2019 was my first full year in charge at SAFI Valves UK and its been a rollercoaster ride – whilst being a year of growth and major change for SAFI UK, its also been a year of learning so I thought I would let you know about the top 20 points I have learnt this year.
1. Never ever take a clients word for granted. No matter what a client may tell you about their intentions, no matter the level of business, you should always follow through and learn that not every client will be completely truthful or honest with their projections.
2. A lick of paint will do wonders for your office image. If your premises haven’t been decorated or if you have had the same carpets/decor for nearly 20 years, you may not notice it due to complacency but your visitors will. They will notice the lack of investment and as the old adage goes ‘first impressions count’.
3. Old clients are not always the best. You may be serving an old client because they ‘used to be successful’ but with that history come complacency and an element of familiarity or in one case, rudeness. Its better for everyone to cut out the negativity and move away from clients who take up 80% of your time for very little return.
4. Experience is good… to a point. Sometimes you will have experience in your business but that experience is only useful if it has a positive impact. If they have only known a poor regime, they may only feel comfortable in that culture – but if there is a new positive and inclusive culture and they are not willing to evolve or change, they need to be removed.
5. Local Chamber of Commerce interactions are VERY positive. Being in the Dorset area has allowed us to interact with our local Chamber of Commerce much more in 2019 and has meant that we can build our business around local people and local connections.
6. You pay for your history, if you’ve ballsed up. Over the last 12 months, I have visited a fairly high number of SAFI clients, old and new, and being a constant and stable business in the UK means that everyone has met or had interactions with your business at some point. Some positive and some negative but you will always pay for the negative experiences as clients always have a long memory.
7. You need to interact with your industry. Being new to the valve industry has meant that it has been vitally important for me to network heavily with other companies, our industry body (@BVAA) and at exhibitions.
8. Opportunity can arise in the most unlikely of places. Having conducted visits to clients in other countries (often when they may appear unwarranted), SAFI UK has found opportunities to grow our own business and without these visits, we would have never found them!
9. Copper Mines are HUGE! Visiting the Chuquicamata Mine in Calama, Chile was an incredible experience. These mines are essentially open holes in the ground which are many miles deep and wide and without actually being there, it is impossible to comprehend the scale of such an operation.
10. Treat people how you want to be treated. Over the last year, I have met up with, spoken to and heard from people who have worked for me before and who I have either let go or lost but despite the circumstances, I have remained on good terms with all of them. Your attitude in your business transcends your current role, remember to treat everyone with dignity and clarity.
11. Personal Branding is important in the digital age. Your online presence can be massively important to building your business, building your future and allow people an insight into how you ‘do things’. A single social media post a day can build a consistent and clear image of you and your business.
12. Everyone is still learning. No-one has it completely figured it out yet, No-one is perfect in their role and from personal experience – its best to ask questions rather than guess!
13. Videos on Social Media are a lot better than Photos or ‘standard’ posts. Having posted a myriad of things across different social media pages – I received a bigger engagement on the videos, rather than anything which is ‘easier’ to do, such as photos or reshares of other posts. During 2020, I’ll be focusing on video, rather than photos to share the updates from SAFI Valves.
14. We’ve only just scratched the surface. Having completed a fairly in depth market appraisal during 2019 for SAFI UK’s business plan – its clear that SAFI have a long way to go in the UK to really capture a decent market share and we have the opportunity to build on the foundations that we have. And an even bigger opportunity is the United States, as we begin to expand our operations in 2020.
15. Communication is key. Talking to your staff, listening to feedback and be open to criticism or new ideas is fundamentally key in growing engagement. You need to clear any barriers to that communication, be present and don’t withhold any information without good reason. Everyone is key to the business, everyone needs to know your plans. At SAFI UK, we have a Whatsapp Group to engage at all levels.
16. Window seats are better. Window seats on long haul flights are infinitely better than aisle seats but aisle seats are better on short flights. Discuss.
17. Simplicity is key. The sales process can quite often be complicated enough without multiple ‘internal’ hoops to jump through – having over 15 discount codes, not having a complete price list or product list to remotely quote from, irregular stock – all of these impede the sales process where simplicity would mean there is more time for sales, less time for admin. We’ve changed a lot ready for 2020 – standby!
- 18. Its good to celebrate and promote! Sometimes, its important to recognize your team and your company by dressing up for the night and enjoying a few drinks with the people who help drive the business along. This is going to be a regular event for our ‘external’ team so that we can schmooze with our industry peers.
19. Budgets and plans take a lot longer than you would imagine. Being someone who loves being out, visiting clients and making new network connections – it can be frustrating to be behind a desk for extended periods of time planning, writing plans and formalizing budgets but its a necessary tool in the direction planning of the business. We have lots of exciting plans and events for 2020 and it wouldn’t be possible without the forward thinking that takes time!
20. 2020 is just the start. Whilst this is a list which is focusing on what I have learnt in 2019 in preparation for 2020, it is only the start. The support of my team, the support of my family and the support of the industry only holds a positive outlook for the future at SAFI UK and its going to be an exciting new few years as we continue to grow and build on the momentum we have generated in our first year together!