2017 wasn't an easy year. It was a year of reorienting, modest growth and consolidation. A solid foundation year.
On the one hand, we finally had just enough profit to pay myself so that I can afford to stop consulting and focus on this business full time. A longtime dream comes true. We also had our first hire, waving at Perryn, who has shared a significant portion of work with me.
On the other hand, I had my first depression from July to October. The self-doubt and tiredness combined hit me hard. With all the hard work, I took home less than half of what I could make if I go out to find a job. Why is it so hard? What have I done wrong? And then there was the sense of guilt every time we take some money out of the family's savings account. I ran a report on my productivity yesterday, and my performance was only 1/3 of what it usually was. There were days I stared at the ever-increasing list of todos and couldn't bring myself to work on any of them.
Bit by bit, step by step, I gradually regain my strength. The journey wasn't pretty, but it does offer me some slow time to chew on some of the most fundamental questions. As a result, after coming out of it, I do feel stronger, better grounded and more self-assured. I finished 2017 with a renewed sense of purpose.
2018, here we come. So, I present to you, ... ...
Goals for 2018
A new product every month. HappyMoose has always been about making high-quality photo prints affordable to everyone. In the last three years, we have seen our price keep going up, and we have heard lots of comments about being "too pricey". So we set it our number one goal this year to introduce new products that are under $20. We have signed a five-year rental agreement to a digital press machine end of last year. Once the machine is delivered and installed in March, we will be able to print your photos at a much lower price point, with faster speed and improved reliability. I can't wait for the day to announce a permanent price drop for several products, and I hope you like the new ones too.
Improve Quality Control. Drop reprint rate from 7.5% to 2%. It pains me every time I received an email about an error in print or a parcel damaged in transit. Our average rate is 7.5% for both 2016 and 2017. I have to say that this number is embarrassingly high. The retail industry's average is about 5%, and I believe with better process and more stable software, we should be able to bring it to as low as 2%. When you order from us this year, please spare a few minutes to send us feedback and help us to improve.
Reduce order time to 5 minutes. On average, customers spent 13:02 ordering on our website. 454 customers have given us very detailed feedback on which parts of the software were hard to use. We have compiled a six-page long document with a total of 360 issues to work on. We should be able to take care 80% of them in 2018. (For those of you who are curious, the top threes are: remove the notorious "I'm not a robot" check; make it possible to try a photo with different sizes; making it easier to sort and organise the photos for collage posters.)
More accessories from NZ small businesses. We added the wooden hangers and photo stands to our offering from October 2017. Both of them are from small businesses in South Island. We couldn't be happier with the responses, and we want to add a couple of more this year, focusing on the ones that'll work well with the under-$20 products mentioned in #1.
A blog post every week. Stay true and authentic. Thank the enthusiastic responses on the 12-days of Christmas campaign; I realised that, even though writing in English will probably never feel easy, I do have some stories to tell. And I'll be honoured if these stories can be of any help to you in the smallest way. Like Carl Jung said:
I feel it is the duty of one who goes his own way to inform society of what he finds on his voyage of discovery.
Face-to-face with our customers. I enjoy meeting our customers and hear what you have to say. This year, we have budgeted out for three events: 4th to 8th of March in Auckland and Hamilton; 9th-10th of June in Christchurch for the Baby Expo 2018 and 19th-22nd April in Dunedin for the NZ Photography Society National Convention. If you are around, please do come and say hi. I'm looking forward to seeing you in person.
Stay small. Stay independent. Stay humble. As always.
Thanks and talk to you next week.
Alex and the HappyMoose team
PS. Here is the review for 2017.
(C stands for "Completed", H for "Half completed and we're still working on it", and F means "Failed miserably that we want to cry.")
- H Improve, perfect, and customise all our products. - We have rewritten many parts of the software, especially the cropper and uploader, and we have fixed over 200 reported bugs. But, we do know that there are still plenty to do. Please refer to our 2018 Goal #3.
- C Reduce the production time to one business day. Yes. We did it. We have reduced the average production turn around time from 2.6 days down to 0.2 day, which basically means that we have achieved the same business day turn around time for most orders.
- F Better unboxing experience. - We looked into this at the beginning of 2017 but we don't have the deep pocket required to make a noticeable difference. With the new machine, maybe we'll try again this year.
- H Introduce "My Projects" and "My Photos" to the website - We released the "My Project" back in May. It's hard to imagine how we managed to work without this feature. We didn't have time to add "My Photos" to the site though, which we hope to get to in 2018.
- C Upload directly from your Google Drive (Google Photos) accounts. - Yup. We did it and you love it.
- C More templates and better tools for collage prints. - Yes, we've expanded the selection for "Collage Frames" from 3 to 6.
- F More face-to-face time with our customers. - It didn't happen but we do have a plan for 2018.
- C Stay small. Stay independent. Stay humble. - We're trying our best.