Entrepreneurs in the service industry need to shift their approach to business growth and realise good staff are often the “face of a company” and not merely workers feeding off the bottom line, Bradley Elliot, managing director of digital company Platinum Seed says.
In not first linking staff recruitment and management to business culture, entrepreneurs are likely to struggle with slow or unstable growth and eventual high turnover.
Elliott recalls the lessons that were turning points for his business in taking the business from two team members with three clients, to a local company servicing multinational corporates in South Africa and abroad.
For an inspired, first-time entrepreneur, starting a business in South Africa is a road often fraught with challenges.
From generating a decent cash flow each month to wading through the rigmarole of legislative requirements, it can be, in a word, overwhelming.
As a rule of thumb for any business owner, especially one trying to build credibility, prioritise the people who service your customers.
Skills can be taught, but finding people with the right attitude who align with your goals for the business is far more valuable
Too often, start-ups focus on the bottom line. Make no mistake this is an important and challenging aspect of building your business.
However, when you have a team of different cultures, levels of experience and backgrounds knowing that all of you are working day-to-day towards the same business goal is important.
Elliot recommends developing a strong induction programme that focuses on the business culture and goals rather than just processes, as well as a cultural handbook that covers service values and areas of expertise.
“Instilling values that ensure cultural fit may seem a waste of energy, but having a team that represent the company ethos to customers is the best way of creating new business opportunities.
“A good customer experience often results in referral work, which is the bread and butter of a start-up business.
“It is tempting to take any job that is offered and there may be an element of this in the early days of your business.
“However, remembering that credibility is the key that unlocks future work it is in your best interests to remain steadfast in your expert service offering.”
Prior to taking on new work, consider the opportunity cost linked to accepting the job.
Questions to ask yourself should include, (i) Does this piece of work align with my strengths, so I make a good impression? (ii) In succeeding in doing a good job, is there a prospect of more work from this client? (iii) Does this work give me an opportunity to position the business well within our core areas of experience?
Elliot says: “The sad reality is that business is about who you know rather than what you know. With very few start-up owners having an extensive contact list of who’s who in the business world, it can seem that your ability to run a business month-to-month is lacking.”
Elliott who started out with no business network, advises speaking to the people you know such as friends, family and suppliers.
Active participation at networking events helps one to form new relationships as well.
It requires that you bravely introduce yourself and your business to complete strangers, which for a small business can make all the difference.