Sometime your successful product, dictates your company name. ALPHABET is an example


Google recent restructuring of the company with a parent company called “Alphabet”, shows it’s really hard to get your company name correct in lot of instances, or sometimes your successful product will dictate the future name.

Technically speaking, Google could have continued using their existing name, but we can see the problems they are getting into.

People mostly associate the term Google to web search, yes Google got a lot of other products like photos, mail, calendar, self-driving cars, etc. But when people say Google it’s all about search. This heavily restricts the company from exploring or introducing new products/offerings in a smooth way.

One option Google could have taken is naming the parent company as Google, and JUST introduce a new name for search ex: Alphabet could have been just for search. But this would have resulted in such a big risk for the company, after all it took so long for the company to make “Google it..” as verb simply meaning “Search for it”. I can’t think of people saying “Alphabet it..”.

This change will also help Google to run each independent products in a very agile way, and make each one of them accountable. This will also help them to acquire or invest in companies/technologies that are not really connected to their core business of search. Example: Nest, Project Wing (drones). I’m expecting “T” for twitter soon. 

Finally, this is my speculation. Every company get’s into some resource war and do whatever it takes to preserve its core employees. They might have reached a point to step up “Sundar Pichai” before losing him.  Sergey and Larry are too young to step down or move away from their baby. The only option for them to do it in a smooth way is to make Sundar Pichai CEO of Google and create an entity bigger than that oversee the full operations. 

Some companies like Microsoft has done extremely well in this area, as it’s very clear the company produces bunch of software and products like Windows, Office, Xbox, Surface etc

Some companies like Google need to do it in a hard way, but it’s inevitable to do it keeping long-term benefits in mind.

What I’ve learned about software pricing, in the process of buying a new car

Few weeks ago we decided to replace our current car, and we started the hunt. With the amount of models available and a number of options, you can customize on each model it’s never going to be easy to decide on what you want. A car purchase is going to be the second biggest purchase you are going to make after your house, so it’s important you understand as much as you can and make sure what you are buying.

As part of the process, I understood a great deal on car pricing, certain tactics they use to upsell the model, how they make you realise the value of certain things etc.

One of the problems with software and it’s features is, it’s not a tangible asset similar to the car and it’s features. In a car things are tangible, in certain cases you can visualize it (exclusive paintwork) and in certain cases you can feel it (quality of interiors). Whereas in the software it’s black box, it’s difficult to showcase the value proposition. But I think you should treat both more or less the same.

Here are few high-level things I observed and how it can be related to pricing your software, especially if you are in a SaaS business. I’m going to continue the article based on BMW X6

Never bundle everything into one pack

The number one lesson I’ve learned is never bundle everything under one price tag. There is always a base price of the car and the price goes up based on the features you add. 


This may sound obvious, but as software producer you may be making this mistake of having a single price for the product that contains everything. Certainly we at BizTalk360 are doing it. We have one flat pricing for the entire product (with about 60 features). We have multiple pricing tiers like bronze, silver, gold and platinum, but the level goes up based on customer environment complexity like number of servers and number of deployed applications not based on the features but all the customers get all the features.

The reason we priced it this way is to avoid confusing the customers, in one price they get everything. The problem with bundling all the features under same pricing is, certain features doesn’t get the respect they deserve.  Ex: We have something called throttling analyser an advanced feature with great level of technical complexity, if a customer get’s it for free (as part of the overall bundle), they are never going to appreciate it.

Having a single price for all features may be viable at early stages of the product, but once the software get’s matured, you should certainly think about restructuring your pricing based on the features.

If you don’t restructure your pricing based on features, it will be difficult to add new features to the product, you cannot justify the investment ( 2-6 months development/QA time) in building anything new. Adding new features not only involves initial investment, it also means supporting that features for all of your existing customer base.

There is also an another challenge, some of your customer might think they are overpaying. You might have 60+ features in the product, but a segment of your customer might have bought the product for only some 3-5 core features they are going to use. For those customers, it’s always in their mind they are overpaying for your software. Even though from a software creator perspective it’s good value for money, but from the customer point of view they are paying for features they don’t need.

The above point might also make selling your software harder in certain situations and may end up customers either not buying your product (they might think your product is too complex) or choosing some alternate light weight product in the market.

