Next Up: New Strap Skunkworks; Search & Rescue OPS Underway

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Firefighter H.Hudgins on duty

(Image courtesy firefighter H.Hudgins, on duty)

“Jump off the cliff and learn how to make wings on the way down.”
– Ray Bradbury

#COURGcrew —

Thank you, thank you, ad infinitum. I thank each of you for rallying around when we jumped off the Kickstarter cliff of building something new. Your enthusiasm, passion, and patience were the essence that became the nuts, bolts, gears and drive that made COURG possible. I apologize for the lengthy radio silence. Let’s debrief, crew.

TL;DR

  • Main deployment phase complete!
  • Turbulence: Customer service plan and operations initiated, MIA packages
  • Solutions: Meet Sarah, and implementing upgraded online presence for crew members, development, commerce, and support
  • Skunkworks: Forums beta test, two-piece strap samples next steps, strap changing tool? Silicone strap in R&D down under!

Main Deployment Phase Complete

We’ve received so many enthusiastic and glowing thank you notes and encouragements that motivate us to keep going and refining our work. It’s been amazing and thrilling to see all the photos and field reports pour in.

There were extreme differences in shipping times that I personally witnessed among backers here in NYC who received their packages over a month apart, in spite of being shipped on the same day. So, thank you all for your patience.

Turbulence

Head winds could blow you off course, or you can turn into it, adjust your wings, and fly.

We have a backlog of emails, many of which are asking for additional tracking information or help with Customs delays. Unfortunately, we don’t have more information beyond the tracking link. And then sprinkled among those are repair issues we want to resolve for you.

It has become clear that I need to engage in triage to help ensure that no backers are left behind. It’s always been my intention to give personal attention to each comment and email, and I spent a lot of time in the comments section during the campaign.

But then as we transitioned to fulfillment and then into customer service, it was frustrating to come to the realization that with thousands of backers it is unrealistic to believe that I would be able to email each of you back in the timely manner that you so deserve.

Search and Rescue Ops

A U.S.A.F. H-19 helicopter, 3rd Air Rescue Group, is seen hoisting an unidentified airman aboard from Far East waters. 1953

I just hadn’t anticipated the email volume and what kind of systems I would need to address that effectively. It means a lot to me that you care enough to get Redux through this period of triage.

I obviously severely underestimated the amount of communications we would need post-campaign, and I’m working to expand our capacity and improve how I can provide care and nurture for these relationships, which are very important to me.

Until I can have the infrastructure in place to provide the level of care I want to deliver, I had to split my time fighting fires and trying to build for the long run which, although exhausting, is necessary. The challenge is in figuring out the “sweet spot” between providing the value I can, which requires some minimum level of scale, vs. the high quality and personal attention I want to provide.

In addition, we also ran out of inventory on our Horween straps and had to re-order new titanium hardware, which has a lead time of a couple months. The good news here is that we expect those to be ready in the next week or two. We’ve asked our friends at Worn & Wound to set aside a batch of Horween Color 8 and Natural for us in anticipation of hardware arrival. So, once we can get them over to Worn & Wound team, the strap maker will get those outstanding Color 8s and Natural browns out.

MIA Packages

There are still some packages that have been lost in transit. We’ll do everything within our power to help file claims and initiate tracking from our side. Also, because of a mix up with BackerKit, roughly 20 backers have not received rewards and will now be included in the second production run set for early May. I am very sorry that in the fray of fulfillment waves, your orders have been greatly delayed.

Thanks again for getting in the trenches with us and seeing past the grit and grime of a work in progress.

Boehm rockin his A-11 on his Russian military motorcycle called a Ural

Boehm rockin his A-11 on his Russian military motorcycle called a Ural

It has come to my attention through first comms officer John Boehm, that some of you are falling off the radar and that’s unacceptable to me. I want you to know that it is not a reflection of disinterest, but know that it is a signal which I hear LOUD AND CLEAR that we need to invest in a more robust apparatus for us to grow.

