Five things I learnt about business from one of the oldest professions on earth
I recently met Kumar and his son Vinesh Advani, both gentlemen in the true sense of the word, at a conference on social media and digital engagement. Kumar has run Advani Custom Tailors, a business he has worked in for 50 years and which his father started in Hong Kong, one of the oldest professions in the world. Vinesh has made the decision to join the business and carry on his family’s legacy.
What started as a brief conversation around social media and using it to engage with clients taught me several things about business. I love spending time with people talking about their businesses and finding out how they work and what drives the owners. This chat was one of those pivotal moments.
Vinesh is able to take on the business by having a strong and loyal client base built on a tradition over more than 5 decades. It’s an enviable track record but Kumar and Vinesh are also not afraid to reach out and connect with their clients in new ways in the digital environment.
Tradition is important and when you have a winning formula built up over time, that’s something to celebrate. But it’s also important to be able to recognise and embrace change at the appropriate times to stay relevant.
They explained to me their process and the steps they go through to ensure each client they work with goes away 100% happy with their garment and returns for more. The secret is that they are both committed to those processes and can clearly articulate the reasons they are important. They adhere to them rigorously and they don’t take short cuts with that.
Process is key to any business but the owners need to keep it simple enough to ensure that everybody involved is clear on how things work, exactly how things should be done and why.
It would be easy for Kumar and Vinesh to have fallen into the trap of just selling great suits. However, it was clear to me that they see their business as relationship based and themselves as advisers to clients. They have an eye for colour and detail and are honest with clients about what will and won’t work.
The best businesses put their client relationships and honesty within that relationship above everything else. If you don’t have a strong relationship, you don’t have a client and if you don’t have a client, you don’t have a business.
Kumar and Vinesh ensure that each client receives an experience which is one of quality and careful consideration. That includes asking clients for photos of them wearing their existing clothes so they can see the cut and how they hang. This is an ongoing process with the results being incorporated into future garments. Their fitting process is careful and extensive and required alterations are attended to, no questions asked.
Clients of any business recognise and expect to pay appropriately for quality. The experience and quality are remembered long after the price is forgotten.
Both Kumar and Vinesh are completely clear about their purpose for being in business and their mission. Kumar will tell you that a properly tailored garment gives the wearer a level of personal comfort and confidence that can’t be duplicated any other way. As he’s fond of saying:
“The clothes you buy off the rack… those clothes, they are made for dummies!”
Clarity around purpose is critical. A business which deviates from its purpose and tries to be multiple things to not authentic and will get lost in the crowd.
The time I spent chatting with Kumar and Vinesh was one of the highlights of the conference for me. It really emphasised that no matter what industry you work in, successful businesses are built on good principles and practice. And that’s a message I think we can all learn from.