October 2015 FEW Women’s Start-up Club Recap: Recovering From Disaster

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October 2015 FEW Women’s Start-up Club Recap: Recovering From Disaster with Tracery Northcott

Recap by Sarah Everitt Furuya, Organizer of Women’s Start-up Club

On Tuesday October 27, 22 small business owners and aspiring small business owners and entrepreneurs gathered to hear Tracey Northcott’s story of disaster, resilience, recovery and diversification in her business.

Tracey is the VP of international communications at Enfour, a 20-year old family business that provides dictionary apps for mobile phones and other devices, as well a host of other products, and is the global service provider for the Oxford English dictionary among others.

Tracey walked us through her business set up, growth and challenges and explained how the biggest challenge facing her business as an app provider is piracy, with hundreds of thousands of pirated apps in the market competing for Enfour’s legitimate profit. To combat this problem, Enfour had preventative measures in place including sending  Shame Tweets to Twitter from any apps that registered “pirated”, but later abandoned this tactic. However, not before it created a disaster!!! Yes, you can guess what happened. The tweet was accidentally sent as a false positive to many legitimate customers as they installed updates.

In the weeks that followed, Tracey dealt with more than 800 customer support mails. Although the vast majority of the customers were happy with how Enfour handled the problem, the following media frenzy in the tech world was a shock.

Tracey dealt with thousands of Tweets, threatening emails, message boards filled with disparaging messages, trolls, and even personal threats with photos of Tracey found online.

Tracey’s pragmatic response and her story are inspiring, and the following are lessons learned which, as entrepreneurs, we can add to our own.

FEW WSC 2ADMIT MISTAKES TAKE FULL RESPONSIBILITY AND DO NOT BLAME, SHIFT OR MAKE EXCUSES. EVER! Have a standard set responses to be agreed upon in the company to relieve customer concerns, and as soon as possible answer their questions.

Do not waver from this message and direct it to all customers. Never, ever, engage with the media frenzy, troll frenzy or online discussions. Try to avoid reading them, at all costs.

Distance yourself from such negativity and focus on customers. Stay off Twitter and use the tools available to block haters, trolls and threats. Or just ignore them. Personalize the greeting and ending in messages to legitimate customers affected by such a mistake, and don’t’ waiver from the main message in the body.

– Surround yourself with good people who will support you and make your life more fulfilling on a daily basis, this will help build resilience
– Seek feedback from  trusted friends in the industry to get a view of how it actually looks from the outside
– It will probably blow over with time
– Have a plan and stick to it
– Separate your business from you; remember even when people get personal, it isn’t personal, it is not about you, even when it is about you, it isn’t
– Focus on your customers; you are there to provide a service or a product and if you have customers it is essential to get back to business as usual, as soon as possible
– Your customers are your focus; again, your business exists to provide a service you believe in to people who want it
– Did I mention it’s about your customers and not you?
– Be tenacious and take pride in it
– Move on quickly and continue business as usual

While this occurred in November, the following February, Enfour’s main platform for selling their apps closed their account citing that Enfour was a PR risk for them. Enfour’s main channel for business was closed and their account suspended for two full years. Of course they gave up!!!!

NO THEY DIDN’T. Enfour fought and appealed, but with no joy. How did they solve the problem? They cleverly opened a new account with the platform under the name of a new company they had planned to start, pressed pause on that business venture, and moved all of their customers over to the new platform, with no negative impact. This allowed their business to continue.

More takeaways:FEW WSC 3

– Resilience – identify the problem
– PRIORITISE – decide what is most important and focus on it
– Be ready to change course or direction based on the unexpected
– Identify your best contingency plan and implement it
– Be cheeky – don’t over think things – “just launch” (an x-rated version of the “just launch” was “Flip it, let’s launch” an euphemism for something less polite, which was very popular with our Start-up club members “
– Be cheeky and clever – find a way around the system
– Continue being resilient, get the support you need from your group of friends, no drama
– Focus on business, customers and business continuity
– Diversify your portfolio…

As a true entrepreneur, following this disaster and at the same time the account was suspended, Tracey began investing in rental properties, recognizing that Air BnB was to be the next big thing. Now, two years later, she has more than 10 Air BnBs in central Tokyo, providing impeccable service to visitors to Tokyo. When asked how she manages it all, and how she has become successful enough to allow her husband to leave his job and join the family business full time as the face of Air BnB, she simply replied that she loves providing impeccable service and making customers happy.

Even more takeaways:
– Be impeccable and provide exceptional service to customers
– Just launch – just do it! Tracey lists her and takes bookings even before properties her are properties are ready
– Have personal goals within your business, for example, being profitable enough to employ loved ones
– Take action with your ideas

Overall the attendees were most struck by Tracey’s call to action, to be cheeky, to just launch, and remember that the business is not you, but rather your company is a vehicle to offer your products or services that you believe in.

And finally, never fail to focus on your assets.

Tracey’s final words to s spontaneous applause were:
“As an entrepreneur I have my skills, my ideas and I can start again.”

Details of upcoming meeting

Yasuko MoriThe next meeting will be Tuesday December 8th 7:00 -9:30pm with Yasuko Mori, of Seifu Tax ACCOUNTS, a small business tax
specialist and service provider to many of the Women’s Start-Up Club members. She will talk about tax for small businesses, essential for anyone who is serious about doing legitimate business in Japan. Mori-san has an inspiring story of career change as well as running an interesting business where she does more than provide tax consultation for her clients, she also create community.

Her company mission is:

  1. To deliver “feeling of relief & security” to our clients.
  2. To keep our visions higher, learn from all over the world, and sustain our progress.

Please direct your questions in advance to the fewwsc@gmail.com email with the subject line Tax Questions. Or post your questions on the Women’s Start Up Club Facebook Page (available to anyone who has attended the Start Up Club)