While I’m on the topic of our friend Boehm, I just need to thank him for his service not only to me, helping me reach out to those missing in action, but also to you all. If you’re frustrated with current circumstances please don’t take it out on him. The responsibility is mine and John serves us all with loyalty and tenacious attention. He reminds me of this epic quote:

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”
— Henry Ford
Titan One Missile Silo

Titan One missile silo

SILOS

Currently, all our information is contained within “silos” of different applications, which means a lot of back and forth trying to track down the details between shipping and orders and fulfillment and service and customs problems across time zones. One request can take me over 20 minutes.

In addition, some people are still messaging us, via Kickstarter, which just adds another hurdle because those messages get easily buried. So although Kickstarter shows that I’ve signed on, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I have been able to get to every single message.

And then our original domain host became a huge issue after our site was attacked by some hacker or bots that kept filling up our storage quota and so some emails were lost.

This necessitated migrating our site to another host. So, yes I am in wholehearted agreement with many of you — I want more than anything to get off Kickstarter and our other disparate systems onto a unified platform ASAP. I have realized that I need to stop trying to do all the customer service myself. But at the same time, it’s very difficult for anyone else to help at this moment because of the silos of information.

SOLUTIONS

To fix the silo situation, I have spent months navigating the jungle of software options for solving these bottlenecks. I’m building the plane as we roll down the runway to unify these efforts and have chosen a solution, but it will take at least a few weeks to get everything talking to each other. At the moment, I’m feeling very impatient about how long the integration and data migration is taking.

In many ways, our small venture with many joys and triumphs still has growing pains. This reminds me of the Wright Brothers and when they began building their prototype planes. The first glider planes they built didn’t fly majestically and dictate their legacy. In fact, they crashed — a lot:

They made their first test flights at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on the shores of the Atlantic where the strong winds helped to launch the gliders and the soft sands helped to cushion the fall when they crashed.
The Wright Story

Of course, they invented the first controllable airplane — in 6 years — as a side project while running a printing company and bicycle manufacturing and repair business! In fact, the Wright brother translated ideas of control and balance from what they learned building bicycles into building airplanes. They learned how to “wheel” before they flew.

And then I love this telegram, which Orville and Wilbur sent their dad when they believed flight was within their reach after yet another crash:

MISJUDGMENT AT START REDUCED FLIGHT…SUCCESS ASSURED KEEP QUIET.
— Wright telegram, 1903
Wright brothers and crew at Kitty Hawk

Wright brothers and crew at Kitty Hawk

So on a smaller scale, as a first time business owner, we’re learning some foundational lessons about control, balance, and customer care — at scale.

Thank you for coming out to the experimental first flight. I know the dunes are a messy, and sandy place — but we’re having so much fun with those brief tastes of flight. We deeply appreciate that we’ve found a crew to “launch gliders on soft sands.”

For those of you curious about the e-commerce stack, I’ve chosen Shopify for our website, WordPress powers our blog and content (on the coincidentally named “Redux framework” no less), Inmotion hosts our domain, Wrike for project management, Fusedesk for customer service, Quickbooks for accounting, and Infusionsoft to help bring these all together. I can write more on this in the future if there’s interest.

In addition, I have a whole list of what I’ve learned from our first production run, and I’m determined to digest those to build and improve for the next flight. To name a few: Strap adjustment video tutorials, North American and Europe-based service centers, machining refinement, bezel mechanism, and QA/shipping/fulfillment process.

So, in the coming weeks, while the integration effort gets underway, we’re focused on search and rescue. Towards that end…

Meet Sarah

I’ve enlisted Sarah Craig, callsign Cantus (latin for melody or principal voice), on our customer care mission because obviously my nights and weekend just were not cutting it. Sarah is catching up on our backlog, so please play nice, be respectful, and welcoming.

The Drop ZoneAnd yes, contrary to some murmuring, Sarah is a real live person based in the U.S. who really shone through the many candidates I interviewed. She brings vast experience in customer care, understanding of our e-comm stack, and demonstrated overall enthusiasm for our fledgling enterprise. Sarah is new to the watch world, but eager to learn and already has made great strides.

I’ve personally experimented with artificial intelligence assistants such as Amy.ai, and let me tell you it’s emphasis on the artificial. There’s nothing fake about Sarah’s sincere desire to provide excellent support.

Sarah has begun to help with triage and make headway in taking care of incoming queries. In the weeks to come we will work together to produce Standard Operating Procedures, which will allow us to be more effective in communications and customer care.

