Key account management – the penalties of getting it wrong!

A local business near to us has been highly successful over a number of years.  It is a salon that has expanded to provide a range of services.  It started off as a “nail” bar, added tanning, and in more recent times has ventured into the world of hair removal, massage, make-up, pedicures and are now an Elemis franchisee.  Newer premises were leased 3 years ago and it’s always been a lesson in cross selling watching the staff casually drop into conversations about the next appointment, Mother’s day offer, holiday package on tanning etc.

Sadly though, they are losing customers.

It’s not always about the price.

And more importantly, those people who readily refer others to their services are now actively encouraging people to go elsewhere.  So what’s caused this downturn?

They increased their prices in early December….the first time in over 4 years, so that’s quite reasonable. What was a bit more of a shocker was the percentage increase of 30% overnight.

Now this may well be considered very justified, given that it was the first increase in 48 months….and let’s not forget, business is business, not charity!

What they forgot though was the power of communication.  In the preceding weeks, when sitting with clients, they’d had the opportunity to discuss the reasons for the increase, and indeed why they’d held their prices for so long.  Instead a small notice was placed by the cash desk and unsuspecting regular clients were hit with an extra hike…all just before the Christmas holidays.

There were grumblings – and lots of them, not only in the shop itself, but interestingly it radiated out to those regular clients and became a topic of conversation at social events, with many saying “I’ll be going somewhere else”.  It wasn’t so much about the price increase, because let’s face it, it’s a luxury that can easily be dropped from someone’s monthly outgoings.

What irked customers was:

  •       the lack of communication about the fact it was coming
  •       the timing –  many had budgeted for that little luxury in the run up to Christmas       and office parties, and to find they were forking out more, just made them mad
  •       the customer experience has also noticeably suffered.  Due to the increased           popularity in recent years, they haven’t invested in more staff, hence the same number of people are now doing a variety of jobs whilst still trying to provide a customer focused service. With fewer people doing more work, conversations with clients are disjointed and the opportunity to up-sell and cross-sell other services is lost.

Key account management whatever your business is a skill.  It is not just about looking after your big accounts.

As our trainer, Mandy says in her Key Account Management course – “Key account management is a strategic business approach with the objective of ensuring long-term and sustainable business partnerships with strategically important customers.  It has to be an integral part of your overall business strategy”

Whatever business decision you are making, if it affects your customers and they are going to notice changes, be that price increases, new premises or change of personnel, remember to engage with them.

They’re your most precious asset in positively marketing your business for free, or conversely, if they find you lacking, they’ll not hesitate to share their stories with others and persuade them to go elsewhere.


Education and Business – lifelong learners & how to inspire them

Inspired by a piece of artwork

We were fortunate in 2014 to visit Atlanta for a family wedding.  Spending some time in the city, we happened upon the sculpture below – a 23ft bronze archway called Climb with Care and Confidence.


The  sculpture was inspired by the work of S Truett Cathy, the founder of the Chick-fil-A food franchise (thoroughly recommend if you ever get the chance to sample one!).

Building your business and inspiring others

He started his first diner in 1946 in Atlanta and after becoming a popular spot for factory and airport workers, opened his first Chick-fil-A in 1967.  Today, there are franchises open all over the USA and staff never work Sundays to allow them time for family and church.

In 1973 he started the Team Member Scholarship programme to enable his employees in the diners to further their education.  This was a first for any fast food enterprise and in 1994 they achieved a $10 million scholarship milestone.  To recognise this, the Climb with Care and Confidence statue was designed by Georgia State University students depicting people, lending hands, to help others climb over an archway constructed of books.

The inscription reads: ” A person succeeds or fails according to the multitude of decisions that are made day after day.   The right decisions lead to rewards: incorrect decisions lead to disappointment and delay”
S.Truett Cathy, Founder of Chick-fil-A Inc.

The archway was dedicated just prior to the 1996 Olympic Games which is often remembered for the bomb that exploded, leaving two dead and many injured on 27th July 1996.

Investing in your employees for their future potential

Whilst the sculpture itself is a moving indictment of what people can achieve through education and opportunity, it is a monument to how to give back to your community –  a business that started small, grew and flourished to be worth in excess of $2 billion dollars a year is altruistic in its outlook, that the employees who work there can achieve so much with support.  Valuing your staff to enable them to develop, grow and accomplish more than they thought possible is something we can all learn from.  We may not have the resources to provide scholarships, but every business should encourage its employees to be lifelong learners to enable them to reach their potential.


