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I received an email from a potential client who was looking to purchase a monogrammed writing portfolio for her niece’s upcoming college graduation. Promptly, I replied, letting her know the cost was $75, including ground shipping, and how she could proceed to place an order on our website.
During this time of the year, most notably due to Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, with high school and college graduations straddled between those holidays, we receive a steady stream of these requests, so her email was nothing out of the ordinary. Requests like hers usually turn into automated ecommerce orders, so rarely do I hear feedback from the client again until we send a thank-you email after the monogrammed merchandise is delivered.
This time was different.
“Jessica”, as I will refer to her for her anonymity, quickly replied to my response. She apologized for "wasting" my time and admitted $75 was a lot more than she could afford. She candidly elaborated that she had been quite ill and did not think she would make it to her niece’s graduation. However, two days before the ceremony, her doctor cleared her to attend and she was immensely excited to be participating in the festivities.
No need to apologize, I explained, and asked her for her delivery address. “Long Island,” she immediately replied. The problem was that it was already late in the day on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. Since UPS does not deliver ground service on the weekend, it would have to be shipped via overnight express service to meet Jessica’s in-hands date, with residential and Saturday delivery fees further compounding the cost.
Inspired by Jessica’s sincerity and ensuing gratitude, I was undeterred by the costs involved, knowing full well that we would lose money on a purchase for just $55, including the free overnight shipping. Her story touched my heart, especially when she conveyed that she would feel to proud to “present (her) niece with this beautiful padfolio…knowing it will bring her luck as she begins to embark on her journey in the next stage of her life.”
The moral of the story is that we don’t need to make money on every customer. One of the most satisfying benefits of being in the gift-giving business is that we at Royce are privileged to be part of the best moments in peoples’ lives. Sometimes, that is payment enough.
When Vanessa, our boutique manager, asked me when is it appropriate to offer discounts to customers, particularly during non-promotional periods, I reminded her about Jessica. Whether it is to recognize a repeat customers’ loyalty, incentivize someone purchasing in large quantity or merely just to create a memorable customer moment, our team is empowered to use their judgment and intuition, rather than comply with rigid rules and pricing strategies, to do what is best.
After all, what catalyzes my family is not money -- it is the mission. My grandfather, Eugene, had a vision of changing the world with his monogrammed leather gifts, even if it was in the most minute, unsung way on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. My father continued championing that spirit as we grew to Flatiron. Nearly 45 years later, I’ve revamped the product mix, scaled our operations and moved our retail front to the Upper East Side at Bloomingdales 59th Street flagship store, but my family’s inherent vision remains steadfast.
Peter Drucker, who coincidentally shares my birthday (just 82 years earlier) and also hails from Vienna, Austria, once proclaimed, “Profit for a company is like oxygen for a person…if you don’t have enough of it, you’re out of the game. But if you think your life is about breathing, you’re really missing something.”
If you truly are committed to your purpose-driven mission, construct a revenue model that will enable you to attain your goals by maximizing the resources needed to reach the audience you seek to serve. Ultimately, Royce has persisted and grown because our revenue model is a manifestation of our mission, not the other way around.