Our first permanent branch opened in 2006 and was based in Sun Street near Liverpool Street Station. It was an office building in a studio format to allow for customers to book individual style consultations, rather than a traditional retail front. This is one of the ways that we can keep our costs low to pass on the best possible value to our customers. Soon, the business started to pick momentum, and the word of great value tailoring spread, so we needed to take on more staff.
We slowly recruited until the space in the Sun Street branch was taken up. We had 7 people based in a 600 sq foot office. There was the packing, the shipping, an alterations tailor, and also areas to see customers so it was very crammed!
So, we did the right thing, and invested in a second office – in Bermondsey. We separated all non-customer facing activities like packing and alterations, and had them done at our Head Office in Bermondsey. Concurrently, we also responded to customer demand, and opened up a permanent branch in Canary Wharf.
Sales were growing, the business was popular, and customers enjoyed the service – great! By our calculations, all of our staff should be incredibly happy. Unfortunately, as we were going through this growth period, our team weren’t as happy as they should be and we needed to find out why.
We had about 15 staff and 4 managers at the time, in 3 locations. We decided to have a brainstorming meeting with the aid of some post-it notes. We each wrote down the issues that our staff were experiencing. Problems ranged from small problems with the computers to bigger problems. There were over 50 issues to address which was putting a huge pressure on us to slow down or even stop growing. It felt like these issues were potentially a blocker to our entire business model – so this was extremely serious.
We wrote down every single issue, ordered them by priority, and started working at them over the next month. We started to address all of the issues individually, and we started solving lots of them. However, there was still a feeling that there were underlying issues that we found difficult to narrow down.
So we thought that rather than a constant battle of addressing issue after issue, why not talk about them? We made the decision to have a weekly meeting with all of our branches. We realised that this was sacrificing sales and short term profit, but we wanted to promote a great working atmosphere to avoid any problems building up.
It became obvious that the new weekly meetings relieved so much pressure – it was like having a very fizzed up bottle, and taking the lid off!
We still have weekly meetings with our team in this way. They have become a great time for branches to meet each other as well as talk about the current issues in the right groups.
There aren’t a lot of small niggling issues left in the business. We try our best to extract these from our team, and pass them to someone who can do something about them as early as possible.
The weekly meetings have undoubtedly helped in this, but they are just a small part of making sure that there is a good avenue for your team members to share what’s on their mind as quickly as possible!
We’ve continued to grow and now we have 6 permanent branches and 21 TailorStops nationwide and we still use the same principles.