How are you solving problems?

It seemed like a typical Thursday as I got down from our unit to the basement parking. Ten minutes before going down, we always advise our driver Iyas that we are on the way.

Iyas met me in the basement three waiting area. We walked and got in our Starex almost at the same time. I settled myself in the passenger seat, and Iyas tried to start the car. After pressing the start button, nothing happened. He tried again. Once again, nothing.

I asked Iyas to turn on the headlights. Nothing happened. The car battery is dead. It was a good thing I did not have any meetings that morning. I called the Motolight service to have a replacement car battery delivered and installed.

While we waited, I asked Iyas why the car battery was fully drained; his first reply was he did not know. ‘I don’t know ’ is his default reply for everything. I checked my records, and the battery was less than a year old. It’s not likely that it does not store electricity properly.

I asked him to think harder. After five minutes, he said that he might have left the lights open. The night before was his brother’s birthday. He was in a hurry to catch up on the birthday gathering. He may have left the car lights open.

If we step back, we could have wrongly taken it for granted that the car battery had died. We could have just replaced it without thinking deeper about the actual cause.

The cause was not the car light draining the battery. The real root cause was my driver’s negligence. When we got to the root cause, I informed Iyas that the next time we needed to spend replacing the car battery due to his negligence, he would need to pay for half the cost of the car battery. Since that agreement, we have never had to replace a drained car battery due to negligence.

If we take a helicopter view of what transpired, you will notice the essential elements of a structured problem-solving technique.

1. Information gathering. I dug deeper beyond what ‘seemed’ to be the cause.

2. Define the problem. The problem, in this case, is that my driver was negligent.

3. Options. We could jump-start the car, but that might not be a sustained solution. Getting the battery checked and replaced was more of the proper long-term resolution. The preventive action was the agreement for Iyas to shoulder half the cost of a replacement battery.

4. Solution. Get the battery replaced, and Iyas to agree.

5. Post-event assessment. The incident never happened again.

Solving a problem should not be done in haste. A proper information gathering, problem definition, options identification, solution selection, and implementation helps resolve and prevent the recurrence of a problem.

How do you differentiate yourself in a commoditized service industry?

Kuhana Corporate Uniform Startup second article –
as mentioned in a previous article, we decided to journal our startup journey for Kuhana Corporate Uniform.

As previously mentioned in a past article, we have provided corporate uniforms to our Pharma clients for the last few years. However, in the second half of 2021, we transformed it from a service to a standalone business.

We are currently putting together the business model. This business model will help us put together a marketing plan. However, the commoditized nature of the business is making it challenging to come up with a compelling, unique value proposition. The question, “what makes us strikingly different from the other companies making different corporate uniforms?” is not easy to answer.

We have been figuring out a good UVP for the last few weeks. We wanted to have a clear message containing our UVP when we upsell our current Pharma clients. They had been putting orders of a few dozen to hundreds of uniforms for their medical representatives and brand ambassadors for over seven years.

However, that is only the tip of the iceberg. These Pharmaceutical giants have thousands of employees. We are assuming that a good percentage of them wear uniforms. We may get one chance to pitch to their Procurement heads. However, without a compelling UVP, they have no reason to allow us to pitch for their other uniform requirements.

We do not want to waste that window or opportunity. We need to be prepared to grab that chance. We need to give them a good reason to move their uniform contracts to KCU.

Unfortunately, we are also stuck identifying our unfair advantage. Without an unfair advantage over competitors, getting ahead in the industry cannot be sustained.

The other challenge with corporate uniforms is the seasonality of the orders. We are trying to figure out an alternative revenue stream to augment the seasonality of the uniform orders. Would having a retail b2c product help? If so, what type of retail clothing will appeal to the market? Where will we distribute these products? How do we price it? How do we differentiate our clothing line from the rest of the retail clothing manufacturers?

We may not have the answers to all these “work-in-progress” questions, but they are essential questions to answer for a startup. We cannot be a ‘me too’ player in the industry. We will end up in a price war. The company with the bigger war chest has the advantage in a price war. We don’t want to go in that direction. We cannot afford it.

Stay tuned as we document our experience navigating four of our startup businesses.

Positioning in the Corporate Uniform industry

A KCU startup Journey entry.

I heard an exciting blog concept from Pat Flynn’s podcast. When he started blogging many moons ago, he decided to blog about his startup journey. He would share his wins and difficulties in starting his solopreneur business. 

I thought that was an exciting concept. This blog will be following Pat’s lead. The timing is suitable for a service we are pivoting from my current employer. PMII is a professional sales and marketing service company with clients mainly from the Pharmaceutical industry. Since the client’s medical representatives need to distinguish themselves from their competitors when visiting doctors and hospitals, they come to work wearing their official corporate uniforms. These serve as a branding tool as well. 

For the last 20 years, PMII has been providing the corporate uniform requirements of their clients. So it would not be too much of a surprise to create a “startup” business from it. So we named the company – Kuhana Corporate Uniform. 

“Kuhana” is loosely translated as “Get already” or “Get now”. We use an umbrella word for the companies’ startups; Kuhana Amore, Kuhana Mum&Me, Kuhana Outdoor, Kuhana Corporate Goods, Kuhana Corporate Uniform. These are all tiny startups.

Two weeks ago, Kuhana Corporate Uniform or KCU was just on the back burner. However, when we reviewed the revenues of the startups last week, we noted that Kuhana Corporate Goods and Kuhana Uniform somehow has a steady flow of income. It’s not that big since we look at it as an added service to our existing clients. It’s provided primarily as goodwill. 

Ann, the person in charge of KCU, and I noted that we needed to start from the start. First, we needed to create a business model and a marketing strategy. In simple terms, we needed to clearly define how the company would compete in which target industry. 

Creating a clear business model is not as easy as it sounds. With the standard template we use, there are a few components that are difficult to define:

  1. A niche target market and client avatar.
  2. A truly unique value proposition. From experience, most founders claim that their product or service is unique even though they have dozens of similar competitors.
  3. “Unfair advantage” is also challenging to define. What does the company have that competitors cannot easily copy? Successful products, services, and even product features are rapidly duplicated in today’s business landscape.

We need to fill in other components to complete the business model.

It usually takes from a few days to weeks to truly complete the business model. When rushed, the content is sometimes weak and can easily be dismissed. 

The next step is defining a clear marketing strategy. Some of the marketing strategy components will come from the business model.

For instance, when crafting a marketing slogan, it’s wise to mention the unique value proposition. What makes KCU different from the others? Why should clients reach out to KCU and not its competitors? The Corporate Uniform industry is matured and has been commoditized through the years. It would be challenging to develop a unique business model that should make it stand out in the market.

However, it’s not impossible. Part of the research would be to check on the leaders in the industry and identify their UVP. We need to figure out what’s unique about them and how they have survived for years in their industry.

This is entry 1 of the “KCU Startup journey.” Stay tuned. We plan to post the progress of the other startups.