Having been a business leader since the early 90’s, starting and running numerous businesses, my advice would be to go the extra mile.
Treat customers as you would like to be treated as a customer.
Set expectations and then give a little bit more, exceeding those expectations and you will find customer loyalty.
Some of our clients today have retained us for 7, 8 and even 9 years. This loyalty leads to better planning and cashflow forecasts, making it easier to run your business and plan growth.
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I actually have six tips! 1) Some people want to be developed; others don’t. Don’t use your influence/position to push people into roles or activities that you know they can do - but they might not actually want to for a variety of reasons. You will lose them. 2) Trust people, treat them like adults and don’t micro-manage. Never make new rules as a knee-jerk reaction based on one or more people abusing a system or process. Just deal with that person/transgression and don’t penalise everyone. Your trust will be returned in spades. 3) Muck in. Help out. Carry out tasks that may well be ‘below your pay grade’ if it gets the job done, reduces stress on your staff and keeps the client happy. But don’t make a habit of it and fix things to make sure it doesn’t keep happening! 4) Be open. Share information; seek opinion and be prepared to change/admit to your own mistakes so that others will be open about theirs. 5) Make sure people know it is okay to have areas of weakness; and that they should have enough confidence in their strengths to admit to and ask for help with weaknesses. That is the point of working in a team. Nobody is good at everything. 6) Recognise and appreciate the extra mile and reward it in some way; from a simple heartfelt thank you to a pay rise. (Oh – and just multiple thank yous won’t cut it!)
If I could go back in time 15 years and give myself some career advice.... as exciting as M&A is, working in a family PE fund, including the inevitable parachute into existing company exec teams and often running a company for a period of time, a different pathway may well have been more rewarding. Certainly, the depth of knowledge accumulated in an organisation that completed many transactions over many years through several industry verticals has been extraordinary and has allowed me to find employment where I can genuinely contribute for all the years since. However, armed with a good degree of knowledge in a particular sector, I could have otherwise taken my time developing fewer companies through organic and inorganic growth strategies, ultimately preparing them to more substantial equity events and learning in the process. My advice to myself would be to trade some of the excitement for a deeper satisfaction only realised long after the transaction is complete.
Founder & Managing Director
In my humble experience, small businesses are more than capable of taking on established market players as they tend to be more agile, forward thinking and better at engaging with their end customer than larger corporations. That's a big statement from the Founder of a SME to make but smaller businesses tend to innovate better, go to market more cost effectively and provided the Founding Team are persistent enough more determined to succeed than their larger peers. Dream, Plan, Work Hard, Do Not Give Up, Be Resilient and chase that dream - remember not trying is a failure but trying and not succeeding is a learning experience that few get to experience.
Co-founder & CEO
We tend to tell each other stories about big wins and rapid successes because they're dramatic. It's less interesting to hear about the small, but good things we do consistently every day. But you can't have big wins without consistency. Consistency counts in every aspect of business, and in particular in culture. At Cognician we consistently celebrate our people's work in terms of the heart, the mind and the hands. We look at their work through these lenses because this is how we think about learning. Great learning experiences touch the heart, inspire the mind and direct the hands. It's also how we think about how we treat each other and our clients. We are empathetic – the heart. We are curious – the mind. And we get stuff done – the hands. So when we recognise great work, we recognise the passion our people put into it. We acknowledge the quality of their thinking. And we applaud their speed to action. There is consistency across the way we design our platform, the way we design learning experiences, and they way we interact with colleagues, clients and users. And there is consistency every day in how we apply and celebrate these principles. And it's only because of this consistency that we win big.
Head of Innovation at Innovolo
The most important message your sales material should communicate is that your product or service is the solution to your customer's problem. People don't buy products or services; they buy solutions. Your job as a salesperson is to show them how your product or service will solve their specific problem. This means that you need to know your customer's pain points and be able to articulate how your product or service will address them. If you can do this effectively, you'll be well on your way to making a sale.
I'm from the B2B SaaS world where we need to work closely with our clients to make sure they are getting maximum value from our platform - otherwise, they won't renew. Value means different things and doesn't necessarily equate to $$$$. At Ada, we're a HealthTech platform and we work with our partners to save them money but, more importantly, to help them deliver better health outcomes to their end-users. Find out what value means to your client and work together on a plan to deliver it.
Head of Marketing
In B2B, it's easy to think of your customers as entities rather than sets of human beings doing their best to get things done. Especially as a marketer, it's dangerously easy to get seduced by what you can measure and overlook the fact that to have great, sustainable relationships you need to have good listening skills and a good memory. I'm lucky that I work with a team of outstanding Account Directors who provide me with a consistent stream of actionable information around their customer accounts. Nothing beats regular conversations with customers, but I'd say that the single most important thing for us to understand about our customers is: what are they trying to achieve? We use the Jobs To Be Done concept as the starting point for all our content and sales enablement planning, as it forces us to think of our customers as emotional beings who are looking to get things done - our job is to help make that happen.
As a lawyer involved in the business and property world the first rule of marketing is to focus on existing client service. It is obvious but so often overlooked in professional services firms who are often chasing the next big marketing idea. Be of service and value to your clients and they will stick with you and recommend others.
Chief Sales Officer
Salespeople must have drive and empathy. They need drive to push past obstacles and risks that customers, competitors, and their own company, put in their way. They need empathy so they can think like the customer, understand what is motivating the customer and so the salesperson can see the customer's problems from the customer's perspective. For superstar salespeople, you need two additional attributes, inquisitiveness to have them search and seek for more information and to fully understand problems; finally, you need intellect because the more you can solve the customer's problem the more successful they will be. What salespeople can do to be successful is to think like the customer so they can understand their customer's problems. They need to take the time to think, not simply react and respond to a customer's demands. Finally, they need to be proactive. It is not the customer's job to buy our products - it is their job to do their job, successful salespeople do a lot of the work the customer needs to do in evaluating our products for the customer.