Moneypenny's Co-Founder, Rachel Clacher shares her three most enduring lessons gained through the experience of watching the business take-off, some great mistakes along the way and the people that play such an important role in making the company what it is today:
Lesson No. 1 – Everyday, in every situation, ask yourself THE BIG QUESTION: “Am I treating this person as I would want to be treated myself?”
Dismiss the power of this at your peril. If every business actually acted on this then the banks wouldn’t be in the mess that they are in, supermarket managers would have used self-service checkouts themselves before inflicting them on us, call centre staff turnover rates wouldn’t be at 70% (and all that money spent on recruitment would be spent on staff welfare which would bring the turnover down). Look around. The companies that are thriving are doing so because they understand that we want ‘realness’ and relationships – Handelsbanken has bucked the trend of the banks and is growing fast in the UK because they give us real people to speak to, people who care. In retailing Asos, Boden and White Stuff make us feel like part of their family.
From the word go we wanted Moneypenny to be the kind of place we would want to work in ourselves. So for that to happen, yes, we all had to work hard, but we also knew we had to have fun along with laughter, recognition and support. We didn’t set out with a master plan on how to build our culture: we actually had no idea what we were doing. But by asking ourselves the BIG QUESTION every time we made a decision about our team or our environment, we made good and positive decisions.
The same principle applies to our clients. In the beginning, all we knew was how to be a client (my brother Ed had used a telephone answering service unsuccessfully in his previous life running a graphics firm). We knew nothing about company set-ups , PAYE, recruitment or technology. So we simply designed a product that we would have bought had we been a client. We put ourselves into our clients’ shoes. We didn’t let ourselves be worried by or swayed by what other people out there were doing. We set our own blueprint, simply from asking ourselves the BIG QUESTION.
From designing a product for your clients, establishing a good working environment, paying your suppliers to terms, saying thank you to your team, picking up the rubbish outside the office to calling up a client just because... all these things matter. And they matter because that’s exactly what you want: good products, productive and welcoming working environments, payment to terms, thank yous, a friendly call.... It’s simple. But sometimes, to realise just how simple something can be, you have to ask yourself the BIG QUESTION first.
Lesson No. 2 - Employ people who are better than you.
No one is good at everything. Entrepreneurs are great generalists and get the whole picture, but can get bored with the important detail and process. Create a hierarchy of your needs for the business. Match that against your strengths and weaknesses then employ to answer the gaps, getting people in who can do a defined job infinitely better than you can - in the order in which the business requires. For us in the early days it was all about getting a financial person in to do the detail, then a sales bod and so on. It took us ten years to effectively recruit ourselves out of the business. We now have an amazing management team who run the business on a day to day basis and we have the privilege of working on, not in, it. By employing people who are better than you, the power of your team is increased with each recruit.
Lesson No. 3 - Know what your clients are buying.
In our business our clients are buying people to answer their telephone calls. Period. And, while it seems blindingly obvious now, it took us a while to fully appreciate the implications of this. Years ago we launched ‘Call Business’ – a package of phone lines and features – to our clients. The take-up was abysmal. Why? Because we’d forgotten that our clients see us as ‘people people’, not ‘technology people’. Part of the reality of Moneypenny – making sure millions of calls each year get to the right place with the right information and then get sent back out to another place with the right information – actually has nothing to do with any of our clients’ reality: they just love having Cathy there day in day out chatting away to their clients and making decisions on their behalf about the importance of each call. And therefore us offering ‘Call Business’ was a bit like John Lewis selling Dominos pizza. The wrong thing in the wrong place. It was a salutary lesson: one that we have to remind ourselves of every day.
But the most important thing is to learn these lessons only once. Don’t waste time making the same mistakes over and over. And if you possibly can, learn from other people’s lessons to save yourself the time and heartache that can be involved in learning them for yourself.