Teale, you have a strong background in retail, having spent many years at Harvey Norman and are now the Licensee at the Telstra Shop in Port Central and the Telstra Business Centre. What is it about running retail businesses that excites you the most?
The people. As a retailer, you have the pleasure of dealing with many different aspects of the community. You have to constantly look at yourself and the business to adapt to market needs and customer sentiment. When it comes to communication and technology, it never stops. You really have to be on your toes with what’s coming in and what’s going out. You also learn a lot about people, emotions and behaviours. It’s challenging, to say the least.
What was it that inspired you to buy and manage a local business?
It’s simple, really. Having a local business lets you contribute to the community while providing security for your family in the place you want to live. Business has always been my passion, and I am proud to say a lot of hard work goes into the job.
What are some of the challenges you have faced in the running of your business, and how have you managed to overcome them?
Starting or buying a business is always challenging. You have to learn your craft. What I mean by that, is you have to learn the idiosyncrasies of that business to gain maximum efficiencies. You have to have efficiencies in the business, or it just will not work. So naturally, you make a few mistakes along the way, but hopefully not too many. The important thing is to learn from your mistakes and use them as building platform for the future. I think it is super important to have a few mentors to bounce thoughts off. I suggest consulting mentors both from within the industry you are operating and some outside of it. Regularly do heath checks on your business from insiders’ and an outsider’s perspective, and take any criticisms as a building block for the future.
What have been some of the most rewarding aspects of your role as the Licensee of the Telstra shop?
To be honest, I Iove to see the staff develop personally and professionally. I love to see their families prosper because of the hard work we put in as a team. You know you are successful when you and your staff are happy.
Naturally, happiness includes financial stability, but also includes being proud of what you have achieved. Staff culture ultimately drives quality outcomes. Over my time I have seen many staff members go on to great things, and I consider them still part of my bigger family.
The telecommunications industry is a pretty exciting industry to be in at the moment. What are some of the more significant changes you have seen within your industry over the past decade, and how have you adapted your business model to adjust accordingly to these changes?
You really have to move fast. Education and communication is key. We are also a very compliance based industry and heavily regulated, so you really need to make sure you dot the i’s and cross the t’s. I would say that the most successful people in business are those who accept and adapt to change the fastest.
You have previously noted that the Telstra Retail store has experienced days where the traffic counter has clicked over 600 customers entering your store. How do you lead your team to successfully service this abundance of customers in your busy times?
Yes, it can be very challenging at times. We are a little unique. We are a retail store where some complex transactions can take in excess of an hour to complete, and those customers can turn up at any time and require our services.
Where the fun begins is if three or four of those customers take three or four staff members to service them at once, leaving the other staff to deal with the influx of customers. Time management is key. We have an effective floor manager roll or (EFM). This is a senior person who greets you at the door with an iPad. This person, for want of a better word, is basically triage for retail. They quickly assess the customers’ need and try to set time and process expectations. They then coordinate staff based on time and skills etc. to service that customer. It’s not an exact science, but it works extremely well.
What is your personal customer service philosophy?
Customer service is everything. We talk about and measure it every day. Our customers are regularly surveyed, and our data points are extremely strong. This is vitally important in measuring customer satisfaction. We believe our customers are our best advocates.
What do you think are some of the important factors that employers need to consider when they are hiring and training staff?
I think you need to hire on intelligence, ethic and culture. Everything else can be easily taught.
What do you wish someone would have told you before embarking on your journey as a business owner?
It is a journey and you really just have to embark to find your destiny. Back yourself, seek best practice and don’t be afraid to make mistakes (just don’t make them twice).
My only advice is: listen to criticism, find some mentors and don’t reinvent the wheel – just do it better.
And finally, if you could invite any three business people to lunch, who would they be and why would you invite them?
I have had lunch with many extraordinary business people, but I would have to say it would be my last three business customers that I sold to. I would thank them for the business and ask how our service was. You learn more from your customers.
Thanks for your time, Teale!
Interview by Jane Hillsdon, Principal Consultant of www.dragonflymarketing.com.au