Because it will. And you should be prepared. Which is why this is a conversation to have before you start your first year in a tobacco business.

My first year was full to the brim. I was clueless, squeezing as much as I could out of the internet, talks with specialists, and walks around my plant floor. It took a lot of discipline in combining simple steps. I got lucky there, I’m good with that. I was flooded in logistics, moving equipment, going through meetings, planning transports and looking for perfectly legal solutions for previously un-foreseen situations. I was, as they say, cutting my teeth.

It was beautiful, that’s why I stayed. And complex. Tobacco is a complicated business. Mostly, I was in for the people. They’re still with me, 10 years after. Between them there’s so much knowhow, skill and ingenuity, it would have been a pity not to go ahead.

Crisis did strike, by the way. There will always be one. Which is why it’s essential to be prepared and stand your ground. And you can only do that if you really know the drills. That is, the proce-dures.

It could come from a million things. When I get crisis calls, I always go for the same protocol: breathe and full freeze. That means a full operations halt. And then you take a deep breath and start looking at things like they’re not yours, and follow the blood stains to the wound. Most likely it’s not where you think it is. It’s somewhere hidden in the flow, and you have to muster the patience to figure it out. Under the pressure of bank payments your judgement will blur and that never ends well. You may fix it once, but it will resurface to punch you in the face cost-wise. So don’t.

Also, it generally helps to have an outsider look at it, someone with a trained critical eye and the right questions. Where does this come from? What did you do there? Why is that so? Your own Sherlock Holmes.

Maybe your cigarettes sold really well and then they tanked. So then it’s probably about the prod-uct. You’d start looking at raw materials, consumables, presentation, and staff. Somewhere, some-thing happened. Maybe you increased the production or even the capacity based on optimistic sales estimates. Or maybe you changed the recipe once or often. People got enthusiastic at first and then sales failed to catch up.

Whatever it is, you must find it and then return to the previous point of stability in your business flow. That’s where you regroup (you need to build those into your business, by the way. As you reach a level of “good, we’re doing fine,” don’t jump to the next level just yet. Wait for this good to become your new routine. That’s what I mean by point of stability or goodness lane.) Sometimes the cause is easily found, especially if the reaction to it was immediate. If there was a downward slope, though, all the data needs to be brushed and inspected.

And by all means, take it one step at a time. In the crisis you will be as good as your cool and your knowledge. You have to make sure you have both at hand. Rushing never helps, particularly in this kind of setup. You want to not be attached to a certain scenario or cause, free your mind to look for clues like a perceptive detective. You also want to hold tight to your commitment to your business. Your heart and soul need to be in it. If you find the cause without them, it was probably a silly mis-take.

Last but not least, in everything you do in this business, remember the customer is captive to their preferences. The switch to a new product is never easy, but can be reversed in a heartbeat if the promise you made to them is broken. The promise is the product: that it will always deliver the same kind of pleasurable experience, the same taste, smell, look and feel. Respect that and, as long as you’re in it for the right reasons, you might just make it.

PS The right reasons means not doing it to get rich fast. Tobacco is not that kind of business. Prof-its don’t come easy, are not a constant and losses come with the territory. Please find better whys before you step in. Then you’ll have a jewel of a business to call your own and will serve pleasur-able moments to your customers. In the end, it’s all about the love. You have to love what you do. Even when crisis calls

Photo by Matteo Vistocco on Unsplash