The concepts are nothing new here, the majority of the SaaS based companies get it correct, they call it value-based pricing.

Package options together

When you have lots of features in the product it’s going to confuse customers, no doubt about it. No one has time and energy to go through all little features. Packaging  (of course with a name) helps to group certain features together.

imageExample: In BMW world M-Sport package is a popular one, that automatically adds a bunch of items like Xenon headlights, sports seats, M-Body trim, exhausts, etc. In a similar way, they have entertainment pack, cold weather pack etc which all adds a bunch of items and makes life easy for the customer to add them.

You can apply the same concept to your software, instead of having a long list of 60+ features available in the software and having multiple pricing tiers with bunch of them scattered here and there, create a well-defined easy to understand packages. Example: In our case we could have created Security pack, Monitoring pack, Productivity tools etc, underneath each one of the bundle you can have the bunch of features.

Make certain things exclusive

This is another important lesson I’ve learned, make certain things exclusive and available only to certain levels. Example: BMW comes with few model variants like SE, M-sport, M etc, each level comes with some level of exclusivity. You cannot pay extra and get those features on lower tiers (not all of them), this forces customers to go for the higher tier, if you love certain features. This is a clear upselling technique you can learn from them.

Example: You may think exhausts are basic things in a vehicle, but BMW created a style variant in the exhaust between their models, which forces customer to go for higher tier if they really like certain things.  As you can see from the below pictures, the M-Sport trim comes with nice stylish square exhaust (+ few more similar little touches)

Regular SE model exhausts


M-Sport model exhausts


You can apply the same technique when it comes to your software, make certain things not available for lower tiers. Some parts you can make it as add-on options, but certain things you can definitely make it exclusive.

Example: In our case, we could have made certain things like EDI parties/agreements configuration, certain dashboards, certain productivity tools available only at higher tiers.

Make customers realise value of specific feature

One of the thing that really surprised me is how they make you realise the value of certain features. ex: Reverse assist camera is charged at £312, in the grand scheme of things, a car at £55k base price, this amount sounds negligible, but they don’t pack it as part of the car.  In a similar way, Audi hill hold assist, which helps the car from rolling backwards in the slopes is an option at £60!! Features like these which you can think of them as basics and should be part of the car are listed as optional extras. This just makes the customer realise the value of them, and make them appreciate more by paying extra for them.

You can do similar stuff in your software, as a technical person certain things may be pretty easy to implement or technically not challenging, but if you look at it from an end customer perspective, it might add huge value to them. That particular little thing may be the reason they need your software, so don’t just hide them into one overall package, make sure it’s visible by adding appropriate $ value.

Give the option for customers to go premium

At the top end of the tier is the exclusive club, where you go for some crazy items the regular public will not look for. But there will be customer who expects these kind of things and level of exclusivity. Example: Extravagance interior design package.


In software term this might differ from industry to industry, may be having a mobile/tablet application is exclusive, or storage over 1tb is available only to exclusive customers, data retention over 1 year is available only to exclusive customers etc 

Value added services

Finally don’t forget the bunch of valued added services you can add to your product. In the car case, that includes 3 years protection for your paintwork, 5 years protection for your tyres, 5 years parts and service cover, finance options, insurance options etc.

This is nothing new, but make it  separate from your regular product price. In software case, it might be things like dedicated account manager, software assurance package, initial training and configuration help etc.  Some people might take it, some people might not. But don’t leave the business opportunity.


The biggest lesson from the process is start with the base, allow customers to choose what they want, make them realise the value of things you have build, make them exclusive, don’t leave any money on the table by under valuing certain features, or not covering certain segment of the customer base like exclusivity, valued added services etc.

Understand who is your real Competitor

Understand who is your real Competitor

Every single business is susceptible to competition. In fact if there is no competition, then you can safely assume there is no real business. If someone is not trying to copy your idea, it’s better you fail fast and go and figure out something else.

Competition is something you don’t need to be scared of, it’s healthy in so many ways. There is a famous saying if Pepsi is not there, Coca Cola probably would have invented something similar. People always need a reference point, before they commit to buy something. They want something to compare against, to validate the pros and cons before they make up their mind. If you are a lonely warrior in your business area, you probably will have uphill struggle selling your product or service.

