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What does a technical Director do exactly?

September 2, 2013

I launched my consulting business just over five years ago now and have seen it grow, shrink, grow and then morph in a few different directions over that time.  This shifting and shuffling is all par for the course for a young start-up business and especially one with the core skills of technical Directorship as we all know that it is dangerous to run before you can walk and as such I have had to tread the boards before I got to sit on one (other than my own of course).

Anyway, I find myself now in a position where technical Direction is EVERYTHING that I do.  Whether clients come to me for a quick and easy formulation, a bit of writing,  training, stability testing or trouble shooting I end up doing a lot of listening,  thinking and planning before giggling that all up in my brain soup and dishing it up as a fully formed plan.  That plan is in fact your brand direction, your ticket to successfully joining the dots and flying high in the world of cosmetic brand ownership.

But like everything I’ve ever tried to do communicating this in an ‘elevator’ pitch to people who feel that it should be easy and who ‘hadn’t thought of that’ or ‘didn’t know there were any laws’  or ‘thought that all I had to do was set up a Facebook page and they would come’ is tricky.

So, I thought I’d go through it long hand with you now in a bid to solve my own problem and magic-up a pitch by the end of this blog post.

Here goes – my three-step program.

Step 1)  Understand the difference between Directorship and Management.

So this might be obvious to those readers in a multi-national or other large organisation but many of my clients are small business owners or medium-sized enterprises who have grown quickly from being small businesses and as such have knowledge gaps in this area.

So we are about to start work on a new range of  cosmetics.

The Technical Director would

  • Set a budget and time frame for the project.
  • Research the best time and place to launch the range
  • Define the space (or market segment) that the new range will occupy and who it will appeal to (target audience)
  • Gather intelligence about who and what is currently in that space (or market segment) and perform a SWOT analysis
  • Map out the tools required to get the range to market – people, equipment, knowledge etc.
  • Establish a team framework and delegate a manager
  • Train the manager in the ‘Director vision’ and encourage ‘buy-in’ from the team and respect and authority of the manager.
  • Monitor the progress of the project against key business metrics while keeping an eye on project energy, team dynamics and creativity.
  • Remain up to date with movements in the market in terms of competitors, laws, consumer sentiment and economic mood.
  • Offer ongoing support and vision to the team via the manager and occasionally directly.

The Brand Manager Would.

  • Invest in understanding the vision of the Director, challenging it where necessary in terms of practicality and deliverability based on existing company culture and resources.
  • Build and motivate the brand development team based on the Directors framework.
  • Be responsible for the day-to-day implementation of the development plan ensuring that deadlines are met and resources are available.
  • Maintain morale and focus.
  • Ensure that the needs of the end customer are kept front of mind during the process by referring back to the brief and market intelligence data.
  • Inform the Director of any obstacles that arise throughout the process.
  • Act as a go-to person for team members.

Step 2: Understanding what a Technical Director needs to know.

Ok so now is where I get into the detail that brand owners don’t always appreciate before setting out on this journey alone.   In ‘real life’ (outside of business) we can use an example of housing renovations to illustrate this point.  We have all seen the shows “DIY DISASTERS’  or ‘HOUSE OF HORRORS’  when the home owner decides that changing the bathroom taps isn’t that hard as they have watched how to do it on You Tube and feel confident to give it a go……..

In the cosmetics world it is also common to gloss over the depth and breadth of knowledge required to get a brand successfully to market the results of which can vary and include potential bankruptcy,  mental breakdown of the business owners, lack-lustre sales,  legal issues (patent infringement, compliance issues, safety notices),  product recalls and customer dis-engagement.

Here are some things that a Technical Director should bring to the table.

  • Market knowledge (cosmetics industry trends etc)
  • Vision – thinking outside of the box in terms of opportunity identification, risk management and new product development)
  • Ingredient safety and legality
  • Psychology of the target market – buying triggers, lifestyle, current purchases, aspirations, fears,  dreams etc
  • Psychology of business ownership and management – important for dealing with inter-personal issues along the way
  • Packaging – options, features and benefits, suitability for purpose etc.
  • Efficacy testing
  • Stability
  • Export and import
  • Chemistry and formulating knowledge – applied chemistry
  • Scale-up
  • Manufacturing constraints/ manufacturing methods and standards
  • Regulations
  • Claim substantiation
  • Marketing options and the target audience for each platform
  • Sales strategy, pricing and competitor landscape
  • Supply chain dynamics and security
  • Business finance knowledge and margin setting
  • Effective communication throughout the supply chain
  • Training
  • Team dynamics
  • Time Management
  • Leadership
  • Crisis management
  • Insurance
  • Logistics

Step 3: Understanding why employing a Technical Director is a good idea.

Looking at this is quite daunting and  I can easily appreciate that it takes many years and a solid investment in training and practice to hone this skill set.  However, I speak to  brand owners and  potential brand owners every week who have no idea that they have no idea about these ‘information gaps’ and when I tell them it is as if I am making it all up!  But that is just the point.  You don’t know that you need all of this information until you stumble,  you don’t appreciate how much having that information saves you in terms of money and time until you have spent all of your money and are pulling your hair out because you have no time.  You don’t understand how important it is to get on top of this stuff early until you get an opportunity to sell your brand overseas to a major chain and then find that your product isn’t scalable/ isn’t stable or isn’t legal because of the claims you are making.   Ignorance is only bliss for so long.

So, now I’m at the end of that exercise it is time to sum it all up in my elevator pitch of 100 words or less – is that even possible????

Before I do that I think it is worth saying that I am so anti fear-based-marketing that I considered not even writing this post as I didn’t want to scare people into submission or feel like I was creating a need out of fear.  However, events over my last five years as a consultant have shown me that this isn’t fear based at all, it is all real and if it is scary it is because it is challenging and new.  The people who feel the most scared are the very same people who need this help the most.  The biggest consequence of not knowing all of this before you start-up a brand is exhaustion – mental and physical exhaustion – and when that happens finances tend to get exhausted next.  I don’t want that to happen to my clients or me which is why I am now formalising my brand Direction process.

And so I’m done and here is my Technical Director service elevator pitch.  If you like the sound of it let’s talk some more.

The pitch:

Realize Beauty’s outsourced Technical Director service

We deliver over fifteen years of leadership, vision, practical experience and support  on a contract basis to brand owners looking to expand their product range.  

Our service provides  guidance,  practical solutions and insight  throughout the R&D process including market profiling, regulatory compliance,  budget setting, project planning,  formulating, product stability,  claim substantiation, brand communication,  technical writing, training and sales and marketing strategies. 

Our Technical Director program increases the chances of brand success by providing the insight and evidence  needed to ensure the brand reaches its goals both financially and in terms of audience engagement. 

Take care and feel free  to contact me if you need more information on any of the above  – amanda@realizebeauty.com

Amanda x

4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 4, 2013 2:41 am

    Thank you for this blog posting. I a small business owner and also have stumbled around who am I in my company? What role do I want to play? Can I actually do this as a one woman show? I will use this to help me decide all of the above. I am sure once I do, my business will flourish..Just at a standstill right now.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
      September 4, 2013 7:54 am

      I think that the detail behind each part of what we do as business owners is often lost unless you have a background in that particular area. A company director is different to a technical director in that regard as the company director has their eyes on the grand company vision and sets the direction and tone for that. Technical directors are product focused and make sure the products are in line with the company directors vision. Then you have finance and HR. It is possible to do all of this as a one person show but it does pay to sit back and work out where your strengths and weaknesses lie while having an appreciation for what you know and don’t know. Then you can assess if you need to hire in help and what that help should look like. Thanks and glad it helps you.

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