Monthly Archives: July 2014

Enterprise essential – Don’t take loyalty for granted

People are only loyal until someone comes along and offers something better! You take the loyalty of your stakeholders – customers, staff, directors, investors, whoever – for granted at your peril! Never forget to say ‘thank you’ – people like to feel special and appreciated – you must earn that loyalty.

 

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Building a shed – day 300

IMG_4446So what progress with plans to develop a would-be environmental social enterprise – The Repair Shed – to bring older men together to stay healthier for longer by making, mending and learning?

July 27 was 300 days into my 12 months with the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SEEE) in Ipswich on the Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs Start-Up programme.

That particular day – last Sunday – I was busy with the third Royston Repair Cafe, but had time to smile as I recalled our first Community Repair Day at the Hemel Food Garden Open Day on 7 June – our first real ‘public outing’ and lots of fun. If you want to see what we got up to in Hemel, go to our new Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TheRepairShed for photos and a link to a short video clip.

Day 300 was also a good point at which to do some accounting – to update my expenditure records and prepare a third and final claim to the SSE for the final tranche of their £4,000 grant. As I did the sums, I realised with some alarm that when my final £500 comes through it will be pretty well accounted for!

As my wife regularly reminds me, none of the £4,000 has actually paid me. But it’s helped me get around by car and train (lots of learning and development – in Ipswich and London, and regular travel between Royston and Hemel Hempstead and, more recently, Stevenage – see below). It’s also helped me cover office costs and publicity without which I could never have got this far. But it won’t pay the bills much longer and my wife’s patience might also have its limits. So what to do?

Back in March, I wrote about the wisdom or otherwise of trying to start an enterprise with no money – more at http://bit.ly/1kjOsoT – soon I really will be ‘running on fumes’! I’m not yet reduced to hitchhiking around Hertfordshire but it’s time to get real – to be prepared to make the case for working unpaid for a little longer, or…

Earn income: In early July we made our first Repair Shed sale – a pallet pub (see photo above) to a customer in Yorkshire! It’s long story – a unique present for someone who’s got everything… I was thrilled but, as my wife pointed out, the wood may have cost nothing but it took me several hours to make.

What price my time? But I’ve just firmed up an affordable supply of pallets from a local social enterprise in St Albans so I see no reason why our pallet furniture production shouldn’t take off.

Another way to earn income, of course, is to get a job (or a proper job as my wife calls it – by which she means one that pays for my time). While I’d love to have the luxury of devoting 100% of my waking hours to developing The Repair Shed, I realise that I may have to do with just three out of six days a week, if another job that will help pay those bills comes along.

Which explains why, in May and June, I applied for two jobs for which I thought I was eminently well suited and which would have nicely complemented development of The Repair Shed. Unfortunately, the recruiting organisations didn’t agree.

Gifts in kind – Notwithstanding my past interest in timebanking (and plans to set up a time bank at The Repair Shed) I realise that the world cannot survive on bartering alone. But that said, our good friends at Hemel Food Garden – Sunnyside Rural Trust – are happy to help us out with free facilities while we’re getting up and running. In return, we’re repairing and refurbishing donated furniture for them to sell to raise funds for their work.

My ‘pallet pub’ not only generated a little sales income but, through a special deal arranged by the UK Mens Sheds Association,  we’ve been awarded £250 to spend with Triton Tools in exchange for my pallet pub project plan (trying saying that after a few pints!) which will be published on Triton’s website.

Finally on the bartering front, I continue to enjoy free desk space and the support of Wenta’s business incubator in Stevenage (ref my earlier blog at http://bit.ly/1pxVX7I) and I try to help them out in return, including input into a social enterprise workshop.

Fundraising – the other way to get paid for my work is to successfully bid for a grant to develop the Repair Shed to a point where it has the potential to be financially sustainable through selling goods and services. Following four unsuccessful bids, I’m preparing a fifth application to an environmental source. This latest effort may have a greater chance of success, if only because I’m not relying on my fundraising ‘skills’ alone.

The bid and my plans for the months ahead are now being scrutinised by a new steering group (reference my Day 200 blog http://bit.ly/1nAA8Yx) and a fund-raising sub-group. That said, as always I take full responsibility for the ups and down on the Repair Shed journey – including running out of fuel!

Enterprise Essential – Listen and respond – invite feedback

Listen to what people are saying (and not saying) and act on what you hear! Make sure you handle complaints carefully. Done well it can turn unhappy customers into loyal supporters and even advocates. More generally, solicit and use feedback, both good and bad.

 

Enterprise essential – People like people like them

We connect, visually and verbally – to other human beings and, particularly, people like ourselves. So make sure you feature people – your staff, volunteers, service-users, members – wherever you can. This can be through quotations, profiles (anonymous if necessary) and photos in annual reports and publicity materials, on websites and slides.

 

Enterprise Essential – Get more of the ‘right customers’ through your door

Know who are your most important customers (socially and financially) and get more of them! This means targeting your promotion to reduce the number of ‘time-wasters’. Good external communications are important – be clear about what you can and can’t do for people and streamline your systems for directing those you can’t help to other organisations.

 

Enterprise Essential – See price from the buyer’s point of view

The relationship between price and perceived quality is not a straight forward one. A high quality item sold at a high price can confer status while the same item sold at a low price is a super-bargain. Both purchases are something customers might tell their friends about! Even terminology can make a difference; describing something as ‘affordable’ ‘or ‘good value’ can create a different impression from describing it as ‘cheap’.

 

Enterprise Essential – Always start with them

To give a relationship the best chance of success try to get inside the head of the other person and, particularly if you’re selling a product or service, answer their question – what’s in it for me? Sustaining a successful relationship will convert your ‘suspects’ into ‘prospects’ into ‘customers’ then ‘clients’ and finally into ‘advocates’ – the loyalty ladder.