How to make and keep your brand profitable
It is a known fact that around 20% of businesses fail in the first year and the first three years are often a critical merry go round of cashflow, borrowing and staying afloat to break even. So how do you ensure that your company makes money and remains profitable? I have been giving this a lot of thought recently, considering how we have managed to become one of the largest employers in Sussex and keep our brand profitable after 20 years in the business this year. Here are a few of the things I think we do well that have helped us achieve this:
1. Focus on the brand, but keep abreast of all around you
When a company first launches, the passion and enthusiasm for the brand is understandably riding high. However, often running a business is not just about developing a product or bringing a service to market, it’s about keeping abreast of running a business. This often involves being an accountant, an administrator, a customer service operator and a marketer as well as your day job.
Make sure you see the broader picture at all times and have these tasks in hand as well as the development of your brand. Keeping on top of them will save you money and make you money in the long term.
There are lots of online tools which can help you work more efficiently from accounting software to social media sites to help promote your brand. If you really don’t have the time or expertise, look to take on a student, or someone who is looking to get back into the workforce who might want to work shorter hours but can help support your business.
2. Ensure you communicate with your supply chain
Many businesses treat suppliers as a means to an end - to get the raw materials they need to make their business run. However, remember that looking after your supply chain and talking to them regularly can mean better deals, better value for money and better benefits.
Using one supplier for more than one thing can bring economies of scale but you must always keep an eye out on latest developments and other suppliers entering the market. Reviewing and communicating with your suppliers is one of the key ways to ensure you are getting the best materials, at the best price from the best people.
3. Look after your existing clients
The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CAM) states it is 10 times more expensive to obtain a new client than it is to retain one. Yet how many of us forget our existing clients once the deal is done? At Fireco, we believe in long term relationships with our clients - we maintain the products with aftercare service and we have a team of customer service advisors who listen and feedback to our product development team.
This is how we have evolved our brand - for example Dorgard Effects, a selection of finishes and colours for our successful Dorgard door retainer came about from our customers saying they wanted something which complemented existing décor and fixtures. Likewise Deafgard, our system that alerts those with impaired hearing when a fire alarm goes off, was born after certain customers told us they didn’t have the capacity to hardwire their system so we made a wireless version.
4. Retain your workforce
Once you have built your business up to a point where you have a team, look after them. Train them up and treat them well. Investing in people is the most efficient route to making money. Not only will you benefit from someone being happy in their job, as will your customers, but you will also benefit from not having to pay temporary staff to cover sick days, recruitment fees to replace team members and retraining expenses.
Remember your team members are your best brand ambassadors - they know more about your business than most and have the opportunity to shout about it far and wide - one of the best sales tools you can deploy. At Fireco, most of our senior team have worked their way up the internal career ladder, including myself who has been at Fireco for 14 years and now sit on the board of directors.
5. Look to new markets
If your brand sells in the UK, ask yourselves if it could sell abroad? Many companies have the same needs and demands as the UK but may not have the supply. Fireco sells its products in Europe, Australia and America, and has been so successful in the Middle East it now has a subsidiary company, British Fire & Security, which operates out of Iraq.
However, remember although the world is your oyster, do your market research before launching into new territories. There is often different legislation, different competitors and if you are exporting, different duties to take into account.
Wesley Kent is the Sales & Marketing Director at Fireco, one of the leading fire safety providers in Sussex and the UK. Visit www.firecoltd.com
 Federation of Small Businesses