by Ian Cowley
Now we are in the final quarter of the year, it’s a perfect time to look at your progress as a business – and where you want to take your company. Here are five tips for success I’ve picked up that work well.
1. Put Yourself on the Front Line
Knowing how the ‘front line’ of your business is operating is key to identifying what is working and what isn’t, where there may be opportunities and what trends you can capitalize on.
So each morning I spend half an hour reviewing our customer service department’s comments and complaints. I also set aside time to listen to calls with customers and drop in to our warehouse weekly to spot-check orders for quantity and quality.
If you spend too long managing from your office, it’s easy to become detached and lose sight of the basics. Placing myself firmly in the day-to-day of what’s going on in the business lets me know exactly what customers want and how we are responding to them.
2. Number Crunch
We live in an age where endless data is available free of charge to business owners. The trick is knowing what to do with it. You have the potential to exert huge influence over the business by using these insights correctly. Any new campaign or initiative can be measured via Google Analytics or Facebook insights and its success quickly confirmed. If it’s not working, you simply try something different.
Speed is everything here, so you must be responsive. I’ve found it best to test one variable at a time and test it thoroughly, making sure you maximize every bit of potential in the idea. Second, you’ve got to be able to understand what the data is telling you. The language of analytics isn’t second nature, but you must get to grips with it. Your company’s bottom line depends on you knowing what is working and what isn’t.
3. Deciding to Outsource
The practice of outsourcing gets a negative press, with many people seeing it as purely a step to redundancies in your workforce and investment overseas.
However, let me give you an example of how it can create jobs. We engaged a recruitment agency at a time when we were struggling to get roles filled fast enough in our business. By outsourcing, the agency was able to provide us with talented workers they had on their books in a speedy and efficient manner. We would never have found similar people without investing a huge amount of time.
We entered into this arrangement as we would with any supplier – by comparing the market and securing the best price through negotiation. By outsourcing this specialist skill in recruitment, we were able to get on with running our business and then be presented with a shortlist of candidates for the roles that we had available. It worked perfectly.
4. To Bonus or Not to Bonus?
Rewarding staff is never the same for any two businesses, so look at your business, your working practices, your workers and find a reward structure that gets the best out of them.
In our experience, this has led us away from bonuses. We looked at bonuses earlier this year and decided that they don’t work. Instead, we pay market or above market rate and praise our staff when it’s deserved – and they consistently hit targets. Why is this? It’s because people are generally motivated by a purpose and like to do well. This matters more than money, providing you are paying your staff enough so that money isn’t an issue.
5. Keeping the Customer Satisfied
Even harder than keeping your staff satisfied is having happy customers. It’s difficult to give them what they want every single time, but by keeping close to all of their feedback and acting on it, you’re giving yourself a great chance. Our customers tend to speak up about the high levels of service they get from us and we’re very grateful about that.
It doesn’t happen by accident though. We make sure all customer-facing workers have a high level of English and Math abilities, plus we give them full training to resolve issues on the first phone call.
6. Try Something New
Innovation never stops and neither should you. Keep a close eye on trends, customer patterns and behavior and what your rivals are doing. If you spot an opportunity to try something different, go for it. Trial and test an initiative and if it works, your business will reap the rewards. If it doesn’t, pause it, refine it or try another way. Remember – you’ve got to gamble if you want to be a winner.
Ian Cowley is the Managing Director of CartridgeSave.co.uk, the UK’s largest dedicated printing company, offering their customers a trusted, reliable and cost-effective way of buying cheap ink cartridges for printers online in the UK. They’ve been featured three times in The Sunday Times Fast Track 100, which ranks Britain’s 100 private companies with the fastest-growing sales.
Flazingo | Courtesy of Ian Cowley