Still, I realized that I should not have directed all emails into one account, that made it a nightmare to sort and identify serious issues.

To relieve that bottleneck, I created an FAQ section and drafted a Knowledge Base to get you answers as quickly as possible. And then if your question isn’t covered there, I’ve built a Search and Rescue form to help us more effectively understand how we can support. This way also deploy search and rescue operations in a more systematic way as we ramp up to the new HQ.

The framework is in place, though it’ll take some time to bulk up and deepen the resources. I hesitated to share it with you all in it’s current state, but at this point I think you’re all along for the adventure so check back if something looks out of place and hopefully I’ve gotten to it.

Check out one of my favorite spots in HQ right now, I need to figure out how to add #Reduxwatch + #COURGcrew as well into the mix. #COURGcrew, you guys are brilliant.

 

SKUNKWORKS

Beta-testing: Forums

One thing that I really loved and still appreciate is the lively discussion and community on Kickstarter in our campaign comments. There’s such a wealth of interesting and educational posts, plus cool photos, and I’m sad that it all gets buried and there’s no easy way to navigate.

So I built a forum on our new website. I have no idea if you all will use it or hang out there. I hope you do.

As you all know, I really enjoyed and valued how we worked together in the development phase of our Kickstarter campaign and I’ve been building our infrastructure with the goal of optimizing that type of interaction. I liked the camaraderie and discussion in the Kickstarter chat room, but ugh, what a mess and morass. I think we can do better with a touch more organization, structure, and tools.

I’ll dispatch invitations soon for beta testers. If you’d definitely like to be on that first wave, be sure to let John know.

Two-piece Straps Update

I’ve sent 10 sets of titanium hardware, which I had to cannibalize from prototype straps, over to Worn & Wound. I reviewed a ton of leather samples that they procured from Wickett & Craig and I was very pleased with the options we have for black (and some new color potentials TBD!), both in two-piece and in single piece straps. The leather has less stretch and their veg tan process includes a wax dip that complements the matte titanium.

Silicone Strap in Dev

B. Murphy, a brilliant industrial designer and #COURGcrew member, has begun work on a silicone strap to be fitted with our titanium hardware! I’m very stoked to not only try this sweet potential strap, but mainly for the opportunity to nerd out and learn from talented crew members like Murphy.

Strap Tool?

Speaking of straps… Let me just say that I’m the type of guy who prefers to use what I have on hand. That means I’ve always relied on a mix of screwdrivers that never seemed to be the right size or bent paper clips to change watch straps.

However, through recent months in the course of this project, I’ve really come to appreciate the value of a well made, purposeful tool. I’ve learned about a new exclusive design. So, here’s the question — would you be interested in one?

PERSONAL FRONT

There is an art, or, rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.
— Douglas Adam (ht Boehm)

Thinking back to the end of last year, I realized how much I let the project disjoint me. I wasn’t exercising, in tune with God, or caring for my family the way I want to. On top of that I was sleeping 3-4 hours a night.

During the most hectic and crazy times post-Kickstarter campaign, I started journaling and writing in a planner every day with a personalized format. I’m on version 7 of my experiment and I’ve really found that the daily habit has helped clear my mind and attention. My mentor, who also adopted my design, calls it “calibration.” I’m calling it my Chronicle. Things that I’m calibrating:

I’m learning how to work ON the business instead of getting buried IN the business.

I’m not a systems thinker by nature. I’m a technician, go with the flow, do it myself, kind of guy.

I’m learning how to take care of the urgent while making sure to allocate resources for the important, while providing timely status updates for people, such as taking time to be still and write this.

I’m learning that I need more space for deep work.

I’m learning that despite my best efforts, I can’t please everyone every time — and that’s ok.

I know that some might think I’ve flown the coup, and I can certainly understand that sentiment. I’m sorry that I’ve let you feel that way. I’m in this for the long haul and I’m grateful to learn that some of you are as well. I feel very badly that there has been some disappointment along the way and I want you to know I haven’t abandoned ship — and very much on the contrary — I’m more dedicated than ever to stay the course.

I once read that building a business is an opportunity to build a world the way you’d like it to be.

