' first or should I set the 'tray' price higher to allow 'swapping' of the various dishes? (Where, another logistic headache, the soup could arrive after the desert!)

Anyone care to drop me 'pain-killer'? I welcome any 'medical' advice.


Stuart Baker

Hi Karin,

I tried to comment before. Here goes again.

Quite the dilemna you have! That is the trouble with being really good.

Maybe you have heard this before, but you can't figure this out in your mind.

I would ask you to go inside to your deepest heart. Sit down, close your eyes, take a deep breath, dip into your heart, and ask what really would make you happy in this matter in a way that serves the appropriate customers. That is the question I get, anyway. Give it quiet time, and see what comes up.

It might be helpful to make plus and minus lists beforehand, but you may not need to.

The issue as I see it is all about what is being discussed so much lately- What is it that really lights up for you and you can give the most fully???

You will know.

Take good care.

Stuart Baker

Karin H.

Hi Stuart

Thanks for your very kind words. Not sure if we are being really good, we try.

As for "you can't figure this out in your mind" you are so right. What did help me though was writing this 'dilemma' down on paper (well, blog). The essence of the dilemma came more to the forefront I felt.

Thoughts can be random sometimes - unfocused - where writing asks for precision and clarity. And from that comes new clarity too.

You're the second one to advice me to take some quiet time on this dilemma. I will, my friend.

Karin H.

Stuart Baker

Karin, you are so right about the process of writing. I am amazed at how much clarity can come from writing about lack of clarity!

I forgot to mention another step I have frequently used in my decision process.

I ask myself if I can picture NOT doing something. What does my gut tell me about NOT doing something? If the inner response is that I will have turned away from something that wanted to be in my life, I have an answer.

Maybe this is kind of a back-door way of approaching things, but for me and a couple of people close to me it is a good question.

Here is to your blessed journey...

Stuart Baker

Karin H.

Hi Stuart

That is one piece of brilliant advice (and not just for this occasion).

"I ask myself if I can picture NOT doing something."

I wouldn't call that a back-door approach, more a persistent knock on the front door!
Your right, I can't see us NOT doing this diversifying, so with a bit more quiet time I'm sure the solution will come knocking.
(And I already have a gut-feeling on how to circumvent some of the dilemma)

Thanks for your valued contribution, Stuart

Karin H.

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