How do companies make it through gut-wrenching industry and technological change without going under?
I do my best to wish every TMC a team member a Happy TMC Anniversary and as such the start date of all of our full-time members are in my calendar so I can be the one to send them this greeting (If I forgot you in the past - please accept my apologies). Last week I noticed that it was the anniversary of Nadji Tehrani, the company Founder & Chairman, my father and the person who decided to start this company in 1972. Funny, I never noticed his start date on my calendar before - and it occurred to me that this was TMC's 38-year anniversary.
Wow! Has it been that long?
And as I reminisced about the past decades I thought it would be instructive to go over the lessons we learned which kept us alive as markets and industries changed. I have also added in some of my personal philosophies as I feel these are interrelated in keeping our company and perhaps yours successful.
The Customer is First
I am thankful that the TMC team has always been the most customer-friendly of any company we compete with based on comments we regularly receive from customers. We are far from perfect and we are constantly trying to improve but to make it at TMC you need to put the customer first. And by the way, customer should refer to other team-members - showing respect, courtesy and care for those people you work with and our end customers is what has allowed us to survive and thrive when the going gets tough.
Take nothing for granted
The list of competitors TMC has had these past decades is incredible. Oftentimes we competed against companies which were considered impervious to competition. In the nineties we had a competitor who had a massive trade show in Los Angeles which companies in the industry told me we could never compete with.
At the beginning of this decade there was a very large trade show which we were told we could never compete with. Both of the referenced shows are now gone as is COMDEX, Supercomm, CEBIT America and many dozens of others.
If you are on top today - consider yourself lucky - it is not a right or a gift. A new technology will wipe you out overnight if you are not aware of the changing business landscape.
14 years ago I was approached by someone who worked for a competitor and he told me something stunning. "We know there is no way TMC can compete with us because they are too slow." Sh&%$T, he was right I thought. I didn't sleep that night - I came up with ways of transforming our company so we can become not only faster but fastest. Within the next few years, we performed a slew of market-changing announcements and strategies that I found out later left our competition in the dust.
At one point in our past we were alerted to the fact that a competitor was going to launch a new product which we too were about to launch. We further knew we had a few weeks to saturate the universe with our product and message because the decision-maker for the opposing company decided to take two-weeks off.
When this person got back from vacation, they decided they were too late and cancelled their product launch shortly thereafter.
If you aren't failing regularly you are doing something very wrong. Launch, launch, launch and learn from your mistakes and be quick to change strategy. Streamline the launch process so it costs as little as possible. Use brand extensions to test new techniques and business models... Yes, use your core and successful businesses to test new ideas and concepts.
The world is filled with opportunity - how do you know you are doing your part to take advantage of them all? The only way to know for sure is a track record of not only success but failures that in some cases became successes as well.
If you don't have passion for what you do, why do it? Life is too short. Technology has changed the way our business works - before the Internet, a great artistic design or article would be read by a predefined amount of people. With the advent of the web, the best content is spread virally and as such you can get instant feedback on your work via search engine rankings, referred traffic, comments and more. In other words, the Net allows us to entertain the most innate passion in all of us - the need for recognition and positive reinforcement. If you don't agree then you explain the success of blogs, Twitter and Facebook.
The world is getting more competitive and with few exceptions, every industry is a target for intense competition. In just over a decade technology has helped wipe out photo processing stores, florists, retail stores, catalogers and more.
Profit margins are being and will continue to be squeezed thanks to the Internet.
Every year I find myself working harder and the companies who don't keep up are generally liquidated and the employees are left scrambling looking for new jobs with little notice.
Obviously hard work alone won't cut it - you can row as hard as you like but if your rudder is not pointing in the right direction, you are destined to crash and burn. Be sure your company is doing all of the above and if needed, be the change agent to make these ideas a reality. If you do, you will likely be rewarded. If not, perhaps you are on the wrong boat - I mean team.
I asked our founder Nadji, why he started this company and he went over the last 35+ years in a few minutes. Perhaps the quote which moved me most was the following, "We wanted to be first and better than anybody else."
Quite often, passion and enthusiasm disseminated from the top is the equivalent of hitting a tuning fork hard on a desk. Just as the vibrations feel as if they are more powerful as they descend down the fork, passion and enthusiasm spread throughout an organization can be even more powerful than the initial jolt of energy a company's founder injects into a team.
A passion for serving our customers well - being accessible, listening to constructive criticism and treating each other with courtesy and respect are a few of the reasons I believe we have made it through countless wars, bubbles and other business challenges.
Then there is that last concept which I believe almost all companies need to more effectively communicate - gratitude. And on that note, thanks to the TMC readers, sponsors, advertisers, partners, conference attendees, vendors and team members who have helped us achieve this milestone.