My Story – 2: Foundations
In the previous part, I told about how I had started my network marketing journey in 1991. This week I will share with you the start-up phase of Oriflame Turkey, country’s first network marketing venture.
When I was appointed as the General Manager in December 1991, I had several high-priority tasks on my desk. All were of such high-priority that it was virtually impossible to emphasize one over another. A typical start-up it was, afterall…
One of the major tasks was to complete the incorporation of the entity. This was to be done with the aid of a local law office. The headquarters sent the necessary documents, the required applications were filed and done! Within two or three weeks after I started, we were a formally established firm in Turkey. So, I was able to act on behalf of the company.
Another important task was to find and renovate the office. I was lucky there because while making his initial contacts in Turkey, the Regional Manager Sven Mattsson had done some research. And one of the venues he had picked in Istanbul was really tailor-made for our purposes from many aspects. The landloard was a hard nut but I succeeded in bringing him to an agreement and we signed the contract. It was a 450 m2 place that would also include our warehouse.
After this, I contacted two architects and contracted one of them to start knocking down a few walls as soon as possible. In the meanwhile, I needed a space to work in. This whole thing was not something that could be managed working from home. There were a lot of meetings going on and there was neither Starbucks nor any short-term temporary office facilities at that time. But the landlord had his office in the same building and had an empty room at the back of his place! I rented that small room and moved to his place together with my PC, printer, phone and fax machine. I was literally running after everything by myself.
As the office renovation continued, another high-priorty task was to get import permissions for the cosmetics products. Those days, the Turkish legislation required that procedure which does not exist anymore. I had all the documents from the headquarters translated by a sworn translator, filled in the necessary forms, and filed the application at the Ministry of Health in Ankara. This process was a stomach-wrenching one because without products, there would be no business!
While doing all this, I went to Prague and Budapest offices of Oriflame for a one-week training and orientation trip. To be able to see things on the spot was invaluable. After this week, I returned to my 12 m2 office in Istanbul to continue working on the various aspects of the launch project. I was also handed in Prague a set of “diskettes” that contained Oriflame’s MLM software by the name of “Orico”, to be installed in Turkey.
All the marketing materials had to be localized and printed. I personally translated the distributor agreement, compensation plan, distributor manual and product catalogue plus many other leaflets.
As the launch date approached, we had to hire additional personnel. Company’s core staff consisted of four people in addition to myself. And they needed a space for themselves but our office was still being renovated. Luckily, our landlord had another and a more spacious room to sublet to us.
In time, the office renovation was completed and we moved to our own place. However, there were no products in sight! In fact, they were all at the customs but the import permission process was not yet finished. The Ministry would ask for more and more documents each time. At the end, we got all the necessary appovals and we would be able clear the goods at the customs.
A truck load of cosmetics products came to our warehouse in mid-April 1992, exactly four and a half months after I was hired. That afternoon, the Regional Manager Sven Mattsson who was in Istanbul those days, the warehouse supervisor and I helped unloading the truck and placing the parcels on racks. The feeling we all were in was unforgettable!
Next part: Start of Sales