If Harvard Business Review did a case study on TNG WORLDWIDE, readers would not believe the story. I lived through the story and still cannot believe it myself.
The coronavirus pandemic came and in a perfect world, this story would have never happened. But the world we live in has never been perfect and life is about dealing with each situation that is thrown at you. This is a true story on how I dealt with the coronavirus.
It was the fateful day, Tuesday, March 17 that I will remember for a very long time. That is when Governor Whitmer shut down the state. Three days later I would have a Zoom meeting with my employees announcing layoffs, pay cuts for salaried employees and store closures. It was a reminder of what happened in 2008-2009 but with much different ramifications.
Just a week earlier I was on the phone talking to doctors about N95 and KN95 masks. There was a tremendous shortage and they needed them. We sold 3-ply face masks for years, but not medical masks. That was the start of our transformation.
The rest of the transformation was expedited from my previous strategy that began in 1991, accelerated in 1997, and fast-tracked in 2015: Sell only TNG branded products. With the shutdown in place nationwide, only essential businesses were allowed to remain open. Due to the fact that TNG already manufactured many essential products, we were allowed to stay open. Products including hand sanitizer, EPA-registered disinfectants, hand soap, 99% IPA and face masks became hot items (and still are and always will be) and we made them all. Because of my relationship with my factories, together we were able to keep up with demand and stay in stock. It was during this time that each morning around 2:30AM, lightening bolt thoughts would enter my mind and wake me up. These were new ideas scorching my mind and then I would wake up and put them into action. I’m not kidding, it was like living in a science-fiction movie for weeks (and truthfully, we are all living in a sci-fi movie right now).
With salons and spas closed, our business soared selling to first level providers. It was at this time that I truly understood my strategy all along was the right path and then one morning the lightning bolt told me to discontinue all third-party vendors. Not a single one stepped up to the plate to supply me essential products. In fact, none of them stepped up to the plate to supply any beauty distributor. In a crisis, you learn quickly who your real partners are. My customers already knew that TNG was the best company to work with, this only confirmed it.
At this time, I had another TNG employee meeting and this time, told those that we kept on everyone was back to work at full wages (even an incentive added for DC employees) and let’s rock forward. It was a great moment. It was during this time that I also thought that I needed to transition THE INDUSTRY SOURCE to TNG WORLDWIDE and create a special platform for my most loyal customers. Voila! DIAMOND PARTNER membership was born. It was also the perfect time to update our logo and brand promise. No longer The Beauty Experts (although we always will be), but the new focus was on life’s essentials and comforts. Bam!
My focus then turned to additional essential items my customers needed. Fast forward to today, TNG is in stock on just about every single item, from Non-Contact Electronic Infrared Thermometers, to face shields to face masks to hand sanitizer and next week, touchless infrared dispensers for soap and hand sanitizer. It has been a non-stop whirlwind.
To get the word out to our customers, I created a series of Town Hall meetings to explain the transformation of the company and why we would no longer carry third-party brands such as CND, OPI, Nufree and others. It was in fact the very first meeting in which I was very passionate about my history growing up and how I got into this business and my ultimate pivot of my career.
It was also the meeting in which I was very passionate about the nail industry and I talked about the Vietnamese, how the first generation came to America to start nail salons, how hard they worked and even slept in them because they worked 24/7 and had nowhere else to go. It was then when I talked about the current state of affairs I said some stupid and insensitive things. Luckily, I was called out on it 10 days later and learned first-hand what it is like to be a total idiot and the happenstance when you screw up in social media. It was quite the humbling experience.
The great thing about America is freedom of speech. Another great thing about America is the ability to apologize publicly so you can move on without being prosecuted. I did a live video apologizing and then did a written apology. They say that good things come from bad and in this instance, it was so true. I never did business with Vietnamese salons, for more than 25 years I did business with Vietnamese distributors. This lesson taught me well but it also put me in touch with hundreds of Vietnamese nail techs and for that, I am very grateful.
The good news is that my next few Town Hall meetings went on without a hitch. Listen my loyal readers, I don’t know of any other CEO in the beauty business that has reached out to salons and spas like me and has assisted them not only with their PPE needs, answered hundreds of questions in regards to opening but also very vocal and direct with the direction that the new post-pandemic economy is going to take. If I never opened up, sure, my life lesson would not have happened, but in the end, history will show my passion for my customers comes first. Last Thursday and Friday were two of my biggest days in business. Thursday, we opened America’s first PPE store, TNG WORLDWIDE COMPANY STORE. It was a grand celebration for our employees and customers. Every customer that entered was given a temperature check, good news is that everyone passed. Then they were given the choice of wearing nitrile gloves or using spray hand sanitizer and face mask (many had their own). And then they were free to shop. It was great to see their smiling faces (I could tell by their eyes) and seeing them buy everything they needed.
Thursday and Friday were the conversion of THE INDUSTRY SOURCE to TNG WORLWIDE and it was a monumental task that eventually went smoother than anticipated. It was all made possible because of our great web and support teams. It was the official transformation of the company!
One last note: We truly have the best employee team in the business. The demands over the past few weeks with air shipments, record number of orders and deliveries and working within the guidelines for safety and health have been tremendous. Yet through it all, we have had not one case of anyone being sick and not only that, everyone has forged even greater relationships with each other to make the customer experience and 100% customer success the best ever.
I want to close this chapter by saying thank you to my team, to my loyal customers, my loyal factories throughout the world, my BUB and everyone else that helped me and TNG through this transition. I cannot wait for salons and spas to reopen and most important, we are ready for business in the post-pandemic economy because of you. Larry