The Small Business Survival SeriesEpisode 4 – Flair

In this episode, Trent Brinsley shares his expertise as Alltel’s General Manager, and highlights the importance of being customer-focused in building the foundation of your business.

Transcript

Interviewer:

Hello and thanks for joining us for our final podcast in the Alltel Australia Small Business Series. I’m Melanie Slade and I’m joined by Alltel’s General Manager, Trent Brinsley, who designed this series to help businesses not only survive, but thrive. So Trent, we’ve talked all about establishing a small businesses. And when you start, people can often be operating out of a home office, out of their back shed. How do you give customers the impression you’re more established and bigger than you actually are?

Trent:

Let me start off by saying that that is the most economical way to start out. I think that you don’t need that burden of paying rent. We started at home in our lounge room and now we’ve got over thirty staff. So it’s absolutely the right way to start, but people don’t need to know that from the outside.

There are a lot of tools that can give you the impression of being a bigger business. Specifically, when you’re trying to target a national audience. You know, a 1300 or 1800 number can be forwarded onto your home office number or your mobile phone.

I think what’s important is that you need to think of the day when you do get an office or you have a couple of office, or when you want to grow.You need to plan for growth at a later stage.

Doing business from your mobile phone is not the greatest way of doing things. I always say, protect your privacy. When you’ve given out your personal mobile number, you can never disconnect from that.

Again, it comes to foundations, putting in the right tools in your business—the right website, the right phone number. Think of the structure now that will enable you to grow at a later stage.

Interviewer:

And I suppose it also comes down to that thing of being available. I mean, when you’re starting, you don’t want to give up customers if they’re filing in ten past five in the afternoon.

Trent:

And you shouldn’t have to. Most of our business early on was done after five o’clock. I mean that doesn’t continue forever, but you shouldn’t knock back customers just because you’re in the car or on the way home.

There are so many tools that make customers accessible and if you miss that call, they’ll just go to the next person on Google or they’ll ring up your competitor. So you wanna make the most of every opportunity…Read more >>

Interviewer:

Does that help you grow in time?

Trent:

Every business is unique. Every business is different. But I remember the early days of invoicing the first customer— how do you make sure you provide a service to them? What happens if they ring at 5 o’clock and they wanna talk to us about the product? What happens if they have any enquiries later on down the track?

Staying in their mind all the time. Staying in front of them—being relevant. It’s a very hard thing to tackle, again it’s industry-specific. But you need to figure out what tools you’re going to use for that communication later on. How will you support that customer.

Ideally, you don’t want one transaction out of a customer. You want them coming back later on.

Interviewer:

Is it important to constantly seek other people’s opinions, especially when it comes to website experience or when you call a business?

Trent:

There’s a lot of experts out there. There’s a lot of people that will tell you how you can do things better. To be honest, I think only you know your own business.

We actually use a lot of free tools online to gauge our user experience. Google Analytics is free. You can gauge how long people spend on your website, how many pages they need to click on.

You can have goals there to say, we want them to click on the sign up button. If they’ve been on the website 10 minutes and they’ve clicked on the website 15 times—that’s not a very good user experience.

There are a truckload of free business tools that you can use to setup these foundations of a business, and that’s how you start testing and measuring.

Interviewer:

So in that process of setting up some of these structures, what are the top, say three or four things that you think you should do in planning and building those foundations?

Trent:

I’m gonna say I’m old-fashioned here—but I think a task list. I’m a little bit religious when it comes to a task list. I always make sure that I clean out yesterday’s task list and whatever I’ve transferred across to today, I put it on top of the list.

Also, I don’t like writing things down on notepads. Because you write on your notepad, you leave your desk and you go home, and you forget what that note was all about.

There are online notepads, free tools that can also share those task items and delegate them with members of your team. Tapping into resources that are online and looking at your business as if you’re a customer.

We call it mystery shopping, where you test your own services. You see how long it takes to apply or sign up, or what hoops you have to jump through to become a customer or buy your product.

I really think a lot of people get stuck in their own little world and they need to look into how convenient it is, from a customer’s point of view, from the outside looking in. People need to transact with you in an easy way. If you’re harder than the next guy down the road, you don’t have a unique service offering as far as I’m concerned.

Interviewer:

Some important things there about having a task list, utilising free tools and online resources, and then also looking at your business as if you’re a customer. We’ve covered a lot of ground here. Next podcast, we’re going to look at some goal-setting. How important is this?

Trent:

It’s very important. Without it, you don’t know where you are. You don’t know whether you’re achieving results. These could be simple things that doesn’t have to be a five or ten year plan. I think to start off, we just need the basics.

Interviewer:

I’m looking forward to continuing the conversation. But if there’s something that you want us to cover in Series 2, get in touch via the Alltel Australia Facebook page, go to alltel.com.au or call 1 300 255 835. Stay tuned for Series 2.

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