So there I was ready to hit a Drive on the 1st tee box in Castlewarden Golf Club, when Gerry asked me how I got on in the States. I told him I had backed out on the deal due to a gut feeling that something wasn’t just right and I was still looking for a business idea to pursue.
Six months earlier I had worked myself out of my job by closing the manufacturing plants I managed in Dublin & Herefordshire and successfully merging them into a centralised unit in Cambridge. At least I had 2 years notice that I was making myself redundant and had time to reflect on what I wanted to do and I had decided to take the plunge and go into business on my own (the fact that there was not a queue of people offering me gainful employment was a bit of an influence too coupled with the fact that myself and my family like eating and having a roof over our heads.)
By the time we got to the second green, Gerry had told me about a contact of his who was looking for Franchisees and how given my experience it might be worth my while speaking to them. Up to then I had not really considered becoming a franchisee but it would not cost me anything to meet with them. The rest is history, after a number of meetings and due diligence on my part I decided to take the plunge and in October 2007 we opened up our doors.
In the first couple of months as we built up the business we were handling so few calls that I had to ask to girls not to answer the phones as quickly they did as we were in danger of frightening callers. Seven years later, we have 14 staff and growing, we now handle over 1200 calls a day for a wide array of customers including SOHO, SME and large multinationals. They all have one thing in common they expect us to deliver exceptional customer service on their behalf to all of their callers. We do this day in day out and all of my staff buy into the idea that “you only get one chance to create a first impression”. We only employ staff who can demonstrate an understanding that delivering exceptional service is the norm for Kendlebell Naas and we quickly identify whether new staff will make the cut or not. Whether we handle 3 calls (our smallest client) or 4000+ calls a month (Our biggest client), we ensure that the call is handled in the exact manner they wish and that we deliver first call resolution whenever possible.
Starting a new business is a daunting task and you face many obstacles form day one. My advise form my experience to date is a follows:
1. Engage a good accountant and Solicitor from Day One. Listen to their advice but remember by their nature they are cautious and may not be risk takers.
2. Employ good people who buy into your business culture. You will need people who you can depend on 100% while you are building the business
3. Prepare monthly management accounts each month (even simple ones) so that you can track your performance. Remember Cash is King. Do cash flow projections. Get your invoices out quickly and your cash in quicker.
4. Have a contingency fund for the rainy day if possible. Have no doubt it will come. 6 Months after opening Kendlebell Naas I had to have emergency surgery for acute appendicitis (not a cute) and ended up out of action for 6 weeks.
5. Don’t be intimidated by larger competitors. You can compete successfully, just identify your niche and your USP (unique selling proposition) and pursue clients who value your products or services.
By the way the gut feeling that I got when I was in Oklahoma to put pen to paper on a deal to open up a new business in Ireland turned out to be the right decision. Within 6 months the two existing businesses in Ireland entered a price war which resulted in a number of casualties and which would have included myself if I had proceeded.
Written by Tony Clarke. For more information visit http://www.kbvo.ie.
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