Creating a customer-centric culture

When your business starts to evolve and grow, this should be cause for celebration! But often the challenges of managing a growing team can quickly become time consuming, confusing and a drain on precious resources.

Entrepreneurs are creative creatures, always buzzing with ideas and desperate to start brainstorming. Whereas managers are instinctively organised and skilled at pushing a team forward, these assets are rarely translatable to the owner as a company expands. When I found my business succeeding and requiring more manpower I found my time interrupted when automatically taking on the role of manager, too.

With a strong, fresh vision, the urge to micro-manage is normal. This concept was my passion, and trying to inspire the same enthusiasm into a team can be tough. And I’m not alone, many entrepreneurs struggle with this transition. Before you know it, you’ll be spending precious hours explaining your concept to new staff and possibly encountering difference of opinion, either between team members or even directly with yourself. And meanwhile, this is all time better spent expanding.
I started from scratch. Being the boss of a company is incredibly challenging and the top job changes as your company grows. Often, the boss will have started up their business as a one man show, creating the concept and then striving away to build their dream up into reality. These entrepreneurs like myself, who probably have countless all nighters and caffeine addictions to show for their time invested, are now finding themselves in charge of running their now successful business. And it should be cause for celebration! I watched my company grow from strength to strength and now it requires more manpower to meet up with the demand. It’s what I was dreaming of! But this turns entrepreneurs into managers, a role that requires a whole other skill set and motivation. And it often doesn’t work out.
It’s unlikely to find a manager that has risen up the ranks in a larger company and won a managerial role, and are therefore found out of their comfort zone when their business grows and they find themselves in charge of a team. It’s the last thing you want! Having to deal with the blame culture and disputes that a running a team can present. Time better spent finding an international market for your product or increasing your contacts.

The same issue spreads across the board. Not one entrepreneur, especially myself, would say that they started a business because their dream was to be a manager. Usually we’re impatient visionaries with an urge to create something niche or novel, to do it better than what’s already on offer from our competitors. We aren’t conformists, we’re mavericks with a thirst to innovate. My attention to detail was a snag when my company started growing and I could no longer inspect every aspect of my dream. But giving your existing team more ownership of their roles and asking them to take the lead on certain aspects of your business can feel like you’re losing control. Unless you are blessed with a team you fully and completely trust, who are 100% involved and inspired, it’s difficult to detach.

Now let’s face it, your employees have to be nice to you, it’s in their interests. But your customers don’t, and poor management leads to a substandard experience for your user, with the blame pointed all over the place. Here’s the important thing – my customers don’t care who’s fault it was if they feel let down. They expect exceptional service, and that’s great, because it’s what I do! And instead of accepting mediocrity, they’ve come to me. Fantastic. But what happens when it all goes wrong? No one can be right all of the time so where so we stand when we encounter our first disappointments in an expanding business?

Annoyingly, studies show that most customers won’t even bother complaining directly. They’ll just quietly slip away and go to your competitor, rolling their eyes at their friends about you and your business on the way. And you may never know, that’s the scary thing! I’m not going to get a hand written letter from them explaining why they’ve gone. They’re just off. Not their problem. But it will be mine, if I can’t figure out where in the chain things went wrong. An easy task for an experienced Man-Manager, but makes an entrepreneurs head go a little fuzzy.

Knowing and loving your product is key to keeping you customers happy and returning. So creating a culture where a team is customer-centric is essential. They should know why their customer has come to you, what they need and be confident, excited almost, to be able to deliver. They have to love what they do, and what they’re selling. Otherwise it just won’t work.

So encourage them to take a look in from the outside, become the customer for a day and actually use your service, and you’ll create a far more dynamic approach to your clients.

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