The Art of Balance | 17 Years of William Penn
For any endeavor, they say that if you manage to stay in business for 3 years, it’s a good sign of the way things are going. On 17th January this year, we complete 17 years, with 34 stores and counting. We guess it’s safe for us to say, without sounding boastful, it’s a truly good sign.
It has been a rollercoaster of a ride, with heady ups and bumpy downs that have made the journey such a thrill.
There have been many learnings too. But, the one thing that has always come to our aid, helped us chisel ourselves better, and been our thumb rule, so to speak, has been this: Balance.
Ying and Yang. A delicate balance of ‘Getting things right’ and ‘Not getting things right’, Expectation’ and ‘Reality’. Allow us to add some context and illustrate with a few examples.
Perfect vs Not So Perfect
In 2016, we started Pennline, our in-house range of writing instruments and lifestyle accessories. After months of R&D and experimenting, we finalized on the range. We were clear right from the start that we would not compromise on the quality of the final product.
It was also the year we ventured into e-commerce. The idea was to launch Pennline on our e-commerce platform to give the brand a solid boost. However, the platform was far from what we had envisioned in terms of intuitiveness and backend support. Realizing that platform would be a project that would always be ‘Work-in-progress’ (in other words, not so perfect) was key. We went ahead and launched both of these that year. Pennline grew steady, if not at the pace we had wished it would grow, while the platform evolved over the years. If we had waited for the platform to be “perfect”, Pennline wouldn’t have been the sought-after brand it has become today.
Certainty vs Uncertainty
2016 was also the year we forayed into men’s accessories with the acquisition of the then unheard of UK brand, Lapis Bard. While we were sure of the quality and craftsmanship the brand brought to the table, our lack of experience retailing in the men’s accessory category and understanding of the untapped market posed uncertainty.
This blend of certainty and uncertainty enabled us to maintain a delicate sense of discernment that helped us make the right decisions and reap rewards.
Customer Delight vs Customer Satisfaction
Is there a difference? In our context, we’d say ‘yes’ there is. Here’s one classic example, to illustrate the point. A walk-in customer to one of our airport stores wanted to purchase a Lamy 2000 fountain pen as a gift. The pen was not in stock. However, the executive-in-charge asked where the customer was traveling to. Then, he made a few calls and informed the customer that the pen was available at our store at the destination airport and that if he so wished, it would be gift-wrapped and kept ready on his arrival.