The key to business success: Place customers and colleagues before management

Since 1958, Burns Jewellers has been selling high-quality jewellery to customers across the North West. Charles Burns, the current head of branded jewellery and great-grandson of the company’s founder, explains why placing the customer first has been the key to their success.

business paperRunning a business, managing employees, and keeping your team engaged with their work and invested in the future of your company is no easy task. If you’re in a management position, then you’ll no doubt have faith in your ideas and the experience to back your convictions up. However, my experience has been that the more responsibilty you give your team and the less you shoehorn them into a system that works for you, the more your business will prosper.

At Burns Jewellers, empowering our colleagues to add their thoughts and feelings towards how they think the business should be run has been one of the best choices we’ve ever made. Our workforce is now more positive, forward-thinking and productive than ever before, and involving your colleagues in the way the company is run has done wonders for our efficiency and effectiveness as a company.

I’m a big subscriber to John Timpson’s management approach, which he details in his excellent book, Upside Down Management. Put simply, this involves putting the customer at the top of the food chain, closely followed by the brand advocates (all customer-facing members of your team, such as sales assistants), and then right at the bottom, the management and owners. As the base of the pyramid, the role of management is to provide all the support the brand advocates need to make every customer’s interaction with your brand as good as it can possibly be.

Perhaps counterintuitively, this often means giving your colleagues more freedom, not a stricter infrastructure. For example, as detailed in this article by Business N2K, the staff at Timpson’s can spend up to £500 to settle a customer complaint without management authorisation. This has been key to the company’s growth to an annual revenue of over £100 million, as it not only keeps customers happy, but also shows your team that the company trusts them fully. The kind of people you want working for your company are the ones who respond well to this kind of freedom, and if you place this kind of trust in your own team, then you’ll be rewarded with an engaged workforce and a high staff retention rate — not to mention plenty of happy customers.

Without your customers, you would go out of business tomorrow. Giving your team everything they need to provide an excellent customer experience for the people who step in to one of your shops will set your business apart from your competitors and allow you to thrive. The most effective way of doing this is to invert the pyramid, placing the CEO at the bottom and the customer at the top, closely followed by the front-line members of your team.

Connect with Charles Burns on Linkedin, Twitter, or Facebook.