You also need to understand however good your product or service is, you are never going to have 100% of the market share. There will always be a vertical or horizontal split your product could cater for, example you are targeting medium sized business, or cost advantage, location advantage etc

Once you understand there will always be some competition, next thing is figuring out where your competitors are? It’s very easy to simply overlook or assume the guy who keeps you busy at Twitter, LinkedIn and other social channels and constantly bump across you in common industry conferences and speaking to the common partners as your main competitor. They may be your competitor (direct) at the face of it, but your real competitor may be somewhere else.

I’ll give you a practical example from our own product BizTalk360, a operations and monitoring solution for Microsoft BizTalk Server. There are few competing products in the market, not exactly like for like, but they can easily confuse customers (remember, customers do not have all the time in the world to evaluate all the available products). There may be few instances where you lose potential customers to these competition, probably due to market segmentation or due to geographical preference. But I believe the real competition is somewhere else.

Recently I was chatting to a close friend of mine who does consulting work in the same area. I asked him this questions “why he was not able to sell our product in the past 3 years to his customers” and his reply was “most of my customers are cost aware, they don’t want to spend so I just create some custom applications to monitor basic things…” there are 1000’s of similar consultants out there who could all be your potential competitors (indirectly, may be unintentional) and silently killing your growth. In this case if my friend insisted to the customer “you must buy this product…it’s more cost effective and more richer solution…”, it’s very likely the customer would have bought the product.

The other scenario I’ve witnessed is from consulting firms. On the face of it there is no competition between a company who sells product and a company who sells services. The good ones will understands the value proposition of the product, put their customer interest first, recommend your product and become your close friend/partner. Recently we were trying to sign a contract with a consulting firm to become our partner. This partner was trying to negotiate an unreasonable sales incentive in order to recommend our product, the reason they gave just blown my mind “our customer have problems your product will solve, when there is a problem they call us to fix, for which we charge. If we recommend your product, then we lose that revenue, to compensate that we need xx%”.

Now you can spot another set of indirect competition from 100’s of such companies potentially blocking your growth. In this case the ideal scenario for that consulting firm will be recommend the right product to the customer, become a good citizen, earn the trust and get more business out of that customer. It’s your responsibility to explain the value proposition and win over such consulting firms.

Sometimes you also need to keep an eye on products that do not do exactly what you do, but can cover portion of what you are offering. In our case there are bigger enterprise monitoring solutions, that can monitor pretty much anything in your organisation, but has limited scope for Microsoft BizTalk (in some cases it’s for name shake) . If the potential customers are already using one of those products, it’s going to be a challenge to convince and win over them.

As a summary, do not get too carried away looking at just your direct competitors, be vigilant and do your research to understand the potential threats from different angles. In my opinion the competition from indirect sources are way bigger than your direct ones. The direct ones are easy to predict, understanding the value proposition and defend, but the indirect ones are mostly out of your control and requires deep planning to over come.

Becoming a victim of identity theft

Becoming a victim of identify theft

Me and my wife became victims of identity theft/fraud recently. It could be scary experience for anyone in this situation,  here are some of the events that happened and damage limitation steps we have taken.

I received a call from one of the bank saying they received an application to open a current account and in the same time they received a request for a credit card application and it raised a security trigger in their system. They asked me to confirm whether I’ve applied for them, I replied back saying I haven’t, that’s the first instance I been informed, your identity could have been stolen, someone used your details to apply for bank account and credit card.

Now this is where the panic moment starts, because you really don’t know the potential of the damage, from this point you can only take precautionary measures.

I had an experian account for a long time which I never used, I glanced through the email and I can see clearly they reported an alert 7 days ago there is a credit search on my record. I logged into the system and can see on the report 4 searches been made in the past 7 days from different financial organisations, 2 of them are from the bank who called me earlier and 2 unknown.

I returned home that evening and was casually saying this to my wife, only then she highlighted she had received 2 new credit cards in here name in the last 2 days and she was about to ask me whether I applied for it. At this point I started to sense, the situation is getting worst. It’s not just my details, my wife’s details is also compromised. I asked her to contact both the credit card companies and inform them about the situation. They blocked those cards immediately.

