Strategic planning and team-building are some of the things you learn in EMBA courses. Those were also the concepts churning in my mind just before my recent EMBA exam, and I was feeling confident, ready to take on this milestone moment in my education when my phone rang. My heart sank when I saw the caller ID.
My colleague was calling from the site of our biggest event of the year: the Dyson Airwrap product launch. Capturing the world’s attention long before it came onto the market, the Airwrap’s 3-day official launch was set to draw hundreds of media, KOLs and fans, and we expected a huge sales turnout. I was one of the key project leads. I had planned to be there right after my exam, but apparently, something needed my attention right away.
Water was seeping through the walls at the venue, my colleague told me. Not a good start. I gave some quick instructions for holding the situation over until I got there, then shifted my focus back to the task at hand – the exam. I have always been calm and rational, but that day even I found it difficult to concentrate.
The seepage turned out to be just the first of our problems. Arriving at the venue, I learned that we had trouble accepting credit card payments, too. The Airwraps were selling so quickly, we maxed out our daily online payment limit well before the event was over. Happy problem? Yes. Was this a potential crisis? A resounding yes – the inconvenience of using cash might drive some customers away. But there was no quick fix. Our only option was to make the process as painless as possible for our customers, given the circumstances.
The 23-strong Dyson team onsite included people from PR, sales, marketing, online sales, visual marketing and e-commerce, all with different skillsets that unfortunately did not, for the most part, include frontline customer service. This was tricky for all of us. But everyone pulled their weight. I remember all of us flitting around the room, jumping in to help wherever we were needed regardless of the task. At that moment I could not think of an EMBA strategy or technique that would get us out of our bind. I just wanted to support the team as much as I can. I went around and encouraged everyone to keep a disciplined focus on our key purpose: to create a pleasurable buying experience for customers. This unified goal became the miracle tonic that kept us going, and people worked well beyond their shifts to keep things running despite their exhaustion.
After three whirlwind days, we regrouped to review what we achieved. An above-target sales performance, with hundreds of units sold each day. A detailed, glowing Facebook review from one particular customer who, after multiple failed attempts to pay by credit card, still felt so impressed with our heartfelt service that she just had to share her experience with the world. Above all, the thrill of pulling through this mega event together has super-charged our bond as a team, and our comradery soared through the room – the strongest since I joined Jebsen in early 2018.
I signed up for an EMBA because I wanted to learn about planning for success in modern business. This event proves that things will not always go according to the agenda, and that’s OK. I have always been more interested in the longer-term process of connecting with people, cherishing them and building a culture where people are ready to jump through hoops for one another to get the work done. Conquering the Airwrap launch as a team shows that I have been planning the right way all along.
As for my exam? I was happy with my grade in the end. But when I look back on this day, I will always see the greater lesson as the amazing power of a team that feels empowered and valued. And that is the lesson I will take with me as I continue to develop as a manager.