Do you have key rules you follow in managing your business and do you articulate them? As well as your business plan is there a map of “the way we do things around here”?
Greater Building Society has successfully grown from a single branch into a strong financial institution with 250,000 members and almost $5 billion in assets. Like you, we face challenges every day in running our business. There are five business rules that we follow to meet these challenges.
Rule 1: Put staff first to put customers first
The Greater invests heavily in staff training and succession planning to maintain its strong service culture and a 95% customer satisfaction rating. Not having shareholders as a master helps too. In reality, we put staff first because happy staff equals happy customers. Awards and other recognition programs are tools that don’t have to cost a lot of money. A smile, a thankyou or an Entertainment Book for every staff member are some of the tools we use.
Rule 2: Maintain culture and values
We have written down our culture and core business values so we do not lose sight of what has made us successful and have another basis for testing business decisions. It covers areas from service to products, systems to people. It reminds us that these areas are all linked and if we adjust one area there can be implications or effects on other areas.
Rule 3: Plan for growth and the unexpected
Our plan has been to fill the gap left in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), which saw the major banks increase their dominance and the demise of smaller banks. The Greater has come out of the GFC well through sticking with its plan. We did not adjust our lending policies or pursue growth at all costs. We saw the GFC coming and went out early with a strong term deposit rate to build our liquidity.
Rule 4: Give back to the community
All businesses have a responsibility to give back to their community. Last year we established Greater Charitable Foundation to take our community support to another level. But, giving back doesn’t just have to be about money. You can give your time or expertise. While we should be giving because it is the right thing to do, there are many benefits to organisations in terms of recruitment, retention and building the capacity of staff. Today, potential and current customers and staff make decisions about joining companies based on their approach to volunteering.
Rule 5: Stay ahead of the game
We try to stay ahead of the game by differentiating everyday products and services. Our Greater Getaways (free holiday) and discounted petrol offer campaigns are a great example. Our partnership with Jerry Seinfeld is another. Seinfeld has done his job for us, quickly increasing our profile as a competitor to the big banks and allowing our products and services to shine. The estimated $2.5M in free publicity we received when we announced his signing was another benefit. Think big, think differently but never let the grass grow under your feet is our mantra. We continue to adjust and change campaigns but always have the constant focus on selling products and using customer testimonials.
These rules may help your business face its challenges or you may need others. The important thing is to be clear about them and stay true to them to achieve success.
Don Magin is CEO of the Hunter based Greater Building Society. He delivered the key note address to the first 2012 Newcastle Business Club meeting in February.