After 25 years of running a company, I could say that we leaders, really should pay attention to what our intuition tells us. Thus, for example, what became clear to me on this troubled Monday morning can be articulated in due course: whatever the crisis, no one will be saved by symptomatic treatment from governments or donor billionaires. We can only save ourselves! We have to say to ourselves that the crisis is over. We have to shake ourselves up, because there is always a way out for the individual. There will always be useful things you can do effectively to move on.
Every manager and every employee has been negatively affected in recent months. With nerves torn apart by the media, and the midst of agonizing about an economy that seems to be stalling, one can, in principle, only be a victim. In principle… with this going through my mind, I pulled up into the car park of Julius-K9® to my usual place on the morning of April 20, 2020.
In the industrial environment, the songbird sitting on the fence in front of my running engine somehow didn’t fit in. It didn’t seem to be afraid, but just looked at me, and moved its body happily, as if it was going to greet me. In the meantime, it clung on confidently despite the high winds. Take an example from that, I told myself. There’s always a good reason to be cheerful! The little bird chirped and flew off, while I got out of the car feeling like an old man.
Mondays are hard at Julius-K9®. At the morning board meeting, which has been attended from home office for a month and a half by the other executives, big things can be decided. We found that the reason for the drastic drop in orders was not the crisis, but the inertia of the big market players, our biggest customers, which has resulted in the marginalization of Julius-K9® products. It was clear that more and more customers are finding us directly on our own or our subsidiaries ’customer-centric’ sales platforms. This is proof that our products are still needed even during a crisis and that our customers are loyal to us. This imbues us with a lot of energy, and at the same time provides a new basis for planning our future.
During the discussion, we noted that we have formulated and publicized some pretty strong messages over the past month – with success. For example, we launched a “stay safe, walk safe” campaign. In the meantime, we are donating a number of dog harnesses geared towards the health emergency, which can be disinfected after each walk. Under the auspices of the “stay at home” campaign, we’ve released many dog-training trick manuals, helpful pastime tips and ideas. We have converted some of our sewing shops so they can produce face masks, which was also very well received amongst dog owners.
We have found that we don’t really have a partner to convey ideas like this to, and so our messages can’t reach fans of the brand around the world either.
We have realized how important it is to provide our customers with innovative equipment manufactured with much love and care, and with a great sense of mission behind it. This sense of mission already gave dog keepers a decisive user experience 20 years ago. “Go together, everywhere!” Or, “Use custom patches! Be unique!” Then, for fast-paced everyday lives, the proliferation of “one click” harnesses is also associated with our name. With these campaigns, we have always wanted the best for dogs and owners alike.
Even today we have a lot to say to dog owners, and to future dog owners, so practically everyone! It is particularly important that these messages reach the consumer in the original form, in which we formulated them. It should not be a goal to dilute what we have to say on the surfaces of large sales platforms, that is, to almost sacrifice it on the dumping-price oriented altar of online marketplaces.
People are expected to learn from what has happened in recent times. As a customer, they are more likely to make decisions based on the principles of environmental awareness and quality orientation, and to choose locally manufactured products. It is logical to conclude that customers will increasingly look for a product that has care and respect for both the dog and the owner behind it.
So, we decided today not to hide these values in the future, in fact, we will publish them even more vigorously on both our own and on our partners’ interfaces. Although our daily tasks, from the production of the smallest parts to the packaging of the finished product, have consumed almost all our energies so far, we will devote even more time to our customers in the future.
This was a special day in every respect. After the online meeting, with no prior agreement, all the leaders turned up in the office building that had been empty for a month. This is an encouraging sign that tells us we are determined that our plans are becoming reality. Although we still have a lot of worries, we all greeted each other with smiles on our faces. We haven’t had such a good day in a long time, possibly never before, there was such a great sense of agreement between us. We took off our face masks that day and took a deep breath. The crisis is over in our eyes! This is something we simply felt and did not even have to say out loud. Then everyone “flew off” to get on with their jobs, stepping out confidently into those high winds.
Gyula ’Julius’ Sebő