Two and half years ago, we lost a major client. It was a big blow that was hard to bear at the time, but was a necessary wake up call: we had lost our way. That loss turned out to be the impetus Mira Smart Conferencing needed to improve our systems and focus exclusively on our core business.
And, yes, we won the client back.
Here’s the story.
Four years ago, when John Berglund joined Mira as CEO, Mira was a 19-year-old company with a diverse array of products. Too diverse. We were in the process of developing a business focused on self-published authors. Our equipment leases were structured on high volume, and so we were effectively buying revenue to hit those numbers, with inefficient processes – which is a lousy way to run a business, and ultimately not sustainable. The goal of helping authors realize their publishing dreams was noble enough – but the trouble was, those dreams had very little in common with our core business, content management for conferences.
Humans are lousy multitaskers. Businesses are even worse.
Our management was trying to please conference planners and be a publisher at the same time. Our products and services had virtually no overlap, which meant our attention was divided. Project managers and staff divided their time. Quality control measures had not been implemented. Printing was a troubled area, so it consumed most of our attention. Not only were we focusing on two businesses – growth in one area came at the expense of the other.
Berglund’s first task as chief executive was to evaluate if the printing business was worth saving, and if so, to spin it off as a separate company. After about 6 months of trying various corrective measures (streamline of process, cutting costs, growing sales, and so on), we made the decision to getting out of the printing business. It simply wasn’t in our DNA.
Winding down a business that took a decade to assemble didn’t happen overnight – it took a year to find the right buyer, where fourteen out of sixteen staff were retained after the sale. It was the right thing to do. But while we were shedding the publishing business, we neglected our core content management software business. During the transition, we lost a big client: FASEB.
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) is the umbrella organization for 27 biology and medical research societies. With about 110,000 members, FASEB’s conferences are many and large. For years, Mira had worked with both FASEB and its constituent societies, providing content management software and support for many ongoing conferences. Our project managers had close, longstanding relationships with many FASEB conference administrators.
But FASEB’s board wanted a change. They needed more bandwidth, less downtime and a sharper user interface for their conferences – all crucial elements of content software suitable for an organization such as FASEB’s. Although Mira’s project managers worked well with their society counterparts, Mira’s software was lagging. FASEB found a new provider.
“It was a kick to the stomach,” Berglund recalls, “But it was also a real call to action. We stopped listening to the client”
Berglund rallied. He invested in Mira’s process, people and programming to sharpen the company’s focus on its core business. Mira’s building became all-fiber; all hardware and associated software was updated; the user interface got a face-lift; uptime increased to 99.85%. Berglund leveraged the company’s printing know-how into enhancing its conference poster program, where meaningful overlap truly existed.
In the meantime, FASEB’s conference administrators asked its board to return to Mira. The customized processes that we developed for them were difficult to replicate with another vendor. Once they saw the new user interface, understood the hardware upgrades and our renewed commitment to the association, it made a lot of sense. They also wanted a return to the level of service that our project managers bring to the conference.
Two years after leaving, FASEB is now back with Mira planning for next year’s conference. Berglund and James Gentry, Mira project manager, attended the 2015 FASEB conference to “tee up for next year,” Berglund explained. “It’s great to be given the opportunity to win a customer back. With our new upgrades, and focus on what we know, we know 2016 will be their best conference yet.”
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