Quality Crisis Management

Doing something better doesn’t always mean doing it faster.

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I was born a TYPE A person. I write this in bold because its characteristics dominated my adulthood for years. I was the kind of person who wanted things done right and done fast. The thing is, much of the time I couldn’t have both. When trouble came, I’d get angry and frustrated, alienating friends and employees alike, probably some customers too.

Thankfully, I learned a lesson early on about stepping back from a BIG PROBLEM rather than tackling it with a bad attitude and no plan.

About a year after opening my first store, we moved from its original location. We found a great space in a new strip mall on a busy street, one connecting two main shopping districts in our city. We worked hard, got the store open and decided to take a break, to go see my folks in Florida.

It’d been a crazy year, opening then moving our store. The store(s) I owned dealt exclusively in natural dog and cat foods, supplements and supplies. The bar was set high from the beginning. If a food, treat, supplement or other item did not meet our minimum criteria, I did not sell it, no matter what the current fad. It was a hard line to tow, but I followed the standards I set in the beginning.

There we were in Florida, our first vacation in quite some time, when I received a frantic call. I need to preface this by saying when I take a vacation, it’s from nearly everything, including the news.

I was shocked when one of my employees called to tell me there had been a huge pet food recall due to tainted food from China; dogs and cats were dead; it was tragic. No one at the time had all the facts or even knew which foods were affected.

This was my test, my first BIG PROBLEM. My initial thought was, “Cut the vacation short! I need to get back to the store!!” My husband’s cooler head prevailed. We continued on in Florida while I sent emails to my dog food reps, distributors, etc.

It took more than a week to find we had no items in our store affected by the recall, because our standards had been set high to begin with. Had I immediately run back home I would have jumped in with both feet, made some rash decisions and created some serious crazy in my store.

By standing back from the crisis, I saw things from a much different perspective. It slowed me down so I could think before reacting.

Within a year or so, more dog food recalls were reported. It was an unfortunate reality I dealt with several times, along with buyouts of high-quality, family-owned natural pet food manufacturers by Purina, Procter and Gamble and others.

Since I learned early not jump the gun when a crisis hit (most of the aforementioned buyouts weren’t disclosed to retailers until the deals were completed, constituting a crisis), I, with the help of a fabulous staff, instead developed a transition plan each time we had to drop a food we carried because it no longer met our minimum criteria.

We informed our customers over a period of usually two to three months, giving them time to adjust to the change. During this time I found new and better foods and treats to replace those we lost.

It was always a gain for us in the end. We kept our high standards while reaffirming the trust we’d built with our customers. I’m thankful I learned early that doing something better doesn’t always mean doing it faster.

Robin Aldrich is the author of Bootstrapped! Creating a Small Business on a Budget. Robin founded the Boomerang Business Project in 2015 to help other small businesses thrive through personal and professional development.

For more info, please visit Robin’s website!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my work. I wish you a blessed and prosperous day! ~ R.

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