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Sustaining and growing your business

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In the previous article, I stated that entrepreneurs should consciously seek to inspire a sense of ownership of the business in their staff to encourage commitment and performance. Some of the means mentioned include: Sharing your vision for the business with staff, involving them in decision-making, and ensuring staff welfare to make them feel cared for. This week, more pointers on managing staff for better business outcomes are discussed

Reward systems: Your reward system determines how staff behave. Seek to have a reward system that is in tandem with performance. Paying everyone a fixed salary is demotivating for high performers and encourages laziness among less-driven employees. There is no fixed way to reward staff. Depending on the nature of your business, find ways to ensure that everyone is encouraged to perform well and meet set targets. In some instances, it may entail giving a base pay, while paying commissions when a set target is attained. In other instances, staff get paid a percentage of whatever business they bring to the company. Others pay for the only the number of hours worked or for the quantity of work produced. The critical factor to keep in mind is fairness. Give your workers a fair deal. If operating in an existing industry, know the going rate and pay accordingly if it is fair, or decide to pay better, if the business can afford it. This will attract the best hands to your business.

Establish a healthy culture: Culture is nothing other than how the behavior of the leader influences the behaviour of others in the company. If the business leader is generally friendly, hardworking and respectful to all, employees will tend to tow the same line. The business leader definitely sets the tone of the organization and is responsible for letting people know what is acceptable and what is not. Business leaders have to role model the behaviours they wish to see and in this way, culture is formed. The culture of an organization affects business performance and customer service. It is therefore not to be trivialized.

The above summarises some of key ways to ensure staff motivation that leads to positive customer experience. This in turn encourages patronage and positive referrals. Keeping customers happy requires a combination of providing what they want, when they want it, how they want it and with the right attitude. It takes quite a lot of work inhouse to ensure that customer experience is consistently positive.

Organisations also need to spell out how to handle customer complaints. This is one area, where many Nigerian businesses get it wrong, after putting a lot of effort in setting up a venture. The biggest mistake many entrepreneurs make is the failure to attend to genuine customer complaints. A good example is when they refuse to take back a faulty product from a customer, even when there is evidence that the complaint is sincere and the fault is from the company. Focus on short-term gain, leads many businesses to refuse to return the customer’s money, even the company has sold a bad product. I will use an example of my MBA student’s experience, to illustrate what entrepreneurs lose in the long run, when they behave this way.

My student started an online retail furniture company aimed at providing a convenient way for people to buy furniture. A customer ordered for a delicate piece of furniture and before delivering it, the customer was warned that the chair was delicate and therefore should not be used by a fat person. The customer insisted that he had no fat person in his house and that he wanted it. A week after delivery, the customer called very angrily, demanding that the furniture, which was now broken, be fixed or his money returned. On getting to the customer’s home, while fixing the chair, a fat lady, who obviously lived in the house passed by. Rather than challenge the customer, who said there was no fat person in his house, the furniture was fixed to the satisfaction of the customer and my student left without a word of complaint to the customer, who was very happy to have the chair in good condition again. A few days later, this same customer called my student, and gave him the contract to furnish an entire office complex, he had just finished constructing.

Would the entrepreneur in this example have gotten this huge contract if he had decided to argue against fixing the damaged chair or if he had challenged the customer who said there was no fat person in his house, after seeing the fat lady? The lesson here is that thinking long term should inform the way we treat customers. A happy customer is a potential source of continuous patronage. On the other hand, a dissatisfied customer will not come back if he has a choice and will speak badly about the company to others, therefore preventing others from coming. We must do our best to ensure every customer we interact with, enjoys a positive experience.Other factors required to sustain and grow a business include; values, such as integrity, branding and quality management and Innovation. We shall discuss this in the next article.

Onwuegbuzie is a globally certified Management Consultant and a Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship at Lagos Business School: Twitter: @honwuegbuzie; email: honwuegbuzie@lbs.edu.ng


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