Is keeping it in family at boardroom level a good idea?
Q: My business is growing very well and I now have several hundred staff, and I'm in the process of strengthening my management team. I have some family members in the business and my question to you is, do you think that family should take key boardroom positions, or should these be external people?
A: The answer really lies in the skill sets that lie within the business currently, and those possessed by the family members. Just because someone is a member of the family, does not automatically mean that they should be sitting on the board of the company. You should conduct a needs analysis on the skillsets within the business and determine what skills you want on the board.
It would also be a good idea to get external help as part of the decision-making process with regards to who you should get to fill these roles.
An external company will be more objective and give you a more neutral decision making process.
Q: I run an online shop, and have dozens of customers shopping with us on a daily basis. I am conscious that sometimes the online shopping experience in general can be impersonal. Have you any tips on how we might improve this?
A: During my time in Superquinn, one of the ways we got our best ideas was by sitting down and listening to our customers. We did that through a series of informal meetings, where I met approximately 20 customers a week, travelling from branch to branch around the company.
So rather than just give you specific answers, the most beneficial advice I can give you is to organise feedback sessions from some of your customers.
You might be able to do this through an online survey, or even invite some customers to come and meet you or a facilitator face to face, so that they can extract from them honest feedback.
As well as meeting customers, I would encourage you, if you have a database where you have permission to use the customers contact details, to also contact some of those who are "lapsed".
This would be a good group to also target and extract views from them as to why they are no longer customers.
As retailers, we can sometimes become over-obsessed with just talking to customers only; non-customers or lapsed customers can be sometimes even more powerful with the insight they can bring.
I have seen some interesting initiatives from online companies. I met one craft jewellery company who made a point of ringing the customer the day after the delivery was scheduled, and asking them had the gift arrived and was everything okay. The result was sheer delight as the recipient of the call was not expecting it. In many cases we perceive online businesses as anonymous and impersonal, so anything that you can do to change this viewpoint will certainly work in your favour.
I met another small online retailer who typed personalised emails to each customer who placed an order to thank them for their business, and telling them how important they were.
In summary anything that you can do which surprises your customer and allows you to interact with them on a more human level will definitely help raise the bar.