A Chat with Eduard Bjorncrantz, Vice President, Direct Marketing at Day-Timers, Inc.
CS: Over the course of your career, what do you think was the biggest challenge you had to face?
EB: I think the biggest challenge has been how to generate profitable growth. In some situations, it has been relatively clear-cut, and the plan for growth depends more on blocking and tackling than in redefining the strategic direction. In most situations, however, it’s much more complicated. The strategies and tactics for growth differ with each situation. The competitive situation is different. The positioning of the company is different. The available resources and the customers all are different. Day-timers has the resources and the infrastructure to support growth. That was one of the attractions for me to come to Day-Timers. They want to grow the business, and I think I can help them do that.
CS: If you can pick out one thing, what’s the biggest business mistake you ever made, and how did you deal with it?
EB: I’m not sure it’s a catalog mistake, but a management mistake. Trying to do too much. You develop a plan, then as opportunities come along, you add more to your plate. I think I learned fairly early on that you have to focus on the plan you’ve got and stick to it. Otherwise you’re overtaxing your staff, and you’re confusing them as to what the priorities really are. Build a plan and make sure it’s fully integrated across the entire organization. Yes, there will be changes, but they can’t be frequent, and they can’t destroy the basics of the plan you already have in place.
CS: What are some key points to your success in cataloging?
EB: I’ve been involved with a number of companies at a senior management level - Sears, Lab Safety, Moore Medical, Quill, J.C. Whitney, my own consulting business, and now Day-Timers. While there are many factors that contribute to catalog success, I think having an intense customer focus and an in-depth understanding of the market is essential. You can’t be effective in managing a catalog business by just having exceptional direct marketing skills, but you clearly need to understand the specific market of which you’re a part. I think one of the mistakes that Sears made is that if you were a buyer of tires, you could be just as good a buyer of women’s foundation garments. And that’s just not true, because you have to really understand the market inside and out. With an intense customer focus, you not only understand what they’re buying, but why they’re buying it.