The value of interns

Delighted to receive this today from an HR intern with one of our regular clients.  She’s worked with us over the last year on a variety of training and development courses, in some cases working closely with the trainers in a supportive capacity:-


Firstly, thank you so much for my lovely card I received yesterday and your kind words. Can’t believe there’s only 3 and a half days left! It’s gone so incredibly fast but have to say I’ve been incredibly lucky to have an amazing year!


It’s been a pleasure working with yourself, Keith and all the trainers across Athelbrae across the course of the year and thank you for all your help and support and insight on the various training programmes I have been able to attend and facilitate/support.


The value of engaging your interns so that they receive real hands on experience is not only beneficial to them and their development, but can be a huge asset and valuable contribution to the business too.


Exciting news re new Associate, Denise

Delighted that we’re able to start working with Marketer Denise Wilton on our new course about Marketing your Business for Free.

More details to follow, but with her extensive experience and knowledge of the industry and how to make the most of getting your business “out there”, we know this is going to be a big hit with SMEs.

We’ll keep you posted on the details, but really looking forward to cementing our “friendship” into a professional forum too!Denise

Gardening and Training – synergy in nature and nurture


Now the summer seems well and truly underway, we’ve all no doubt had some time outside tending to our gardens, allotments or window boxes.  The proliferation of shrubs, vegetables and the perennial weeds, with the warmth of the sun and the occasional downpours got us thinking about the synergy of the jobs in the garden and the similarities with training…stay with us, it will make sense!

During the winter months, there are lots of preparations, sowing seedlings, preparing the ground, digging in the fertiliser all ready for the following summer displays.  Now some of us are impatient, and want to see immediate results, but the true gardener knows that in order for those spectacular arrays of colour and vibrant smells, we need patience and excellent grounding. Synergy 1: The same is true when you send staff on training.  You need to prepare them for their workshop or training programme.  Throwing seeds onto unprepared ground elicits little in the way of solid, sturdy specimens.  Throwing your staff onto training programmes with no preparation in the hope that they will flourish is equally doomed to failure.  So a bit of nurture, conversations around why they are attending the training (whether for improvement, development, or future progression), if they know and understand the reasons for their attendance, they’ll be prepared to soak up the knowledge and blossom.

Sometimes during the harshest of winters there is deterioration.  Late frosts can scupper the best prepared plants; pesky slugs and snails invade the hard won ground and you can look at your specimens and see nothing but wilting leaves and buds.  BUT with careful tending, taking some extra time to care for the roots and not just digging them up and chucking on the compost, you start to see the spring shoots gradually break through. Synergy 2: It is also true that staff can appear to be withering despite your best efforts with their development.  Metaphorically chucking them on the development compost is a waste of their talents and the time and effort you’ve already invested.  You occasionally need to spend time and effort nurturing that learning so that those training shoots can fight their way to the surface and start to really sprout foliage and strength.

Summer arrives and everything is in full bloom – you can sit back on your garden swing or on your balcony and reap the pleasurable rewards of your hard work. HOWEVER, is that some bindweed lurking in the undergrowth – strangling the plants’ development and suffocating the continuous growth?  You need to nip this in the bud otherwise it will become stronger than the plant it is wrapped around.  Synergy 3: On occasion your staff too can become inured in the day to day pressures of their job….the learning goes out of the window and they revert to what they are comfortable doing.  The struggle to put the learning into practice is just too much and the bindweed of business strangles their productivity and potential.  Regular reviews and face to face chats with each individual means that you keep on top of the business bindweed.  By tackling these shoots of doubt as they form, you keep your team on a development pathway that is well paved and not cracked or uneven, with the potential to trip them up on their journey.

And finally to autumn, you now have the opportunity to discover whether that beautiful buddleia needs moving to a new position in the organisation that is your garden, before the winter sets in.  You want it to establish itself before the cold takes hold and in order to give it the best chance to survive, you again need to prepare the ground, use some food to encourage growth and support it with canes or trellis.  Synergy 4: Similarly members of your team sometimes need moving.  They are stagnating in their current position and in order for them to continue to blossom and perform outstandingly for the business, they need to find a new site.  This might be a different role in your team, a different position in your company, or even, sometimes, taking a new position elsewhere.  Support them, through their 1:1s, performance management, further training, establishing them within the team under a new guise or if necessary by letting their roots spread to another garden.

The only way we can see that this analogy doesn’t work is you can’t take a cutting – well, we wouldn’t advise chopping off a healthy limb and re-planting….and remember in recruitment you don’t always want to a clone of what you had – sometimes a new variety and something completely different brings a different, and healthy change of perspective to your garden and your team!

Encourage the individual “plants” within your team to all flourish and build their strength on the back of their learning, and they will share their knowledge with others, so when their time comes to move to pastures new, they’ll leaving behind healthy shoots in the younger members of the team for you to nurture again.