I spent much of January thinking about the year we left in our wake and how we could improve in 2017. I’m proud of what our team accomplished in 2016, but I also realize we’ve got to do better, and it starts with ME.
Some of the challenges that presented themselves in 2016 were the result of growing faster than expected – hence, the stretchmarks! We were happy that the Hydroventure, MT-2 and Ultrafly were honored with awards from the editors at major publications like Outside, Runner’s World, National Geographic and Men’s Health, but then we saw our inventory quickly run dry as we were unable to restock fast enough to keep up with demand.
Don’t get me wrong, as problems go, this was a good problem to have, but it was still a big problem. We needed to do things better. We needed to manage our stock better so customers got what they wanted, when they wanted it. We needed to plan better with suppliers, with factories, with retailers, and our whole supply chain. It’s great to have award-winning product that’s in demand, but we needed a system that allowed us to be more responsive and quicker to market when we ran low on stock.
And of course, that wasn’t our only problem. There were things we wanted to improve in product design to make our products more reliable and easier for the factory to make. And although Topo’s signature fit continues to be a key driver of demand, we knew there were other ways we could improve the customer experience… you get the idea, the list goes on, and on, and on…
This mild obsession (ok, maybe it’s more than mild) with doing things better brought me back to Topo’s mission statement: “Better is not an accident, it’s a choice.” We make a choice every day that affects how we solve problems in order to make the brand better. Those days add up to weeks, then months, and before long, you can see the progress become meaningful – building a business like this is not that different from marathon training, yet it all starts by recognizing we need to do better today.
Our desire to be better is one of the reasons we are always listening to you! YOU make us better. You inspire us to make great products, and you let us know when we fall short. Our shoes are not created in a vacuum – it is an ongoing and passionate dialogue with a long list of folks that includes our customers, ambassadors, advisors, sporting/fitness industry colleagues, healthcare professionals, and retail partners. You help us spot weaknesses, solve problems, and improve the experience.
So, as we find ourselves already knee deep in the new year, I thought I’d share some of the guiding principles we will be keeping top of mind at Topo to make sure we are always striving to make things better:
Be curious: find and solve problems, ask questions, actively listen to understand more/better.
Care: not just for yourself, but for the team, our retailers, and the folks who buy our products – understand and care about their needs and how we can make their lives better. It makes the solutions more rewarding when you realize you are helping others.
Learn: I’ve been at this a long time, but I’m constantly learning something new. Learning is exciting and rewarding — seek to learn something new every day, every week…and remember to share, teach, coach, and guide.
Focus on craftsmanship: in our business, people can get wrapped up in the ‘technology’ of the ingredients —special foams, cushioning systems, endless features with silly acronyms that only matter to the person who named them…I want our team to focus on the full sensation delivered in the craftsmanship and integration of materials, how our products fit and feel, and enhance a natural running experience.
Authenticity: be true to who we are, what we are building, what we envision making and how we want people to feel when they use our products.
Integrity: we all make mistakes, but every mistake is an opportunity to take responsibility for that error, to fix something, to do something better, to gain a customer’s trust and loyalty –mistakes allow our integrity to shine through.
Imagine: innovation is probably an overused word in our industry. I want our team to use imagination and creativity to build a better business, better processes and better products – to discover new approaches to problems that can improve the experience.
Make decisions inclusionary: we may not always agree, and sometimes I ultimately have to do what I think is best, but I always try to involve others in the decision-making process because it makes our team stronger, more knowledgeable, more united, and happier. I always want that to be part of Topo’s culture.
Enjoy the process: Everyone has a choice: work can be a chore or a joy. Often it’s some of both, but let’s take the time to enjoy this moment together. Building a business and making customers happy is hard, but it’s also rewarding. Let’s find satisfaction in those achievements and enjoy the process of building something together.
As always, we know you will be there – pushing us to do more, to try harder, and inspiring us with your own amazing stories. Thank you for helping to make us better!
Wishing you all the best in 2017!