Moving from regional to national, we learned to not be afraid to say no if the terms aren't right for us.
Angelina Bell, Scaleup Partner, Scaleup North East.
Angelina Bell, Scaleup Partner at Scaleup North East, explains how to take a company from a regional level to a national level with the help of coaching.
You took a company from a regional to a national footprint. In undetaking this journey, what are the critical foundations that have to be built?
Attracting and retaining the right talent and skills was critical for us. We developed a national delivery model in a relatively short space of time and found that by being clear on our service level agreements and better than our competitors on payment terms, we were successful in developing an experienced, reliable team.
Building the right business model that can service your client efficiently and ensuring that you can access all of the data you need is also critical. We invested in a bespoke software system very early on, meaning we had full access to every prospect, client, order, the values, timescales, finance and any client issues all in one place. It meant we could quickly evaluate who were our top customers and where we were making/not making profit.
And how did a coach help you build these foundations?
Having a business coach helped us to tackle both these challenges head on. They helped us to develop an operational plan in our first year of trading which made the transition from regional to national quite easy. Additionally, moving from regional to national meant we were dealing with larger clients with contracts that imposed higher risks.
Cashflow became a larger challenge but the good news was that terms could be renegotiated with some of the clients who valued the quality and service they received. Once we had developed a good brand that was regonised for reliablility and good quality, it became easier to negotiate favourable terms.
Don't be afraid to say no if the terms are not right for you. Our coach helped to give us the confidence to do this.
In making the transition, what was your biggest mistake and how did you put it right?
We took on a new client who ordered multiple surveys in various parts of the country. The biggest mistake we made was releasing the reports before any payment had been received. We never did receive payment and had to take legal proceedings which was stressful, had a negative impact on the cash in the business and still resulted in non-payment due to the financial position of the company we had engaged with.
At a local level, where we knew all of our clients on a personal level, payment had never been a problem but when dealing in volume at a larger level you have to be sure that you have legal suport and robust terms and conditions.
This mistake hit us hard financially but fortunatey our existing clients, the bank and the support of a lawyer helped us to trade out of the position and in turn, come out stronger and wiser.
We introduced a robust client onboarding process which allowed us to carry out due diligence. We developed a sales approach of: 'are you the right client for us?'; and 'can you provide us with the information and support that we need to enable us to service you well?'.
We knew that we were good at what we did and so believed in ourselves, became tougher, insisted on the agreed payment terms and as a result, became more respected in our industry than ever before.
What was your biggest stroke of luck and how did your coach help to make it happen?
Our biggest stroke of luck was quite early in the business. We were successful in winning several large tenders that helped us to grow quickly and make profit. We developed a strong, unique selling proposition which made us stand out from the crowd.
The operational plan that the coach helped us to develop certainly helped in winning the tenders as it demonstrated how we would run the programmes and gave a lot of confidence to our clients.
By speaking with ourclients and understanding their needs from the outset, we developed a customer value proposition that was more compelling than our competitors. This, combined with more effective marketing, gave the perception of a larger, experienced company.
We also made sure that the core team were not just knowledgeable and well trained, but were very clear as to what was expected from them in relation to operations, customer service and quality.
Where to find help to start and grow your business
Now, more than ever, it is important to ensure you and your business are getting the help and support you need. Whilst I now help businesses to pursue their growth plans through Scaleup North East, I know that the coaching support available to founders through High Potential Startups is invaluable to assisting founders and co-founders to see different perspectives of pains or challenges.
Thus, the coaching team can help you to determine the best strategic direction and build relevant business processes just at the time when you need it. See how High Potential Startups can help you to start your high growth business: www.highpotentialstartups.co.uk