When you are marketer and you go from working in marketing for another business, to running and marketing your own business, one of the biggest challenges can be ensuring that you are able to put into practice all that you have extolled as a marketer over the years.
This was the exact challenge faced by one our clients, Edward Sexton of Yorkshire clothing brand, Glencroft Countywear, when he returned to Yorkshire from London to come into the family business in 2013.
We spoke to him to ask for his top tips for other small business owners to help them retain the focus on marketing that they need, despite the inevitable pressures on their time.
Running your own business can be challenging at the best of times. Tell us a bit about some of the learning curves you’ve faced since coming into the family business?
One of the biggest issues I have is finding time to do everything I want to do, while also trying to get some sort of work / life balance.
It comes down to really trying to plan out short-term goals, as well as working towards a longer term (2-5 year) strategy. Anything that fits with those goals I try and prioritise, whereas other things which are more of a ‘nice to have can’ often fall by the wayside.
In recent years, essential items which we’ve managed to achieve have been to update our stock and finance systems, launch a retail website, refurbish our warehouse and go on an international sales trip to Japan to see our customers there. These are all things that were vital to us in order to grow the business further.
However, what we missed out on in those early days, was focusing on improving our brand and marketing.
We’re now catching up on that front, and have recently refreshed all our labelling and packaging to esnure consistency across the business. With hindsight, I may well have saved myself some time by doing it the other way around.
After 30 years in business, Glencroft has weathered some challenges like any business, and this has helped us to recognise that diversification of revenue is essential.
Big customers are vital, but you also need to make sure you aren’t dependant on them – excellent customer service is therefore important to every single customer, regardless of size.
A best-selling product is vital, but multiple best-selling products are even better, not forgetting that what’s best selling this year may be out of fashion the next.
With this in mind, innovation must never stop – we introduce new products every year. Our most recent business developments – international growth and online retail – have both been to help us grow, as well as diversify. This means that we can better serve all our customers if we aren’t entirely dependent on just the one.
What are your top tips for other small business owners, to help them retain their focus on marketing that they need, despite the inevitable pressures on their time?
- Access to finance
Look for grants or access to funding which can serve as a catalyst to fund your marketing initiatives.
We’ve managed to get various grants and funding from government and EU sources for projects in the past few years, including Digital Enterprise Leeds, Manufacturing Growth Programme and Department of International Trade.
These have helped us to achieve projects that, without funding, may have taken a few more years to be able to invest in.
Yes, you have to complete a lot of paperwork and speak to a lot of people as part of this process, however, this is a small price to pay to kick your business on.
Think about contacting your local enterprise partnership (LEP), look on government websites for small business support, and speak to the department for international trade.
- Culture and values
Also place an emphasis on identifying your strengths and values.
A couple of years ago we wrote out our company values. The process of doing this helped us to figure out what was important to us, what made us different to the competition and what worked (as well as what didn’t, which is also vitally important!).
You don’t necessarily need to share these values online or use them in your marketing materials if you don’t want to, although consumers are increasingly discerning about those brands they wish to engage with who meet their own personal values.
Having a clear company direction that everyone agrees on really helps to solidify your offering and ensure that everyone operating within your business is aligned with your culture and values.
For example, one of our values is about being ‘responsible’.
We try and responsibly source all our products. This now pervades everything we do, including where we buy our stationary and packaging.
Before we wrote this down on paper as a ‘value’, we bought many basic supplies online for the cheapest price without really thinking through each purchase. This is something we’ve now addressed and we find that our customers also appreciate this approach.
- Write down what you do
Running a small business can be a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week kind of job at some times of the year.
By writing down everything I did, I started to identify the regular administrative jobs that could eventually be delegated, such as accounting, stock inventory checks, customer order dispatch.
This then allowed me to write instructions for the processes required for these, which eventually let me outsource some of them to employees and freelancers, thereby freeing up my time to focus on less predictable parts of running a business such as strategy and growth plans.
- Stay true to yourself
Finally, stay true to your company values.
As we grow our business and make our processes more efficient, this doesn’t mean we need to remove core elements that work.
We still hand write a message in every item we send out online, and we intend to keep doing this as we grow because personal service is core to our values, it is what makes us who we are and what our customers return to Glencroft for, time and again.