A CEMS graduate who is proactively disrupting the world of fashion is Giampiero Giunta, co-founder of Italian digital tailoring company, Tresarti. Here he explains three lessons in learning through failure.
Tresarti means “three tailors” and it is built around a novel idea. Its three original founders envisioned an app that accurately records body measurements, and sends these measurements to high-quality Italian tailors who then hand-make a shirt according to the specifications of each user; a unique way of delivering custom-built, premium Italian tailoring to clients around the world, says Giampiero, that simultaneously opens up accessibility while reducing costs and returns.
The idea sounds as simple as it does ingenious. But Tresarti was also a longer time than anticipated in the works. And the entrepreneurial journey for Giampiero and his co-founders just as steep a learning curve as that experienced by Dario Pirovino of Muntagnard.
“Our idea was forged around two prongs – the tech piece and the tailoring. And the tech piece was pretty complex,” he explains. “We had someone within our founding team who had the digital skills to create the measuring algorithm, but we lacked the in-house resource to actually build the app.”
Cue “outsourcing,” says Giampiero. And with it, “disaster number one.”
LESSON 1: Getting outsourcing right – the pitfalls to avoid
Bringing in the technical expertise from outside to build the right app for your business is neither new nor uncommon. But for the uninitiated, it can be fraught with pitfalls – as Giampiero and his co-founders discovered.
First off, you need to be very sure that your brief is totally up to the job, which requires a great deal of input and attention to detail. Then you need to select the right programmers to deliver the brief. And that means having the criterion to fully evaluate the candidates.
“To get outsourcing right, you have to have someone in the team that can tell if the skills your external supplier claims to have measure up to the reality. This matters not only in terms of whether they can actually deliver the product, but also if they can do so for the agreed price and time. And this is something we had to learn to our cost.”
Then there is the second potential pitfall of communication. “Outsourcing inherently means becoming the client of another company, and for most of them the client is always right”, says Giampiero. This triggers a “Yes-Sir” type of communication (no matter how complex the request), which in turn leads to misaligned expectations and missed deadlines.
Again, it boils down to having the in-house capacity to communicate effectively and agree realistic objectives, he adds.
For Tresarti, the third pitfall in outsourcing their app development was a lack of “skin in the game.”
LESSON 2: Ensuring everyone has “skin in the game”
“When you hire a coder who has no direct involvement in your core business, you can be on a collision course in terms of your interests. You want the best service, but your provider naturally is looking at the value you can deliver as a client – the fees, the commitment and the potential for post-launch maintenance. You learn very quickly that you really need someone with real skin in the game – not just to launch, but to stay on for the longer term.”
This meant bringing in another partner – an IT architect – and finding the exact fit in terms of profile and talent; talent that is hard to acquire without adequate financial resources.
“What you discover very fast in your tech startup journey is that outsourcing is rife with the risk of failure. In our experience, the arguments for starting up with the talent in situ far outweighed the benefits of hiring skills elsewhere. We lost time and resources figuring this out. But we also learned valuable lessons. We also learned the importance of alignment and buy-in from the get-go. For us that meant finding another co-founder with the skillset we urgently needed.”
But their woes did not end there. In addition to a co-founder with the coding expertise to develop their backend, the team became aware of the need to hire a creative director to ensure that their frontend reflected the kind of quality and calibre that potential users would find attractive. And it had to be user-friendly.
“Testing the app we found that the user experience was sticky. The thing that we had built to open up accessibility, streamline and facilitate the whole bespoke Italian tailoring experience was actually hard to use. So the search was now on UX designer to lead our creative efforts. Tresarti or three tailors rapidly went from three to four to five tailors or co-founders in a relatively short period of time.”
LESSON 3: Putting it all together in a time, quality, cost triangle
Giampiero condenses these learnings into what he calls the “impossible triangle” of Time, Quality and Cost – a framework that he believes can help other entrepreneurs who might also be grappling with the trade-offs between outsourcing and hiring in.
“Our failures lay bare this need to triangulate – to think really hard about the dimensions of quality, time and cost. I’d say that for us, failure has been an invaluable learning tool and opportunity to acquire more knowledge and skills.
“It’s naïve to think that if you plan something on a piece of paper, it will turn out exactly that way. In entrepreneurship you are constantly facing challenges you didn’t anticipate or think about earlier. It’s your passion and vision that drives you forward and the understanding that there will be more failures along the way, and with them chances to learn and to grow.”