August 1, 2017
As one of the global companies that introduced outdoor brands and its never-ending technological concept revolutionaries, Columbia Sportswear continues to challenge the status quo. Since its entry in the Philippine market in 2005, it continues to expand and offer technical gears for those who love outdoor activities.
In 2010, Columbia Sportswear Co. with its two products – Ravenous trail running shoe and Mobex trail pack - received the Industry Awards for Innovation and Design in the apparel/helmets/shoes and backpacks/travel luggage categories besting 242 entries from all over the world. It is considered as Europe’s most prestigious and influential award-giving body that recognizes top performers in the active footwear and outdoor accessories industries.
On May 9, 2017, the team was awarded the Distributor of the Year for 2016 by Columbia Sportswear. According to Tiffany Batungbacal, Assistant Vice President, it took years of hard work and commitment from various people and organizations to achieve where they are now.
Seven years ago, the brand was at its lowest with an IC of 18 months, 25% obsolescence and trending to end the fiscal year at 75% achievement, but this turned out to be the best year for the brand. They were forced to work harder and think out of the box. In retrospect, this prepared the team for the hardest times in retail.
In achieving such prestigious award, Tiffany admitted that it was not an easy road for her and her team.
How did Columbia Philippines achieve this? We may be hearing the same cliché words such as hard work, team work and the likes, but Tiffany shared her experiences and advises that these words, mixed with action and effort, will definitely go a long way;
We had to regroup. We had to assess the business. We had to eat humble pie. We identified critical pain points and laid out what we needed to do. We changed our pricing strategy. We reviewed our product mix per door. We changed our marketing communication. We did extensive training in our FSS and affiliates. We tapped Key Accounts Division (KAD). In short, we didn’t leave any stone unturned. We fixed every aspect of the business. It took years of hard work to turn the business around. And, we are still evolving. There are many practices that may have worked before but is now obsolete. You have to be open-minded and flexible. Planning in advance is a big help, but do not be afraid to be spontaneous, be ready to throw out what you’ve planned for and adjust accordingly.
There are no shortcuts to success. We worked 12 hours a day, we even meet during lunch and merienda and, we did store visits on weekends. People thought our team never argue, but we always do. But whatever the team agreed on, we would stick to that and we make it work (or at least try). I am a firm believer that the best ideas come from different point of views and some of our best ideas came from heated discussions. But we always make sure it never crossed to anyone being disrespectful.
It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to laugh. When we were at our lowest, we did both. We took our job seriously, but we coped by laughing. We were focused on our targets but we made sure we never lost our humor. Since it felt like climbing Mt. Everest, we placed targets and short term goals. We celebrate every time we achieve these goals – with high fives or sometimes pizza if we were feeling generous. We always acknowledge good work either through emails or simple tokens we leave on each desk. Hiccups and trials in between didn’t faze us. We didn’t take criticisms seriously, we appreciate them. Sometimes they felt like jagged little pills (thanks Alanis M.!) we needed to swallow, but knew we would be better because of them.
We are honest with each other. As much as we celebrate wins, we also call out bad practices. It is the only way we will not kill each other in the long run. It is easy to lose ourselves and our focus with the stress and work load. I lost. We lost. We broke down several times and sometimes lose our steam—but that’s ok. It is part of the process. What’s important is how we handle these “times” – the times we put our game faces on, dust away the wounds and stand up again because people depend on us.
Team Columbia along with Marketing Services Division (MSD), Design and Construction Department (DCD), Union Inks and Graphics Philippines Inc. (UIGPI), Logistics, Accounting, Human Resources (HR), KAD, PBD, Matrix, suppliers, brand ambassadors, etc. are all part of the success. Columbia is where it is now because over a hundred people are constantly working hard to meet the deliverables, do marketing campaigns, meet deadlines. That is why this recognition is so overwhelming for me because I know the amount of sacrifice, blood, sweat and tears we all had to put in. It was not the effort of a single person but a collaboration of so many people.
In the end, I want all my Ka-Primers to stay focused but don’t forget to laugh. Work harder than your hardest, but don’t forget to take in the good with the bad. If we work as one, we will come out as stronger, smarter and better.”
In a company with over 3,000 employees, it might be difficult for one to stand-out and find their own niche, but with love, passion and support with each other, the rough road will be easier. It is a major win not just for the Columbia Philippine team, but also for the whole Primer Group. It is now more than ever that the group needs to be ready for change and go out of their comfort zone. As one, we will improve and evolve. As one, we will show the world what they have not seen the best from Primer Group yet.