“a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit”.
RICKY DEAMER – CAB4-1
Ricky Deamer used to be a courier driver. In fact, he’s spent all his working life as a delivery driver around London and Essex. In true entrepreneurial style, and fuelled by the desire to be his own boss, Ricky managed to find a niche within the transport industry which he believed could make him successful. “I remember taking a cab from Sawbridgeworth to Roydon,” he said over coffee, “which was already overpriced. Only for then the cab company sent a people carrier and charged double for my return. They were charging for the vehicle and the extra seats, despite the fact I was a single passenger.”
And thus the concept of CAB4-1 was born. What if, reasoned Ricky, a minicab company ran only single passenger vehicles? If it only utilised ‘Smart’ cars then the running costs would be demonstrably lower. There would be no road tax to pay for example, and the vehicles could achieve 50 to 60 miles per gallon. These savings could then be passed on to the consumer. There is a huge customer base of passengers – who regularly journey alone – who would benefit from not travelling in a five-door diesel with all of its additional expenses.
The lower emissions from Smart cars ticks all the right environmental boxes too. Setting up the company was not an easy process, in fact getting through the existing ‘red tape’ took almost nine months. Smart cars do not fulfil any minicab regulations and as a result, Ricky had to plead his case to use such vehicles to the licensing committee at the East Herts council chambers before being allowed to trade. With that, all done and said even then CAB4-1 was only allowed to be ‘Private Hire/Pre-Book’ only. “I’m sure it was the economic and environmental advantages that swayed licensing committee in the end, but it was quite nerve-wracking.”
Ricky’s company is self-funded and now has four cars on the books. In the first month, they took only 40 calls, by the end of September that was up to an average of 170 per day. Ricky explains this growth simply: “We offer old-fashioned value for money (discounts to pensioners and pregnant women for example) and courtesy to our customers. I have tried to combine minicab, chauffeur and customer care all in one.
If it’s raining why shouldn’t you be greeted at your front door by the driver with an umbrella to escort you into the car?
We agree, Ricky.
James Ecclestone – The Grown Up Chocolate Company
It’s hard to imagine that this rather small and nondescript unit is home to a confectionary business that is manufacturing anything between 80-100 thousand chocolate bars per week. And these are not ordinary chocolate bars either. Imagine if Jimmy Choo was a chocolatier or if Ralph Lauren gave up making frocks and turned his hand to praline and nougat? Something like that.
The owner, James Ecclestone, took Harlow Stories on a brief tour of the premises complete with lab coat and hair net. If you’re a chocoholic like me it was like dying and going to Heaven – gently, churning vats of white and dark chocolate, slabs of chocolate bars and mouth-watering ingredients everywhere.
The processes are honed to perfection as you might expect from a company that produces 2.3 million chocolate bars a year for Virgin Atlantic alone.
The Grown Up Chocolate Company relocated to Harlow from Enfield in 2013 and now employs a dedicated staff of 25. ‘Chocolate needs to be created in very controlled conditions’ explained James, ‘It’s imperative that humidity isn’t allowed to affect the product. When we moved here we needed to be able to purchase the unit freehold because of the alterations that are necessary to create a high-quality chocolate. We invested £167k alone just in insulating the walls and ceilings”.
The Company is ambitious, with 25% of its produce is currently exported but this looks like a figure likely to rise. ‘The idea behind our Grown Up Chocolate bars is that they are reminiscent of the bars we ate as children but reimagined for Grown Ups only’.
I can’t remember the chocolate I ate as a child tasting quite that good…
Business values are the core principles or standards that guide the way you do business. They sum up what your business stands for and what makes it special. While business plans and strategies may change the core values of your business remain the same.
VALUES IN BUSINESS
Just in case you were in any doubt about the value of relationships in business, here are 7 ways they can really benefit you.
- Sharing advice. Within your network there will be someone with experience or expertise in most areas who can give you a few pointers.
- Sharing leads. Just one close contact doubles your chances of knowing someone who has the news, information or resources you need. The more you focus on your network and relationships, the better connected to opportunities you’ll be.
- Investing opportunities. Building a great rapport with others may help raise finances to develop an idea and grow your business.
- Word-of-mouth. Many businesses will tell you that they get the majority of their business through referrals. These referrals come from business associates, friends, family, and satisfied customers. It’s a free, unbiased, and extremely effective way to promote your work and generate more business.
- Create. Your relationships create new relationships. If you work closely with someone who you’ve impressed, they’re more likely to recommend you.
- Partnerships. One of the best reasons to keep up your relationships is because you never know who one day you’ll be working alongside. People change companies all the time. Someone who is a colleague from a previous organisation may end up sharing the cubicle next to you at your work, or he may be able to help you find the new hire you’re looking for. Fewer enemies, less stress, and no more closed doors.
- Treat everyone in a business with respect, from the cleaner to the MD; they’ll all play an important part and one day the cleaner may be the person you answer to!
- Be honest, and have a never say ‘no’ attitude, especially when you are growing. Find areas of vulnerability in your customers business and find ways to help!
- Make the client feel like your number one priority, always.
Tyler Lemay, MD Land Sheriffs
- Nothing reinforces a professional relationship more than success.
- If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, just wait until you hire an amateur!
- Think big and don’t listen to people who tell you it can’t be done. Life’s too short to think small!
Paul Tanner, PDT Design
MISTAKES TO AVOID
“Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need long before they realise it themselves.” – Steve Jobs
With all this work and benefits, there must be some potential pitfalls as well, right? People make plenty of mistakes, so watch out for these ten:
- Not being personal. Don’t just talk about business.
