In 1981, my mother died of cancer at the age of 42.
My sister and I were in our early twenties and my mother left us her business. In fact, what she left us with was a half-empty shop with no customer base. It had opened its doors to the public only two days before she died, Oh and I should mention here, it also came with a 10,000 overdraft.
We were left solely with two choices. 1. Pay back the overdraft 2. Work our arses off. We decided on option two. We were young and the only business training we had was from watching our Mother. There was no pre-written business plan or a desire from us to build an empire. Our purpose to carry on was simple.
Our Mother would have wanted us to do the job she had started.
This was not temporary, there was no finish line and no boss to tell us what to do next. I had a new baby on the way and my sister had achieved a role in a London Company where her life was just buzzing with new opportunities. But when you lose your Mum, you suddenly grow up and have to take responsibility.
We were now in charge of a business and had been thrown in at the deep end gasping for breath and hoping we would not drown. It was a small business, but we had learned more than we appreciated. The only way to move forward with the business was up and then up some more, taking one step at a time. Our climb towards success would be on a rickety ladder. Neither of us had money and even now when we look back, we wonder how we survived the journey.
Against all the advice from our friends and family, who said we were crazy, we muddled through and after a long six years of building something we were proud of, we started to see some profit. Yes, there were times when we could not afford to pay the rent, or the TV licence, going out for a meal or buying things for my home was out of the question.
For two years we didn’t have carpet in our house and lived with bare floorboards. ‘YOU WERE LUCKY’ in the words of Monty Python. Still I laugh as I look back. I could have looked for a different job or even gone on income support but neither my sister nor I ever stopped to think in that way. Our focus was to build and that is what makes a good solid and sustainable business.
Our ‘WHY’ was not at that time to put money in our pockets, there were easier and creative ways to do that. It was for our Mother foremost, but also and more importantly, our focus had developed towards building something that had a strong and loyal customer base because we strived to offer the best service possible.
Our product was quality which we refused to cheapen to suit market demand. Our company grew to a global brand based on those two principles. Look after your customers and give them something to remember you by.
Over the past couple of decades, companies have engaged in major price wars. Customers have got accustomed to purchasing devalued products, cheap travel, clothes toiletries and homewares etc, etc. Producers have caused this greed for cheap and will soon be facing the consequences as the conscious consumer is waking up and demanding a more deserving service We never had to offer discounts, product codes, free gifts etc, we worked on the premise that we would build our customers to be loyal.
As Simon Sinek states in his book, Start with Why. ‘Loyalty is when people are willing to turn down a better product or a better price to continue doing business with you. Loyal customers often don’t even bother to research the competition or entertain other options. Loyalty is not easily won, repeat business however is.’ By this he means manipulations. We manipulate people to buy our products by enticing them with lower prices and offers.
All companies do it, even we did it if we wanted to move stock off our shelves to make room for new. But growing our loyal customers, was our ultimate challenge. It was this loyalty that was the basis of putting our brand into the position of Market Leader.
I sold my business to retire in 2004 and spent quite a few years just wondering what to get my teeth into. I craved for something that was sustainable. Messing about with property renovations and helping my kids with their dreams and adventures. Two years ago I stumbled across a company which sparked my interest. They were selling health and nutritional systems which I wanted to try. They offered a good clean product which when used properly did all that it said on the box.
As I learned more about them, I saw reflections of an ethos I once used in my own business. It surprised me in the beginning as it was a network marketing company and I was aware of negative images that had been conjured up to dissuade people to enter into any get rich quick schemes or the old adage of pyramid selling scams. Here was a company encouraging people to take care of their health and rewarding people who shared the product.
But it was a network marketing company and because of that, it attracted many marketeers. I have watched the ‘Get Rich Quick schemers, the Happy Clappy do it my way or you will fail brigade. I have watched them manipulate with promises of huge incomes and large numbers. Maybe, that is their ‘Why’ I have also watched them jump ship impatiently when all does not go their way.
I felt uncomfortable at times and questioned who were the leaders in this company? Pushing through the hype I managed to get to a clearer picture as I met up with some people representing a more ethical approach. I found them sitting in the background, comfortably lounging in the loyalty lounge Here was an opportunity for me be part of something again where I would feel comfortable working in a way that suited me. The people that come and go, leave behind loyal customers who have no wish to be enticed by vouchers and extra money because if you have found a product why change it if it is not broken.
As we build strong foundations of loyalty the rewards will come but we have to be patient. It is similar to investing sensibly. You can see where you are going. As they say, fools rush in and the people I am coaching towards good health are not fools, my customers are clever, intelligent and know what they want. My customers see the value of quality and it does not come with any form of manipulation. I want my customers to try, to taste and to believe and trust me. I do not care how long it takes them. It is the price I pay for loyalty. Good health is not a product but a way of life. It is not something you will buy and clutter up your cupboard with, but something you will be forever grateful for.