This article is published in partnership with Insightly, providing CRM and project management solutions for small business owners.
Anyone who runs a small business knows that there are many different components that need to be kept straight in order for it to run smoothly. One of those top priorities is customer management. In a recent interview, I discussed this topic with Alex Reed, owner of the design firm Bamb Creative based out of the United Kingdom. The company is a labor of love that has been about four years in the making, and in our interview, Alex chronicles his journey.
Entry into Entrepreneurship
During the recession in the UK in the late 2000s, Alex was working for a big design agency whose main products were signage, prints, and marketing campaigns. However, the company started downsizing, and he was one of the employees who was let go. He was turning 30, and so he thought it was a perfect time to start a business because he had always wanted to work for himself.
Another impetus for making the transition from employee to entrepreneur was when one of his existing customers encouraged him to do so. In fact, she said to him, “You do such great work. If you start your own business, I’ll be your first customer.” He knew that he was a hard worker and had the ability to motivate himself, so he decided to take the leap and move forward with his business.
As any entrepreneur knows, exchanging a steady paycheck for the uncertainty of running a business is never easy. Alex had no safety net – and no family to support him if he failed.
Skill Sets Required for Running a Business vs. Being an Employee
Another challenge was realizing that running a business takes an entirely different skill set than being a designer. There are things that you need to know in order to run a successful business, and so he had to learn different things along the way.
Alex’s expertise was in marketing, and he says that he enjoyed some of that, but not all. He loves sales and thinks one of his strongest qualities is being credible and honest. He thinks that many sales people might be able to sell themselves well, but they don’t do good, trustworthy work.
So he started to join forces with people. First, he partnered with a graphic designer. They had done a lot of work together before, and one day they decided that they should work together in the business. He had the business skill set, and she had the graphic design background. They had a high level of trust and worked well together, so it was the perfect fit. They started small, and eventually added one more person to the team.
Advice for Small Business Entrepreneurs
Alex has learned a lot along the way during his journey as an entrepreneur, and we’d like to share his tips with you:
1. Say YES to everything.
The first day he started working for himself, he was sitting on his mom’s couch a little shell-shocked. It was then that he decided that he need to get out and meet people if he was going to get his business off the ground. He needed to mingle in the community and just start networking from there. He knew he had a firm base of inspiration and motivation, but he needed to meet more people. He said, “You don’t know who you can help until you get out there and do something.”
2. Use a CRM – Customer Relation Management System
Alex also said that one of the best things a small business can do is use a CRM. It is so important to get to know both your existing customers and potential ones as well. This involves tracking sales and leads. Using a CRM helps find a clear way to work with customers in an effective manner.
Alex knows about the importance of a CRM because when they started the business they used a lot of different apps and platforms instead. They had created a highly automated system, but after using it for a while, they just felt like robots. The system didn’t allow them to really connect with their customers, and it didn’t make them feel good about the work they were doing. These negative experiences helped Alex and his team realize the importance of a good customer relation management system.
3. Use a CRM like Insightly
Frustrated with the current system, someone suggested for Alex to try Insightly instead. Once he started using it, he had very clear reasons why he liked it and why it worked for their company. He hated having to use a lot of different apps, and he spent too much time curating and not enough actually doing his work. The Insightly software helped him and his two partners to stay on the same track with customer service. The workflow makes it as easy as possible, and Insightly’s focus on integration allows all three of them to know exactly what is going on with each project and customer.
Insightly software also allows them to understand what the others are working on at any given moment. They are now able to maintain a professional theme throughout an entire project – something they couldn’t do before when they were jumping from platform to platform.
It was such a pleasure speaking to Alex, and he provided so much wisdom and guidance for small business owners. If you’re in the early stages of entrepreneurship, you might not have run into customer management problems yet, but you most certainly will in the future. And if you’re a seasoned business owner, you know that you can never be too attentive with your customer service. For a better way to manage your customers, take Alex’s advice and learn more about CRM systems like Insightly.
This post was created in partnership with Insightly, a simple to use yet powerful CRM system for small business. With integrations to Google Apps, Office 365, MailChimp, and major social media sites; great mobile apps for tablets and smartphones; and easy access to a REST API for custom integration, Insightly is the leading small business CRM.