Making the hard calls in business

For those in business, hands up if you’ve ever had to make a hard decision that has impacted your customers. How many of you did that before you even shipped?

We often talk in business about launching your minimum viable product, listening to your customers, and adapting to your customers feedback.

We don’t, however, talk enough about how to do this, how to manage the customer, and why you might make these calls in the first place.

I sat down recently with the James Fielding the CEO of Audeara, a Brisbane-based headphone company, who recently had to make some tough calls that impacted the launch of his business and the many, many thousands of pre-order customers it had on the books from its crowdfunding campaign.

READ: 3 key lessons on crowdfunding


Keran: Audeara is all about the audio, this is why you’re creating the next level personalised audio listening experience right?

James: Exactly, here at Audeara everything we do is about the audio. We want to create the absolute best audio experience for our customers, an experience that goes beyond just the audio.

It’s a feeling that permeates our app, our packaging and our headphones. We keep this experience top of mind with every decision we have to make.

Keran: You had production ready headphones ready to ship for July, but you haven’t shipped – talk me through what happened.

James: You’re right, we had a production-ready product, it was good, we were happy with it.

We were testing these production items with early customers and they kept saying “they are good but it’d be great if …” and we realised our product wasn’t embracing the experience we wanted.

Through our crowdfunding campaign, we’d set an expectation of the experience we would deliver. We knew we could do more and deliver on that  experience.

We made the call to delay shipping, increase the quality of the product and ultimately deliver on the total experience our customers want.

Keran: That must have been a hard call, how did you handle this with your customers?

James: We owned it really early and it very quickly became the right thing to do.

Because we had built up such a great community through kickstarting our project we had been very transparent with them already.

When it came to communicating this change, we carried on being transparent. I had Alex, our CTO, show gantt charts, roadmaps and materials.

I fronted videos and emails and we shared with our customers exactly what was going on.

This bought us a lot of credibility and amazing support, with most customers becoming excited to see what changes we were making.

Keran: How important was the positioning of the messaging around this change?

James: We wrestled with this as we thought about how to communicate. Should we say “Sorry we’re making a few changes”? However, the reality was we weren’t sorry.

We were proud of the fact we were making the right decision to deliver on our customer promise. We owned the decision and communicated that way.

Keran: Thanks James, great chatting with you.


So when you’re facing some tough decisions in your business, here are three tips from James that might help smooth the process:

  • Make the decision fast – Just like ripping off a band-aid, as soon as you know you have to make this decision, do it.
  • Be transparent – Be open and honest in your communication of the decision. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking to clients or internal teams, being transparent allows those impacted to know exactly what, why and when (or as much of each of these as you can share).
  • Own it –Think about your communication and why you made this decision. Communicate strongly and clearly. In James’ case they were proud to change so they can deliver an even better experience for the customer.