That evening I made few research on things you should do, when you become a victim of identity fraud, since the implication could be very bad. It simply means someone can impersonate your identity and can do whatever they want including crime, apply for a telephone contract and call premium numbers, get hold of credit cards, bank accounts with over drafts and max out the balance, the bill of course will come to your address. Luckily these situations are pretty common and UK government spend over £3 billion a year on counter attacking identity theft. During the whole process I realised all the financial organisations are fully aware and have matured processes in place to counter attach this and they will work together.

Here are the important points, steps you should do

1. If you have an credit check account like Experian, Equifax or CreditCheck you contact them immediately, they provide a free victims of fraud service for anyone who has had their personal details used fraudulently. We have gone through all the recent credit checks and confirmed which one is genuine and which one is fraud.

2. Get in touch with Action Fraud it’s a UK government National Fraud and Cyber Crime reporting centre, they will record the case after getting all the details and give you a reference number. This is very important for you to defend against any financial loss.

3. Get in touch with CIFAX and inform them about the situation, they maintain the database of all confirmed fraud and they will put an alert against your name so the lenders will become bit more vigilant. They charge £20/year for one-off admin charges. Make a note of the case number they provide.

4. Also make sure if you have received anything in post you are suspicious about, things like new credit cards, bank account opening etc you contact relevant organisations and inform them about the situation.

You will need to follow the procedures separately for each individual, in my case me and my wife, since personal details are not related sometimes.

We still don’t know what could be the potential reason, but I suspect the recent mortgage application we submitted. We went through a broker who could have submitted the details to multiple brokers to get the best quote, but we can’t say for sure.

This is all we can do at this point and we really don’t know the actual impact, it may take months before things can become normal.

Experience attending "The Goa Project"

Beginning this year I’ve already planned for my trip to India in February to meet our Indian team and to meet up few people in Microsoft IDC at Hyderabad. The trip was planned for about 3 weeks. Being a citizen of Indian origin and having setup an office now in India, I was very curious to learn and understand what’s going on in the Indian Start-up/Entrepreneurial  community. The only way (or may the fastest way) for me to get to know this is by attending an event where I can see lot of those companies, entrepreneurs and like minded people at one place. I was doing some research and came across “The Goa Project” via twitter, since it’s only two day event, close to the weekend I decided to attend.

“The Goa Project” is basically not a typical start-up/entrepreneurs conference, they call it “Unconference” meaning it consist of diverse tracks across various fields. You end up meeting people from various backgrounds like music, social, technology, etc. The event is organised by volunteers who have passion and interest in various areas.

One of those great things about events like this is, you’ll be amazed how you end up meeting some of the people, whom you would have never met (or would not have a chance to meet). This is not the first time it happened to me,  I had couple of incidents that just blown my mind away in this event as well.

Meeting Pawan Kumar/Siddhartha Nuni

On the second day of the event, I went to the breakfast area around 9am, there were few people hanging out here and there and enjoying their breakfast with nice view of Goa sea view/mountain. There were 3 guys sitting on a table finished their breakfast and having their coffee, I just joined them. We all got introduced. Both these guys (Pawan/Siddhartha) introduced themselves and  mentioned they are doing something in the media industry. The third person introduced himself as Ravi Gururaj. I know little at that time about these guys. We were chatting for about 30 mins, and I realised Pawan is going to do one of the keynotes that morning. We discussed lot of stuff about Apple, Google, entrepreneurial scene/improvements in India, Pawan/Siddhartha explaining about some of corruptions in media industry, challenges around distribution to single view/multiplex cinemas, etc., etc.

Once Pawan started his presentation about “Lucia” the first crowd funded Kanada (Indian language) movie, and started going through his slides I came to know Pawan is the film director and Siddhartha is the cinematographer of the movie. After few slides it became very clear what a disruption he has created on the general movie industry in India and his vision of connecting the audience with the film makers directly and more importantly how he executed it successfully. He looked at the real problem, simplified it and connected both parties (audience/film maker) together. The logic is simple, everyone got their own taste, and you’ll have lot of like minded people across the globe, as a film maker (similar to start-up founder) you pitch for the idea and if the audience (investor(s)) is happy they fund (crowd fund) the project.

