Philip Purver, of The Working Manager, reminds us that the customer is always right.
When Philip Purver took on The Working Manager in 2004, it consisted of a “no customers, no turnover” website filled with reviews and articles focusing on management skills. Philip channelled his management consultancy experience into the creation of a multimedia platform that makes a 360-degree assessment of an individual’s management skills and offers remedial learning in topics from leadership to financial management. Over a decade on, and the company now boasts clients including the UK’s National Health Service and telecoms company O2, as well as users from around the world.
Here, Philip shares his tips on how to grow a small business with growth strategies from technical innovation to good old customer service.
Keep your customers happy
“My biggest tip for business growth is to always focus on your customer,” asserts Philip. “I always say: the day you win a client is the day you start to lose them.” His first customer, British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, is still buying content from The Working Manager. To develop long-term trust you need to be both flexible and reliable: “Do something you wouldn’t normally do because a client wants it,” says Philip, “and when you say you’re going to do something, make sure you do it.”
Innovation should be the lifeblood of any business growth strategies, and especially those of a technology company like The Working Manager. “Invest in product development,” advises Philip. At first, his firm used text-based material, but now it operates in a different world. “People want bite-sized learning, on different devices, with flexibility between video, audio and social content.”
Keep your service focused
It’s all about what the client wants. While The Working Manager is constantly innovating, Philip won’t buy technology just for the sake of it. “Many large corporates aren’t moving as quickly as you might think,” he says. “The main thing is to do what is useful for them – we specialise in effective service.”
Keep your staff agile
An agile business culture is also key for business growth, says Philip. To achieve a flexible cost base, the firm’s employees work remotely: “we have people in Northern France, others in UK locations like East Anglia, Leeds and Essex, as well as our developers in Cirencester, Gloucestershire”. The culture is “very empowered. We don’t just make people fill in timesheets and tell them what to do, we let them have ideas. We see a lower staff turnover, better communication, and a better client experience.”
Keep your business flexible
Staying customer-focused means Philip often uses different premises for meetings. “We’re a virtual company,” he explains, “so when I’m travelling around the country and need an instant office, I just book one wherever I am.” This means he can entertain clients comfortably without committing to any long-term costs.
Philip’s pointers for how to grow a small business also include managing your cash effectively, and forging a relationship of trust among employees. But in the end, he always comes back to the customer. His final tip to win them over: “Don’t always send an invoice every time you do something for a client,” he proposes. “If you send a bill all the time, people feel cheated… If you do something for free, you build a relationship of trust, and a partnership is formed.”