Puneet Nanda does not deal with deliberation. You’ll find that the moment you walk into his office at Dr. Fresh Inc.
“If you come to my office, you will see there is a big sign that says, ‘Yes or no,’” says the company’s founder, president and CEO. “It has to be a yes or it has to be a no. There should never be a maybe. I would rather not do it than say, ‘OK, we’ll look at it.’ We’ll never look at it. Either we’ll do it now or we’ll never do it.”
Dr. Fresh makes dental products that are targeted to children. Nanda doesn’t like to waste a lot of time talking to his 80 employees about the pros and cons of a potential new product. He has made the right call more often than not at the $50 million company.
“My six wrong decisions will probably make a loss of $30,000, but my four right decisions will make a profit of $70,000, so that’s where we are,” Nanda says.
Smart Business spoke with Nanda about how to put your business in a position to grow.
Don’t wait. As an entrepreneur and an innovator, I have had to take many risks in terms of new product development and costs incurred to develop a new product. There are a lot of expenses involved when you do a new product.
You have to take a risk, and then once you’re leading, you have to make an informed decision of, ‘Hey, should I do this or should I not do this?’ You have to say yes or no and move on. You can’t just keep the decision on hold.
I lived in Russia before coming to the United States. During my stay there, I developed a business from zero to 40 people in four and a half years. There was a lot of mafia in those days. You have to be very fast in whatever you do or you’ll be run over. You need to make a decision or someone else is going to eat your lunch.
Talk to your customers. The first question I ask my buyer is, ‘What is on your wish list?’ He says, ‘Oh, I’m looking for a denture adhesive that could save my shelf space and could stand up in the tube rather than a flat tube. Do you know anybody that manufactures it?’
I go back and I see if I can do it, and if I can, I base the product on his wish list. It makes the buyer almost fall in line with the product right away because I basically granted him his wish. We start from a demand rather than trying to force our product to the buyer.
The big companies, they make a new product through their think tank and they go to the buyer and they say, ‘Hey, you better keep this because we’re Colgate or we’re Crest.’
I go to the buyer and I ask what he needs and try to deliver that, and that’s why I get all the love and attention that the product needs. The buyer almost thinks he’s made the product and thinks it’s his baby.
Listen to your people. They have to either give me enough credible answers and say, ‘Hey, Dr. Fresh, we really don’t want to do it for this and this reason,’ or they’ll have to follow me. They’ve learned that they either have to stand up and tell their part of the story or they have to follow me.
I really take their story very seriously. Suppose someone tells me, ‘Dr. Fresh, you’re wasting your money putting a sensitive toothpaste on the market because nobody is going to buy this because everybody is going to buy Sensodyne.’
Can I fight it by going through the dental route or is his reasoning strong enough? If I feel his reasoning is strong enough, I say, ‘OK,’ and I drop the product. If I think his reasoning is wrong, I say, ‘Listen, we can do it.’
I only listen to those people who actually have their own opinion. Those people who are just yes-people, I don’t even listen to them anymore.
Honest opinions usually stand up later on in the game. You can have a yes-man two times, but the third time, you know he just said yes to please you. You know when opinions are honest. When you are talking to them, you know very quickly if that person put any thought behind it or if he is just saying yes quickly.
There are a lot of decisions that I do wrong. Nothing is 100 percent. But I do do it. It’s better to do than not to do.
Set the right example. As long as you’re very honest with people and as long as they know whatever is coming out of your mouth is 100 percent correct and not a sham, they start to work according to you.
I come in at 8:30 in the morning, so I don’t expect anybody else to come at 8:40.
I’ve seen CEOs spend lavish money on offices and cars when they tell employees the business is not doing well and the business is stressed and they are on a firing line and the next day they come to work the next morning in a Ferrari. That’s not the right signal to employees. You have to ensure that you are leading by example.
Stay close to competition. I make sure that rather than fighting forces, I try to join hands with them. Rather than trying to fight Colgate or Crest, I’ll try to sell their product with mine and make them my ally rather than my enemy. I always try to join hands with the person that I fear the most.
It’s like a country like Zambia trying to pick a fight with the United States. What good would it do to them? I’d say, ‘Let’s find a way to work together. Maybe you come and build up our schools and educate my people and I’ll give you some minerals in return. Let’s both progress and take care of our people.’ I’d rather find a way to assimilate than fight.
How to reach: Dr. Fresh Inc. (866) 373-7374 or www.drfresh.com