While I originally started out just to sell a couple watches, in the course of the journey I discovered I wouldn’t be satisfied with just throwing up another a store or just selling watches. The companies I admire most are ones which foster connection, give to the community, learn together, and of course, build iconic, thoughtful, and high quality gear.

So, there’s our flight headings.

And if you’re still with me here, I’ll leave you with this 6 minute mini-documentary about an often overlooked craft and thoughtful design that inspired Scotland-based graphic design firm O Street’s new font. The word they featured is a theme for me this year:

And if you only have 2 minutes:

 

Share this post

  • Derek Cooper

    Thanks for this update and a big welcome to Sarah; good luck with getting stuck into the customer care!

    I’m a great fan of my minimalist, Bahaus Courg which has lots of admirers. My one concern surrounds it’s water resistance. Whereby it could usually expect to accompany me floating in the shallows if a few beaches this summer, I’m a little reluctant to put it to the test after the internal wash it gave itself during a short shower.

    I’d be interested in the customer experience of water resistance – does it live up to the 20atm billing?

    Best Regards,

    Derek

    • Hey Derek, thanks for response. I’m sorry to hear of this trouble. We’ll be in touch to follow up about resolving this!

  • Jerry Johnson

    Stay the course! I really enjoy the watch; but I relish the experience! Semper Fi!

    • Hi Jerry, thanks for weighing in, and I’m glad to hear that!

  • Paul H

    In spite of the radio silence, I think you’ve done an awesome job of coordinating many moving parts. You’re learning the same lessons as any business owner: when to delegate. No one can do everything themselves, no matter how much they might want to.

    Also, I say this as someone who’s been a professional software developer for 25+ years—Using real humans to answer the phone is a HUGE improvement over the usual phone systems. That alone can defuse about 90% of the issues that people call in for.

    I think making a strap tool is likely a waste of your resources. One of the best, made by Bergeon, is available on Amazon for $20: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B001IZT8R2/ It’s the exact tool that you’ll see in most jewelry and watch shops.

    Keep fighting the good fight and break radio silence when you’re able. Over and out!

    -Paul in Boston

    • Hey Paul, thanks for the thoughtful and insightful note. I’m glad to be making progress and pushing forward. And I’ll check out the Bergeon, that’s very good to know.

  • Jeffrey Tate

    Understood there is backlog. Order was placed on 3/22/16. No word after the charge was processed. It would help greatly to have some status specific to my order. Thanks.

    • Got it, Jeffrey. Will be in touch, sorry for delay and thanks for patience.

  • Puddles

    Strap changing tools are useful. I use the Worn & Wound tool. Very simple, and had the option to change out the tips should they become worn out with use. Interested to see the latest straps!

  • Jimbeaux

    Any pre departure planning on the larger diameter T5?

    • Hey there Jim, do you mean the 42mm?

  • Chris

    Dear Redux Crew,

    Its fantastic that you are planning ahead and seeking to offer more product. However as a person who deals with corporations with big ideas and a small capital base I urge you to get the back office right and product delivery spot on before offering more to a public that wants you to succeed. As one of your original backers awaiting word of rectification in Hong Kongof my watch, I think the key to this issue is meaningful communication that includes acknowledgment of the problems identified and an undertaking to rectify, or in the alternative an admission that the shortfalls cannot be rectified. This is not the forum to detail such but am happy to do so.To date I have not had that level of communication. As this process is prolonged there is a danger that backers will ask themselves I “am I am a dumb consumer and should just pull up stumps and call my credit card company for a refund.In the spirit of constructive input into your business model, for a great concept and product I urge you to work harder on the meaningful communication and product process before expanding too quickly.
    Best regards

    Regards,Chris

    • Hi Chris, thanks for the thoughtful note. I’m personally following up with repair team to get a status update on your repair case. I totally agree with you and that’s my main priority right now to get our systems and processes hammered down, and make sure we have an infrastructure that will enable us to operate the way that I and we all can take pride in. I really appreciate your patience and completely understand your frustration. Again, I’m very sorry for the delay, I’m doing my very best to improve and upgrade our operations, while building for the future.

      My response ran much longer than a comment so I dispatched it via blog post: Hurtling Towards …!

      truly, elbert.