There are many secrets to running a successful company, some of which seem like common sense and some which you have to learn along the way. Initially you need to understand the stakeholders in a company, which is everyone who has an interest in the company, but who are not the owners. A shareholder could be a stakeholder in a company, but in Bronco’s example myself and Dave are the only shareholders and the owners so therefore not a stakeholder.
The main stakeholders that Bronco has are Customers and Suppliers, Employees and The Government. The latter on this list, the Government, has a similar need from all companies and that is to gain income tax and national insurance from the company and employees each month, to collect a big chunk of VAT every quarter, and for an even bigger chunk of Corporation Tax on profits (currently between 21 and 28% of profits) at the end of March each year.
A supplier has a stakehold in the company as they rely on good payment and regular orders to sustain their own business. We don’t have many suppliers at Bronco due to the nature of the work we do and that we have always tried to keep the majority of what we do in-house.
Customers on the other had are a very important stakeholder for Bronco. One of the main secrets is to always value your customers, as without them the business fails. We have always tried really hard to meet each clients’ expectations and surpass them if we can, and this is true of all clients whether SEO, PPC or Web Dev. I have tried to instill great customer service across the company and we try to go out of our way to make sure we deliver. Happy customers are the best advert that a company can have and we pride ourselves on the amount of referrals for work that we get. Some prospective SEO clients are sometimes surprised when I say that we don’t do “pitches” since they are so used to the hard sell. We try to say it how it is, price the work up fairly, and never promise things that are not achievable just to get the sale. I handle the “sales” side of the company and I often turn work down if we can’t meet expectations that are unrealistic as they will never be a happy customer.
So without customers a company will fail .. so that’s obvious, but other most important stakeholder in a company is the staff. Personally I feel many companies fail to satisfy the needs of this key stakeholder and will end up with unhappy customers and a struggling business. It sounds so simple but often shareholders or owners are more geared towards the bottom line and reducing overheads rather than keeping staff happy. The staff at Bronco are our biggest overhead and biggest asset, and quite rightly as we are a service company, but if the staff are not happy and motivated then it’s a very expensive overhead.
Dave and I have owned Bronco for 7 years and in that time we have grown to having 17 staff, which isn’t a huge amount really as we could be up to 40 or 50 now easily if we had really pushed it. But would the company be as successful with three or four times the amount of staff? Would the staff still be happy? Would the company be as profitable? I believe that the answer to all of those questions would be no, the company would be very different, it would have to be. Growing the company at a steady pace, even holding it back at times, has enabled the culture that we have instilled in the company to grow and develop in a positive way, and has allowed a really strong team to develop which in essence is the secret to keeping the customers happy.
At Bronco we don’t have the tiers of management or the various levels of project managers that can often be present in SEO agencies. Generally we have me as the person that all staff report to and who will generally organise most aspects of the company, sales and clients. I do have help of course and I’m very grateful for it, and Dave obviously works hard on keeping the company’s reputation as strong as ever, so again this is where the strong team comes in. I don’t have to have long meetings with staff, or to detail every aspect of a web build or SEO plan as everyone has a really good understanding of what is needed, with the ability to freely ask questions directly to myself or Dave. Dave and I will regularly evaluate the processes and the company situation and gradually bring in any changes in a controlled way that are needed to keep us going in the right direction.
Employees in a company have basic needs which are job security, pay and prospects. These fundamental needs should always be met by a company as it ensures a good foundation to build upon. We have always been open and honest with staff about what the plans are for the company, we don’t have any secrecy and hopefully are approachable, and the guys know that one thing we have always aimed for is job security. Wouldn’t it be great to be handing out gold watches to the guys when they reach retirement!
I also think another secret to managing a company is to make sure that if you are the shareholder / owner that you are the ones putting in the most work. Never be the person that swans in, checks a few emails then goes off to the golf course for the afternoon, (unless it’s for a client meeting – and of course you’ll let the client win!)
So most of what I have written is pretty much common sense, but so often it is forgotten and businesses will fail or not reach their full potential by forgetting or neglecting one of their stakeholders, and more often than not it’s the staff.