- Not being appreciative. Make a conscious effort to be grateful.
- Failing to be consistent. Treating everyone you meet the same way helps with sincerity.
- Acting professionally in bad times. If things go bad, be upfront about it and offer resolution.
- Not being reliable. Don’t miss meetings, and don’t flake on promises.
- Loose lips sink ships. No matter where you are or who you are with, you are representing yourself.
- Surrounding yourself with untrustworthy people. You will be judged by the company you keep.
- Keeping too many secrets. Be as transparent as you can, people don’t like shadiness or dishonesty.
- Networking involves building and developing relationships over a period of time. Don’t go to an event and expect to generate more business instantly, but do expect to meet interesting people who may prove to be far more valuable to your business in the longer term.
- Having the right people doing the right jobs in fronton the right customers is essential to growing your business.
Rina Sond & Catrin Mills, Longmores Solicitors
It’s fair to say that there’s a networking group for practically every sector, and for all business sizes. It can be a little nerve-wracking giving presentations or elevator-pitches for the first time, so often a small, friendly group can be beneficial to begin with.
NETWORKING IN BUSINESS
“The relationships I’ve made via networking, and the Stagnated Business Breakfast Group, have generated an enormous amount of business for my company. By the same token, I have given a great deal of work to members I’ve met through the group.” – Eric Chorley, Guardhome
Networking is another form of social interaction, however with the business rise of social media and online interaction taking over our business environment, face to face networking can be daunting to many professionals at all levels.
- Try to attend these on your own or if you take a colleague try not to stand in a corner interacting only with each other, otherwise there is no point in attending. Be prepared to walk up to people to introduce yourself and your business. They might be in the same situation as you (first timers and on their own) or they might have been there before and can assist you in meeting some other contacts.
Be prepared; see which company representatives are attending and find out a little more about what they do. Then when you are there you can ask questions about their business. Also don’t forget your business cards but don’t throw them around like confetti. Make sure you exchange them under the right circumstances and at appropriate moments.
A key piece of advice someone told me once was listen more than you speak, however if everyone did this at a networking event then not many people would be talking. I prefer the 50/50 approach. Introduce yourself, your company and your services, however don’t forget to ask about the other person, to give their background too. Then try to find a common link to explore and open a conversation by asking open questions to get an engaging discussion going. The more interactive and engaging the topic of discussion the more networking contacts will want to join in.
- Two ears. One mouth. Use that in proportion.
- Go out of your way to put people together for their mutual benefit.
- Ask about their interests away from business (and remember for when you meet them again).
Ian Hudson, HDCC
- Honestly – always.
- Treat customers/products like your own.
- Over and above – give more to expect more
Craig Fordham, Craig Fordham Photography
Whether you’re a Start-Up or a well established business, the importance of relationships can never be underestimated.
RELATIONSHIPS IN BUSINESS
“The key to business success is winning and keeping customers. And the keys to winning and keeping customers is, and has always been, relationships.” – Steve Tobak, Author of Leaders Don’t Follow
Back in 2014 we set up Magnificent Stuff, like most businesses we had one obvious, over-riding focus: “Where do our customers come from?”
Now for us, as a predominantly digital marketing agency, one would think that the answer would be rather obviously, ‘on-line’. However, even in this age of seemingly all-consuming internet usage it takes time to establish a digital presence.
As our business has grown over the past 2 years, 90% of our clients have evolved from recommendations and referrals. These referrals ofter come out of the blue – from a chance meeting or an introduction from a business associate who has met a third party who might need our expertise. Likewise, one of our biggest clients, a global automotive organisation, have built a multi-million pound business without any sales or marketing function, based entirely upon relationships and recommendations.
The learning from our very short story is that relationships are as fundamental to the success of large established, global organisations as they are to SME’s and start-ups.
In this article we have made it our business to curate some great tips on relationships in from HDCC members and loyal supporters.
HOW TO BUILD & MAINTAIN GREAT RELATIONSHIPS
Relationships are fundamentally built on 3 things: trust, integrity and confidence.
Without effort business relationships that have taken months or years to establish can fade away. You need to work at them – here are a few tips that can help:
- Keep up. This sounds obvious but it’s easy to forget to do it. If you don’t keep up with people it’s natural for you to fall off their radar and when they get an opportunity that can be referred to you, it can go elsewhere.
- Build trust. Don’t take advantage of people. Don’t spam them. Don’t assume that because you’ve exchanged cards with someone that they are interested in receiving your newsletter. The key to building trust is being honest.
- Network. Networking is the key to building successful relationships; there are many options available locally, as we’ve mentioned before. The Harlow Chamber of Commerce is extremely active organising two or three events per week. These events are often educations, which is an added bonus. Even if you aren’t too much of a people person, putting yourself out there a little but can help. You don’t have to be the life of the party. People would rather you just be yourself.
- Show interest. Unless you’re a children’s entertainer or a musician showing off is not going to do you any favours. It’s not rocket science to realise that early steps to gaining respect and building a relationship is to show interest in other people. Listen to what people have to say and show sincere interest in them. Ask questions about their job and kids. Everyone is impressed when someone shows they’ve taken the time to remember their stories.
- Work hard. People will invest in those who provide results and deliver. When someone asks for something, give a little more. Deliver early and take initiative to help in ways you weren’t asked.
- Focus on giving. Many people want to build relationships so that the can have someone to help them out when they need it. You need to have a Machiavellian attitude. Always think about ways you can help people in your network. They’re far more likely to return a favour than they Pareto go out of their way for you, especially early in your relationship.