Being On-Course is probably even more critical now that than it has ever been.
20 years ago it was undoubtedly the case that some elements of running a business were a lot easier. The world was apparently “simpler”. Some of this is down to the very technological changes that have “enabled” businesses to become more efficient, and some of these have also led to changes in the ways consumers are now able to interact with businesses.
Spring forward to today and we constantly hear of the importance of CX, UX, EX, engagement, authenticity, etc etc, as though they were new ideas - they aren’t. You always had to engage with your customers and offer an experience at the very least commensurate with the value they perceived. The best businesses always did this more authentically and that was often achieved through excellent employee engagement. Indeed those businesses who had a clearly articulated strategy, vision and values that was well communicated, believed and followed throughout their organisation always seemed to be able to serve customers better, and grow sales better - for me working at Waitrose and then Bunnings many moons ago taught me the value of everyone in the entire company understanding where “due north” is, and I continue to bang on about it all of the time…. These businesses were relentless in making sure that everything that happened internally and externally was completely aligned with the overall strategy: from branding, to communications, to store layouts, individual KPI's and so on.
In the old world (not that it was THAT long ago!) it was almost impossible for customers to understand the corporate culture of most of the businesses they interacted with; or to judge their level of corporate responsibility (if by chance they felt the need to do that kind of thing); or to uncover how ethically they may or may not have sourced their products and raw materials. The disconnects between the public facing side of the business and “behind the scenes” was significant and a number of businesses got away with it through good or great execution of at least a couple of P’s...normally product, price or promotion.
Of course these businesses would often not be quite as profitable as others, maybe didn’t grow quite as quickly with teams not working perfectly in unison, but they could muddle through.
The big differences appearing ever more rapidly and urgently today are to do with how customers are able to experience your business. The customer journey can now start almost anywhere. Today your employees from back to front of house are potentially on display through one social media platform or another. Employees are now using Glassdoor and other employer review sites almost as religiously as the plethora of product review sites available to customers to find out about all of the dirty little secrets that would previously have remained exactly that. Your brand and its communications are no longer just in one or two media which you have complete control over, they can be everywhere at any time, often with a scary lack of control!
That is at the extremes of the spectrum of success & failure. The wonders of this overly connected world mean that it is ridiculously easy for consumers to sniff out whether your business really lives its vision and values....so beware of misaligned teams, objectives, communications in any business big or small, not only is it going to lead to the inefficiencies it always used to, it could also lead to diminishing sales and customer appeal that has the potential to make those inefficiencies terminal.
Who are we?
What do we do?
We have taken this milestone as an opportunity to kick off our website blog and post to LinkedIn as well. To avoid boring everyone to tears I have split up the first “birthday message” into 2 parts - What have we done? (The more self-indulgent part of it!) and What have we learnt?
This one is:
What have we done?
Unsurprisingly we have continued to do a lot of work in and around building materials, working in both commercial and residential markets, with materials suppliers, retailers and contractors. As a step out from there we have also spent a long time working in private health insurance, and allied with that some optical clinics as well. More recently we have started spending some time closer to the start-up world working with a communications business who is focussed on comms experimentation and helping start-ups to attract attention and grow. Next, we are about to launch into running seminars alongside some other great small business people, aiming to help small businesses grow into bigger businesses at a pace that makes sense for them…you will see more about that in the next week or so!
The projects have been many and varied within Strategy, Marketing and Sales, including a number of diversions into helping with IT / Digital projects in order to achieve some of the sales and marketing goals we have developed with clients. Our projects have varied greatly: complete business reviews (going deep into where the value is within a business and making sure it is maximised sustainably for the owners); to segment and new product development work with really targeted, defined goals; to retail store updates; category planning for retail stores; sales force effectiveness reviews; business and branding strategies; marketing comms plans, assistance with advertising and PR Campaigns; website reviews and re-designs; helping to recruit sales and marketing teams; merchandising work in-store for suppliers to Bunnings (from normal shelf replenishment to major revamps of layouts etc). The clients have been “one-man bands” up to multinationals, all with their own unique challenges to overcome.
Along the way we also bought Auscan Imports. Funnily enough we practice what we preach. We have always had our own strategy for long term profitable growth, and it included at some point having our own distribution business to run alongside the consulting & merchandising one. It also means we actually do a lot of the things that we suggest to clients in the real world, based on real experience - rather than just being theoretical consultants with lots of great ideas, but absolutely no idea of how to implement them in a small business, with all of the constraints that implies.
To all of the great clients we have dealt with so far, we thank you for helping us achieve the milestone of 5 years and still going strong, and for making sure that we never stop learning!