The most amazing part for me is, first he managed to get the 5 million Indian rupees he needed for the project in some 27 days and the whole process of transparency, how he engaged with the audience in every part of the process using the power of social media (youtube and facebook) ex: Designing the poster, creating a brand t-shirt design, using the same audience for group shots, asking for various resources in crowd sourced way (two wheeler, car, house, flat, etc). Even though the project was finished within Rs. 5 million budget, if you have paid for all the crowd funded items, the end budget would have been 10x higher.

It’s was a great inspiration and shows how you can clearly think outside the box. Later I went to both of them to congratulate and took couple of snaps. 

Pawan Kumar - Lucia Siddhartha Nuni - Lucia

Meeting Girish Mathrubootham

Girish is the founder of Freshdesk a customer support product company based out of Chennai, India. I knew Girish via online medium for a long time. I have never exchanged any conversations with him in the past, but I’m one of the vivid followers of his activities as an Entrepreneur. I didn’t know he is coming to the event, when I saw him in the event I was bit surprised and we connected instantly.

I had pretty much spend my entire time during the conference with Girish and couple more people. I personally feel what Girish and Freshdesk has done to the Indian startup ecosystem is immense. Indian software industry is always projected as service based market for cheap work force. There is always complains about the quality of product/service you get from India. The only way you can change that image and prove to the outside world, we are ready for the international market is not by speaking but by delivering something like Freshdesk. There are two things, at one end you may be doing amazing work quietly and disrupting an industry, but on the other end being vocal and visible in the community and exposing what you have done to the outside world is very important in developing countries like India. I feel that’s exactly what Girish has done it, inspiring lot of young talents and showing them you can fight with rest of the world. 

General Takeaways

The above two scenarios are just traces of big picture, there were lot of small exciting things happened through out the conference. Another small example: I met an interesting young chap called Kevin William David (yes he got 3 first names), during our conversation he just spilled such a powerful tip, how he make sure his important emails are read by his key contacts. He basically watch out for his contacts online activities like, for example if they tweet or make a facebook update, that just confirms they are online and he immediately  sends that important email. His theory is when you are online it’s more likely you will read the email and it worked for him many times.

I’ve met lot of great people with great leadership qualities. One of the key aspect you’ll notice with all these great guys is, they pretty much give away (share) all their knowledge. They are not afraid of sharing their secrets, which they might have learned the hard way. 

As Jim Collins mentioned in his book “Good to Great” about Level 5 leaders

Level 5 leaders are a study of duality: modest and wilful, humble and fearless. It wasn’t just false modesty, good-to-great leaders continually used words like quite, humble, modest, reserved, shy, gracious, mild-mannered, self-effacing, understated, did not believe his own clippings and so forth – Jim Collins

I have seen lot of people in the conference who could potentially become Level 5 leaders in the future.

During my two days here I came across various interesting people and learned lot of exciting stuff they are doing not necessarily just on technology side but other areas like media film making, social, political, travel, fitness, health, finance etc. It may not be possible to write about all the experience in a single blog post. For me the reason of attending any conference is to

Learn new stuff, meet lot of people, connect with few selected ones, and have fun. The Goa Project definitely fulfilled all of them.

I thank “The GOA Project” organising committee for pulling together such a great event, kudos to you guys. There will always be some people complaining about this and that (ex: “could have given coke during the day, could have arranged for a fan in the venue etc”), but don’t worry. It’s difficult to please everyone 🙂 you did an amazing job in building this platform for people to meet.

Your core employee decides to leave, what’s next?

In a start-up (I guess calling it a small organisation makes more sense) pretty much every single employee will have a role to play, and it’s nearly impossible to have a backup plan for everyone. In this scenario  anyone putting that resignation letter is going to hurt and will have impact in the company.

All the investments you have made with that person is going to drain. As a founder your natural reaction will be more emotional, angry, confused, lot of “why this ..that” type of questions will go in your mind! Most of the time your first reaction will be how to change that employee mind set and ask him to stay.

If you take a step back and think, the employee wouldn’t have made that decision lightly, he would have gone through all the implications and decided something else is better for him/her. On the other side, will you have the same confidence/trust sharing anything with that person who decided to leave. Either way, it’s a better decision to let that employee go, the more you prolong it’s going to cause more problems.

