Is it possible to stay true to your vision while meeting your ever-changing customer demands?
Lara Morgan, Founder of Pacific, Abbie Morris, Co-Founder & CEO of Compare Ethics, Eric Partaker, Co-founder of Chilango, James Davidson, Founder of Tails.com and Jas Bagniewski Founder of Eve Sleep, joined us for the second day of Elite Business on 12 March in the Commercial Growth panel, speaking about why it is important to listen to your customer and meeting their rising demands, while at the same time staying true to the core of your business without straying too far from your vision.
When it comes to commercial growth within your business, who would be in charge of making those big decisions? Would it be just the board executives or all team members present in that conversation? James Davidson, Founder of Tails.com believes in involving every single one of his team members to join forces in understanding what matters to their customer the most. It starts with understanding your customer and engaging with them more, and with that, growth will follow.
We involve others in the team, James said. The most sustainable way starts with the customer, and what’s going to be the right thing for them which is certainly one of the lessons we’ve learnt the hard way… But the way you provide that for the customer is by the whole team, the whole company understanding what matters to the customer most and how to make that happen and from there, customers will engage more, ultimately buy more if it’s in a commercial enterprise and growth will follow…
James also urged business owners to understand their product inside and out and to truly believe in what they’re selling with no wiggle room for self-doubt. We have to completely believe in the quality of the product we’re selling because then there are no areas where you might feel uncomfortable to go if the customer needs to ask questions to talk about it or to challenge you on it, James added. To have a product you believe in holistically and entirely I think is key to that then there can be any conversation. There’s no need to try to steer it in a particular direction or away from a particular area. If there’s a leader in business or anybody working in business, you can feel proud of the product you’re making and the choices you make on how you make those products… Then you can engage with anybody including customers about it.
How do you stay true to your core values when you grow as a business? Firstly, it is important to hire the right people who align with the core values of your business, and to be mindful of any attitudes or behaviours that deviate too far from your vision, Eric Partaker, Co-Founder of Chilango said. Businesses should also emphasise their core values in meetings, but sometimes, these values may get crossed during high-growth periods ‘ but that is okay as long as you recognise that and remember the fundamentals.
I don’t look at core values as applying to non-growth vs growth periods, they’re always applicable. And the best way you insulate yourself from leaving those values. Make sure that the people you add to the team truly represent those values, that you’re being mindful of attitudes or behaviours that are inconsistent with those values and making sure that you’re calling those out even though you’re going through a heavy growth period. And then just making sure you’re talking about your core values all the time, talking about them in your team meetings, in your monthly company meetings, quarterly meetings and then all of that to caveat is to recognise that when you’re in a high growth period things will get shaky and at times cross the line or step over certain value boundaries. But as long as you can rebound and pull back and recognise when those missteps happen then you’re still ok.
When it comes to expanding your business, where exactly do you start? The customer. By listening to customer feedback and making them the centre of every decision, you can tailor your products and services to meet the rising needs of your customers ‘ and this has become a great strategy for Abbie Morris Co-Founder & CEO of Compare Ethics.
We’re going back to the customer; we’re really led by the customer, Abbie said. We’re constantly testing and validating, we’re at a different stage of product market development. What we do day to day is make sure the customer is the centre of every decision. Whilst we have that strategy 50 per cent of our time, development time, customer time is dedicated to actually feeding in what overall our customers are telling us and iterating our product accordingly. We’ve literally deployed features just in the last few weeks that are really aligning just based on feedback, so we have to do that to get that momentum and grow really quick.”
In business, Lara Morgan, Founder of Pacific explained how it is fundamental to provide a solution to customers and even better, exceed their expectations in doing so by providing a remarkable service or an outstanding product to beat your competition. In product development, I think that we all would agree that the customer is going to dictate because the customer is the person that is going to spend, Lara explained. And I only learned that the best thing to do at meetings was to hear what the customer wanted and then provide solutions for the customer… If we can be listening to the customers’ requirements and exceeding that expectation. So, an example would be just now with growth online, the unboxing experience is this packaging phenomenon but actually it is really important that every touchpoint and every part of the consumer journey we want to be doing better, serving well… And also looking at the competition, let’s see what the hell they’re doing and beat them to see how we improve.
Businesses need to plan their strategy when it comes to growing their brand, however, they also must balance between waiting for a strategy to work and changing direction. This can be a hard balance to find, Jas Bagniewski, Founder of Eve Sleep, explained. I think it’s a really healthy process to really plan out what your business is going to look like in the coming future and to really think about and sort of put down on paper what is in your head in terms of where it’s going, Jas said. So, I think it’s a helpful process but I also think the realities early on are unpredictable. And you have to be quite nimble on your feet I think, and I think one of the balances is how long do you stick with things, and not just constantly course correct. I always find that quite a difficult balance, whether to give things enough time but also being nimble enough to change… I think it depends on the business and also how well your plan is being followed.