The Small Business Survival SeriesEpisode 3 – Fundamentals

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 third podcast in the Altel Australia’s Small Business Series. I’m Mel Slade and I’m joined by Alltel’s General Manager, Trent Brinsley, who designed this series to help businesses not only survive, but thrive. Trent, last podcast, we discussed product development. But there’s no point having a product unless you have customers. How do you identify these people?

Trent:

Generally, a lot of people start businesses because they might have a hobby or a passion, and they find out there’s a hole in the market, there’s something missing. That’s how a lot of business start, that’s exactly how our business started.

We felt that telcos weren’t giving great service to businesses and they’re more geared towards residential customers. So that’s when we came into the market.

And really, when you’re starting a business, there’s a lot of things you need to consider. What’s my website gonna look like? How am I gonna have people communicate with me? So we were a natural fit for small businesses or startups for their telco solutions.

Interviewer:

So you’ve got your product and you’ve mentioned previously that that can always be perfected, and that product is always gonna need work. Then these structures. What do you do next?

Trent:

You need to take into consideration—how do you want the business to look, how will you get there, what it look like when your first employee comes along?

What will you start them doing? How will you pass an idea out of your head to that employee? And really, that comes down to structure and systems, and business processes.

There’s a lot of tools available now online—free, that gives you the good foundation for starting a business…Read more >>

Interviewer:

And when you do manage to jag that first customer or client, what do you do with them? What are some of the structures you need to put in place once you’ve got them onboard?

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:

Look forward to it. We’d love to hear from you. So you can let us know what you think of our podcast, and how we can help you do business better. You can interact by going to Alltel Australia’s Facebook page, visit our website at alltel.com.au or call 1 300 ALLTEL that’s 1 300 255 835. We hope you can join us next time.

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