As a founder you need to understand, as a human being everyone’s expectations and priorities are different. This is one of the best quote on this subject

Waiting too long before acting is equally unfair to the people who need to get off the bus. For every minute you allow a person to continue holding a seat when you know that person will not make it in the end, you’re stealing a portion of his life, time that he could spend finding a better place where he could flourish. – Jim Collins

Even companies like Buffer who are known for their transparency and openness had to let people go time to time. By looking at their growth, culture and openness everyone might think, once you are there it’s a great place to be. But the reality is  different, here is the quote from Buffer CEO

No matter how awesome our hiring process is, it’s inevitable that sometimes the person is not a great fit. Now that we have grown to 13 people and had to make tough team changes along the way, we’ve started to see a ratio emerge. We now know not to be surprised if about 1 in 4 people we hire doesn’t work out. – Joel Gascoigne 

Analyse the situation and avoid it happening in the future

The best thing you can do is listen to what the employee had to say as part of exit interview carefully. See what went wrong, some of the common things to check and verify

This process will give you opportunity to learn what went wrong and possibility to correct it.

How to pair your Apple Wireless Keyboard to Macbook Pro Windows Bootcamp

I pretty much gave up at one point this is not going to work. It’s not documented anywhere and no mention about this in the forums. I’m actually typing this blog post using the Apple wireless keyboard paired to my MacBook Pro running Windows 7 via BootCamp.

The first problem I’ve faced, I was not sure whether my MacBook Pro had any built in BlueTooth radio. There was no option to “Add BlueTooth Device”, when I searched. Luckily I had one, the driver was not installed properly. You can easily verify it by searching “Device Manager” and checking under the section “Blue Tooth Radios”. In my case there was a warning sign, I simply uninstalled it and did a hardware scan, which corrected the problem.

The second problem, the green light in the keyboard was not flashing (discoverable mode). As soon as I click the on/off button, it stays on for couple of seconds and switches itself off. There is only one button and one light, no obvious reset buttons or there is nothing in the forum explaining this.

Here are the steps I followed to fix it

  1. Click “Add a BlueTooth Device” (search)
  2. When in discovery mode, you keep pressing the on/off button, soon you’ll see the option “Keyboard” in the “Add a BlueTooth Device” discovery screen.
  3. Select and click next, keep pressing the green button.
  4. In the next screen a number will be displayed (ex: 76728282), you enter that number in the keyboard and press enter.
  5. Your keyboard will be paired.

Do you know, there is a middleman in Software business?

This is one more important lesson I’ve learned in the journey of BizTalk360. This is mainly applicable to start-up’s entering the enterprise world. Everything going online these days, where you pretty much buy right from your grocery to your expensive television online, eliminating the need for middleman.  But unfortunately things are bit old school even these days in enterprise software world.

For lot of enterprise customers, they do not procure the software directly from the vendor. One main reason is, they don’t want to maintain relationship with 100 different vendors, instead they prefer to deal with handful of software resellers. The role of the software reseller is purely to act like a middleman. The resellers probably won’t understand anything about the product. We have seen cases where a customer actually asked them to procure licenses for “Microsoft BizTalk Server”, but they came to us to get a quote for “BizTalk360”.

Customers typically pay a fee for the service they are getting from the resellers, but as any middleman business, reseller wants to maximize their profit and would love to take a cut from both sides. Ideally the vendor doesn’t need to pay anything for the resellers, but in order to keep things smooth (avoid any delays in sale) we offered them a small slice, typically 2%. Most of the time they won’t be happy and bargain for higher percentage. You actually don’t need to worry too much about the resellers, because by the time they come to you, the customer has already instructed them to procure the software. It’s not going to make any difference in sale closure, whether you are giving 2% or 5%, it’s all going to be pocketed by the reseller. 

I also learned they apply 2 techniques to maximize their profit

Client is on tight budget

This is one of the common statement we hear from the resellers.

