“We plot and plan, and we plot and plan but God is the best of planners.”
So goes a verse from the Quran that seemed like a timely and humbling reminder to myself and some of us who have taken the time away from work due to the ongoing Covid-19 lockdown to introspect, pause our otherwise busy lives and hopefully return to our schedules soon enough as better people. Reading this, reinforces two things for me: 1. For us to lead our daily lives, we do need to make plans and plan we will. We make daily plans how to spend the day to be most productive with the time we have at work, what to do when we get home etc. We plan our week, our month to make visits to friends, family, business trips, to the supermarket, to make a move on slow moving projects (read clean my cupboards, empty my bottom drawer, finish that puzzle next Sunday…!) And our long term plans, to achieve our goals, maintain health, build wealth and more such lofty ambitions. This verse encourages us to do all that but…
2. God knows a plan that may be better for us. So, every so often he likes to intervene and set us on a better course. This gives strength by asking us to continue with our plans but be humble enough to accept the course correction when it comes and know that this will indeed be to make your plan even better! This is the part that is the silver lining- when we find ourselves so out of control with our future plans now that Covid-19 has come to disrupt all that we know as normal be it the way meet and greet people, the way we travel, do business and much more- to be consoled that what is coming is actually going to be better.
As of the 24th of March, we had to close the factory bringing our production to a sudden and complete halt. Some orders were pending when we closed, some ready for dispatch but couriers are not working and many incoming material shipments all on hold in ports across the world. The last one month, I have been contemplating how this crisis is going to change the world, the way we do business, the way we travel and quite honestly, the answers are not clear yet. We still do not know how much worse it is going to get before it starts to get better. But some things are clear:
- Passion drives us more than the business itself. We are an owner-driven small factory with a global supply chain (we are constantly seeking the best materials available) but we are doing this to feed passion as much as to do a business. During these tough times, while many businesses worry about survival, it is our passion that fuels as to get back up and continue to do what we do best. Make good quality shoes. We think this will hold us good in the long run to have another good reason to reinvent ourselves while we bounce back to doing business.
- Our global and local supply chain will be disrupted permanently. Some of our local suppliers that we have nurtured over the years to make components for us with the same attention to detail that we look for in the final shoe itself, might not be reopening their doors. We will have to look for alternatives and start building new relationships that will need time and patience to make them understand our needs and philosophy of work. But hey Rome wasn’t built it one day. We will strive and rebuild our supply chain slowly where it is broken or needs mending.
- Our customers will expect better online services. With retail outlets closed for the foreseeable future and more customers becoming comfortable buying things online like clothes and even shoes, we need to meet these expectations with clarity and effect. Our decision to not have physical stores and be an online-first brand looks like not just a pragmatic one right now but also the right one for the future. We are seeing that it is possible to do online appointments with clients to speak to them about fit, last and styling and not necessarily need to be face-to-face. I used the down time the last few weeks to make short videos explaining the different styles in our collection, the features of our last and about shoe care. Of course, there is nothing like a good face-to-face conversation with a well-informed salesman when you want to buy a nice pair of shoes, but we are trying our best to bring a similar experience online.
We are supposed to re-open the factory on May 4th after a 40 days break. This is the longest my factory in its 30+ years of running has ever been closed. The second longest break was for 5 days during the 2015 floods and we thought that was bad! I can wait to get back and start making shoes again.