During the past six years, despite the recession, Chester-based business Ellis Whittam has grown at a rate of more than 40 per cent year-on-year. From start up in 2004 it has become a multi million pound business, employing nearly 100 people. It is retained by more than 1,200 clients and serves nearly 14,000 business units in more than 40 different business sectors.
Here, founder and Chairman of the company, Mark Ellis explains how, by applying a few key principles to your business, 2011 could be a great year . . .
In business there’s always a new way of doing things, a fresh approach that can be applied to make a difference in even in the most traditional or change-resistant of industries. Taking Ellis Whittam as an example, we set out to provide clients with employment law, HR and health and safety advice at a fixed fee, but at the same high quality standard they would expect from a leading law firm or consultancy organisation.
Having come from a background of being a solicitor and partner at a leading law firm, I understood the standards required and the need to employ highly qualified people if clients are to receive the quality advice they need. Employing high calibre and well trained employees also helped set Ellis Whittam apart from our fixed-fee competitors and proved instrumental in enabling us to attract and retain clients.
However businesses are differentiated, it is the consistency in delivery of their goods and services that determines their reputation whether in rapid growth or struggling through hard times. I think businesses must always remain focussed on delivering excellence in their core service before they consider expansion.
In Ellis Whittam’s case the business was built around providing excellent employment law, HR and health and safety advice for a fixed fee. Although that offer remains our core business today, by listening to our clients we are able to determine how any growing needs could be met, whether through training, support software or by just simply further reducing response times.
By communicating closely with clients we were also able to understand what really motivated them. There is no surprise that during an economic downturn “value” played a key role along with good service and results. Importantly however, we learned that ‘value’ does not mean the ‘cheapest’ as suggested by some supermarket brands. It is, in fact, a balance between price and quality and that is exactly what we strove to create.
By being innovative and offering real value to clients, all companies can grow and succeed. However, the winning ingredient to retaining business has to be service. If clients are not happy they will, of course, go elsewhere and tell others in the process.
One new approach we took towards guaranteeing a great service was to allocate a specific, named and highly qualified advisor to each and every one of our clients. This ensures each advisor gets to know and understand their individual client’s business and objectives intimately and in doing so, the quality of the advice they are able to offer is greatly improved.
This action worked for us as we have been able to grow the business even during the toughest economic climate, but most importantly achieve the highest client retention and satisfaction levels in our business sector.
Unfortunately, however successful you may have been in 2010 all successes are now in the past. What is in the future though is another year ,and with that comes some great opportunities and a chance to beat the competition by setting your business apart from the rest…
Creating a successful 2011
Mark Ellis, founder and Chairman, Ellis Whittam.
Member since: 10th July 2012
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