‘Keep in touch’, it's that simple!
I run a start-up* that has been built on 3 pillars
- Investors and well-wishers
We (Sirona Hygiene*) are known for disrupting the feminine hygiene / fem-tech industry in India, have created 10+ innovative products (and services), have raised money (Series B was $13.5 Million in a strategic round), have generated good returns for our investors, and have a great team (200+) including a serious 'pay it forward' division (Sirona Hygiene Foundation). For our work, we have won numerous prestigious awards and have been covered by the best publications, portals, and channels in the media world.
Having traveled some distance in this journey (0 to 1), I find it my duty to share my learnings with those who are starting now or are somewhere in the middle. This is one such learning.
One skill that is essential to success is — ‘Keeping in Touch’ with your 3 pillars. It sounds simple but is equally easy to get it wrong.
Some practices which we follow
- ‘Customer feedback is King’ philosophy
Customer Feedback is King- build a system that believes in customer as the penultimate well-wisher and hence listens without bias.
There will be days when customers are wrong too but the orientation has to be always around ‘its feedback, let’s listen and resolve’, assume the ‘feedback is genuine, solve the issue and then investigate’ and not the other way round. On an ongoing basis, fix systems and processes to a level where there are no gaps (and there are no repeated escalations on the same issue) but outward effort has to be always ‘pro-customer-feedback’.
You can do this by defining ‘customer-focused’ TATs and repeatedly reinforcing and ensuring that the whole organization is aligned to not let any complaint go by easily. Action has to be taken on each (how soon do we reply to any escalation/regularly seek feedback and track NPS/CSAT — not only customers but also of vendors/ observe how is the team talking or responding/develop a culture of empathy).
We do this at SIRONA and have seen amazing results.
Specific example — Thanks to this habit of listening to feedback & ‘keeping in touch’, we have ended up launching new products, fixing gaps in current ones, and even hiring many customers as team members/vendors (I have myself had the honor of converting Linkedin/Twitter feedback into core team members — meet Dr. Diksha / Sumbul — Sumbul wrote back to me about a few lines on our Menstrual Cup packaging which she didn’t like — we met and she joined as content head for us and helped revamp the content in the early days of Sirona)
2) Team Members
The backbone of any organization.
This is family, away from home. And hence, treatment has to be the same, of mutual respect and trust. You take decisions, keep them informed, and treat everyone fairly.
At Sirona, a practice which has helped us — Monthly Townhall — For the last 5 years, we have been doing monthly townhalls with a difference. Usually, operations and support teams are not there in sales review, in our case, each division (and all senior and junior members), sit through every presentation. This makes each member equally updated with progress, and they realize that they are an integral part of the team.
Examples — We have always taken everyone in confidence before each important milestone. For example — Funding. Since our angel round, we have always discussed each and every fundraise — investor profile — what it means for the company, how it helps us and every employee etc. This open culture has helped us with industry best retention and quashes rumor-mongering & feelings of insecurity.
3) Investors & Well Wishers (Could be Mentors / Friends in Media etc)
Keep in touch with all. Keep them updated on all good and bad news alike. The medium can vary but ‘keeping in touch directly’ is critical. Your core people, your well-wishers, your team — should hear it first from you!
- For Investors & Mentors — We have been sending regular email updates to all. Even now when most investors have taken a happy EXIT from Sirona, we keep in touch (Whatsapp / Emailers).
- Well Wishers & Friends in Media- I have a shameless spamming list, and well-wishers are a part of this. People get regular updates on our milestones (earlier used to be SMS, now Whatsapp). Helps in staying ‘Top of the Mind’.
This has opened numerous doors for us. I have been referred to team members, CSR funds, awards, and numerous other opportunities!
Specific example — I have observed that most people are willing to entertain my requests as it’s not ‘out of the blue / suddenly after 3 years comes a cold request’ — but something coming from someone who keeps in touch regularly. This has also helped me in opening doors for others including friends seeking a connection or companies where I have invested.
Just ‘Keep in touch’ and keep communicating!