The customer is on very tight project budget and they are looking for a discount to close this sale soon

This is an absolute lie, in fact we offered some ridiculous discounts like 10-15% in the beginning without knowing the trick. These guys pocket such a huge margin for doing absolutely nothing. We just learned this scam with one of our own experience. We were working with this customer for nearly 4 months doing some demos, POC’s, lot of email conversations and finally we even decided on a price by giving a discount on free training. The customer request came through a reseller and we heard this same statement. But this time we know that can’t be true. I told them clearly we cannot give any discount apart from our standard 2% discount, within 30 minutes we received the purchase order. How can such a big budget problem in an enterprise world got sorted in 30 minutes!!

Get maximum payment term and send a check

This is another trick from some of the bigger resellers. They will ask you for crazy payment terms like 60-90 days. Even after that term period you’ll not get the money, one of our admin staff needs to send numerous emails and telephone calls and finally they will send a check. The problem with international check is it takes minimum 6 weeks to clear. In some cases if there is any problem in the name, or signature etc. it can go up to 3-4 months.  Basically interest free money  (cash flow which is very important to run a business) for 6 months. More than that, it just adds lot of admin work on reconciling those amount.

So, what’s the solution?

It’s all about how strong you are. In 99% of the case resellers do not have any influence. When they come to you, the customer has already instructed for the purchase. Resellers are just the procurement vehicle. Define your own terms, we give 2% to keep the conversation smooth and we see it more as admin charges for working with resellers. In the same way define you own payment terms and stick to it. We also started charging 5% surcharge for people who wanted to pay by check, to discourage users who wants to go down that route.

Bad Customer Service is guaranteed to kill your business

You may have top of the range product and top of the range technicians but if your customer service sucks, it’s guaranteed to kill your business over a period.

Few months ago I engaged with a local custom fitted bedrooms and home office company to transform a spare room into an office room. The designer came first, we discussed few options and finally settled for one. We agreed on fitting date 3 weeks down the line. On the fitting date, fitter came with some office units and when he started measuring he noticed there is difference in measurement of few inches. He contacted the head office and guy suggested to cut it off and patch it. Basically instead of a clean finish, there is going to be a joint, kind of defeating the purpose of paying a premium for a nice fitted furniture. I spoke to that head office person, he gave me couple of options,  we can either take everything back (with bit of anger) and come and fit it in 3 weeks time or can go ahead with the suggestion. I was not ready to wait for another 3 weeks, and I’ve already wasted that day.  So just asked the fitter to go ahead with the patch solution. The fitter was an excellent worker, he did an amazing job. Couple of days later the bill came for the full amount. I called the head office person and told him I’m expecting some kind of discount for the patch work. He treated me like one of those nasty customers, who always finds excuse to get a discount and was not ready to listen to my feedback. I could have simply told the fitter to take the stuff back and redo it, which could have costed the company some serious money (a new set of furniture, fitters day rate, etc). After 10 minutes I just gave up and told him I don’t have time to argue, will just pay the balance.

This ended up in a poor customer satisfaction, he could have dealt with the scenario smoothly by just giving a small discount (£100 out of the £3000 order) and made the customer happy.

After few days I decided to add additional seating area in the home office and contacted them again. The only reason was due to the good workmanship of the fitter who did the job. The designer guy visited the place again, sketched some designs and we agreed to go with one. I asked him to send exactly same fitter even if it takes longer. Three weeks later the same fitter came with new set of furniture. To both of our surprise, the designer messed with the measurement again. This time I didn’t get into any discussion, just asked him to take the stuff back and come with correct fitting, after 2 weeks the fitter came with right furniture and once again he did an excellent job. At this point I’ve already spent around £4k.

After few days I decided to do up our TV area, since it was cluttered with cable set up box, XBOX, DVD player, etc. I called the same company again (for the same reason the fitter Paul was really good and nice man). This time I received a treatment I’ve never expected. They asked me to measure the place myself and come and visit their showroom. If I can agree with the price, then they can come and do the actual measurement. This is bit unusual approach for a custom fitted bedroom company.  They always visit the place to see the surroundings and give suggestions. I just sensed they are not ready to waste their time due to the size of the order.  I still went ahead took the measurement myself and visited their office, the designer put some drawings and quoted a price of £543. I asked him to round it off to £500. He didn’t show any interest, and simply said can’t do it.  That’s the end of the story. I left the place.

Some of the lessons for business owner