What issues, in order of priority, should Jessie and Ashton address?

This Makes Scents (Part 1)
Ashton couldn’t believe it. Did Jessie really send him such a mean text? Ashton was thrilled
being the co-owner of a successful business and didn’t understand why Jessie would be
unhappy. Where was this hostility coming from, and if she was upset, why wouldn’t she
come and talk to him? They had been friends for over 6 years and had gone through the
ups and downs of university life together. They both shared a passion for business and were
entrepreneurs. They both believed in providing high-quality products at reasonable prices.
They were the best of friends! But maybe not anymore.
Background
Jessie Singh and Ashton Chan met during new student orientation day at Parkville
University. They had been seated at the same table and became fast friends. The light
banter quickly gave way to a deeper conversation about their hopes and dreams, including
why they had each decided to attend Parkville University. As it turned out, both Jessie and
Ashton were enrolled in the bachelor of business undergraduate degree program. Neither of
them had decided on a major, but both expressed a keen interest in learning more about
accounting and finance.
Throughout the next 5 years, Jessie and Ashton were in many of the same classes and
therefore had numerous opportunities to work on group projects together. As they did, they
discovered that they had a lot of personal interests in common. They liked the same grunge
bands, they liked the same type of food, and they both listed Las Vegas as their favourite
vacation spot. On top of this, they both had a strong work ethic and always strived to do well
on group projects. “Anything but an A is not okay” was their motto, and through their hard
work and dedication, both finished each year of the program on the dean’s list.
Graduation was just around the corner, and neither Jessie nor Ashton had selected a major
throughout their program. Nothing had really appealed to them, so they had both decided to
finish with a general business degree. Therefore, when Jessie approached Ashton with the
idea of starting their own business, they both thought it was a terrific chance to use all the
knowledge they had acquired over the past years while being their own bosses. They
agreed that “Friends to the end!” would be their new motto as they began the process of
starting their new company.
The Company
Many of Jessie’s friends had commented that the price of high-quality perfumes was
ridiculous. Body sprays were a cheaper option but certainly didn’t provide the same quality
or aroma as perfume. Therefore, when Jessie read an article about a company in Mexico
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that specialized in making knock-off perfume, she was intrigued. Market research showed
that the products were of high quality and that consumers really couldn’t tell the difference
between a brand name and the mock fragrance. Jessie and Ashton quickly took this product
idea and put together a very financially solid and viable business plan, being careful not to
infringe on trademarks and to clearly market their products as “mock” perfume and not
counterfeits. A small store space in a busy strip mall was leased, profit margins on products
were calculated, expenses (including a reasonable annual salary for both Jessie and
Ashton, who would split the shifts) were accounted for, and a bank loan was easily secured
to get the company off the ground.
The company, This Makes Scents, opened for business on March 1, and in just 8 months,
business had increased beyond initial projections. Sales were growing, and it was often
difficult to keep enough inventory on hand. Both Jessie and Ashton agreed that this was a
terrific problem to have as they rarely had items sitting on the shelf for long periods of time.
The growth in business had also meant that 4 new employees were hired to help with the
various shifts. As such, the store was now open 7 days a week, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
on each day.
The Current Situation
Jessie was furious! When she started the company with Ashton, she assumed that they
would be partners and share in the responsibilities. However, she was responsible for all the
product ordering and inventory tracking, and to make matters worse, all the complaints from
their 4 employees and all the problems seemed to be directed at her. This wasn’t the type of
environment she wanted to work in, and the stress was taking a toll on her physical and
mental health.
The strip mall where the store was located just sent out notification that the stores had to be
open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. each day or leases would not be renewed. One employee
told Jessie that he could not work past 4:00 p.m. on any day as he had to pick up his
children from daycare. He muttered something about requiring accommodation and
expected the company to follow the law. He also suggested that an employee handbook be
developed so that clear policies were available to everyone. Another employee sent Jessie
an email stating that she wanted clarification on overtime payments and statutory holidays.
Specifically, this employee wanted to know why the store wasn’t closed on the last Canada
Day and demanded explanations regarding scheduling and payments. “I used to like
working here, but now the hours are a grind, and I don’t have any input into when I work.” A
third employee was upset because he wasn’t getting enough overtime and felt the
distribution of extra shifts was unfair. He wanted to be able to bank his extra time and then
take time off at a later date. He also wanted to book 2 weeks of vacation, had asked Ashton
about this, and had been told “no.” As such, he was threatening to sue the company and
told Jessie, “You better get your partner in line as employees are entitled to 2 weeks of
vacation according to the law. I don’t care that I didn’t receive a written offer letter when I
started this job, but I know my rights! I thought this would be a neat place to work, but the
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customers are mean and the owners are worse.” The fourth employee had sent Jessie an
email noting that a customer dropped a bottle of perfume, and while cleaning up the broken
glass, this employee got a bad cut and later had to receive 5 stitches at the local emergency
room. Jessie wondered what she was supposed to do with this information. Also, Ashton
had just sent her an email indicating that they should think about hiring more people. “What,
now I have to do this as well?” thought Jessie.
Jessie was exhausted. “When the company first opened, I had fun working with Ashton, and
it was rewarding to watch the sales expand. Now I dread coming to work and am anxious
every time I open my emails. I can’t take this anymore!” Jessie grabbed her phone and sent
the following text to Ashton: “It is time that you took responsibility for this company and its
problems. You are a horrible partner, and I’m sorry that we went into business together. In
fact, it doesn’t make ‘scents’ to me anymore. So there!”
Questions:
1. What issues, in order of priority, should Jessie and Ashton address?
2. In addition to the problems identified by employees, what other actions should
Jessie and Ashton take? Why?
3. What can be done to change the culture within the company?
4. Why are all the employees going to Jessie with their problems? How can a
more equitable partnership and sharing of responsibilities be established?
5. What can Jessie and Ashton do to enhance the communication between the
two of them?
6. What can Jessie and Ashton do to enhance communication to employees?
*Note: This case, including all subsequent parts throughout the text, does not represent a real-life
situation or real people. Any resemblance to actual circumstances is purely coincidental. As such, the
scenario and details should not be used as an example for a business model or business plan

 

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