At the Food For Thought workshop in February one of the high points was the presentation by Charles Baughan, MD of Westaway Sausages. He gave an energising and inspirational talk which left everyone in the room wanting to hear more.
He began by sharing some of his own survival tips for small business:
As Westaway’s has grown the customer base has become more diverse; now they sell to retail, wholesale, and food service customers both in the UK and abroad. Charles talked us through a comparison of the different channels and markets and discussed the reasons for pursuing this strategy.
It was evident from this that the broad range of customers offered a chance to spread risk and also smooth any short term fluctuations in sales volumes.
However the advice was quite clear: “Sometimes it is better to spend time and effort choosing your customers instead of reacting to every opportunity”, something that supported the business planning discussion from earlier in the day.
Questions that would help work out whether an opportunity was the right one for your business included:
Can they pay their bills?
Do you like them?
Are they high maintenance?
Is their business strategically right for you? (Not just about profit!)
Is the market expanding?
Why are you the best choice for them? Are you cheaper? Better? Faster?
From my point of view this final question is fundamental; success is not just about why “they” are the right customer for you but also why you’re the right supplier for them. That’s where the magic comes in – if you can supply something that fits the customers needs better than the competitors you can make the margin.
The message to take away was clear: make a plan, aspire to great things and then get out there and succeed.
You can find more details of what was discussed at the workshop here