The last seven weeks have been, well, how should I put it? Maybe challenging says it best.
I knew that when we moved our operations, we would run into some problems, but I/we had no idea what they might be. Hell, if we did know, we’d have fixed them beforehand, and no one would ever have known. As it was, we faced issues with computer systems that don’t want to play nicely together, employees who had to get familiar with a lot of new merchandise, suppliers who needed information and we had to organize and put away a huge amount of inventory.
To say that it has been challenging would be understating it on a grand scale. And since I write a lot for PipesandCigars, and go to all the pipe shows, as the most “public” figure, I took it upon myself to become the “point man” for our company. If I had only known then what I know now…
Right away, people were upset because we didn’t make an advance announcement about the acquisition. Honestly, we thought that it would be seamless enough that it wouldn’t really matter much, but for a number of reasons, that wasn’t the case. We weren’t trying to keep it a secret. In this, the Internet Era, nothing is a secret for very long. We just wanted to address it when we felt we could do so properly. No such luck.
For reasons that are unimportant here (but aggravating, nonetheless), on the very first day of moving operations, there was a firestorm on the forums, and I had to read everything and respond. I’m well aware, as a pipe smoker who deals with other pipe smokers every day, that people in this community don’t care much for change. That’s not an indictment, it’s a fact.
In addition to answering the comments, I had to coordinate with our people to let them know what the concerns were so we could minimize the impact (and damage) to our customers. Unfortunately, there were unforeseen hurdles that made the process slower than any of us had hoped, and we took a lot of hits, publicly, for what has happened.
A bit at a time, we’ve been getting our ducks in a row, and because we addressed the problems both directly with our customers and in the open air on the various forums, most people have been very gracious and patient, and for that I will be forever grateful.
Each day, I would come in and read emails from people with problems, check all the bulletin boards, take seven or eight Advil (just kidding) and respond. But it wasn’t enough to answer people. I had to see what the issues were and bring them to the departments that could resolve things, and then get back to folks with whatever information I could gather.
Things are coming together, and our inventory is growing by leaps and bounds, with pallet upon pallet arriving daily. The onslaught of negative feedback has slowed significantly enough that I can get back to getting more Hearth & Home tobaccos made.
Retrospectively, in looking at the posts on some of the forums, some of the criticism was pretty harsh, not that it wasn’t, at least to some degree, deserved. But many of you understood our difficulties and defended us, and that went a long way toward helping me relax during a rather trying period.
Other people have been overly complimentary about my efforts to get us back on track and to keep people informed. I’m certainly not doing this alone. We have a lot of good, dedicated folks here who are every bit as concerned about keeping our customers happy as I am. I’m flattered by the nice comments, but I don’t want to accept praise for what I’ve done, as I could have done more to avoid some of the problems to begin with, But, hindsight being 20/20, I should have seen some of it coming, and just didn’t put the pieces in place.
In any case, there’s no sense beating ourselves up about what’s past. What we’re going to do is concentrate on making things even better than before, and you’ll see the results of our plans a bit at a time going forward.
I just want, once again, to thank you for your patience and understanding. Now I could use a breather.