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Legacy: working smarter and the culture of success

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Are you keeping your customers at the heart of your business strategy? Sahar Hashemi OBE tells us why it’s vital for future-proofing your business – and how to build a company culture that will help nurture success.

As an entrepreneur, it can be easy to focus on the demands of the present or the short-term wins required to get a fledgling business off the ground. But giving real consideration to the kind of culture you want to create – and the legacy you want to leave – is vital for building a thriving, sustainable company.

In today’s business environment, legacy is about caring what happens next – to the business, to the team, and to the clients. Winning respect in business and leadership is not just about financial success. Instead, it is increasingly about the way in which those at the forefront of business value and engage with the opinions of their customers, employees and partners.
Sahar Hashemi OBE is the founder of Coffee Republic and Skinny Candy, and in 2012 was awarded an OBE for services to the UK economy and to charity. Her bestselling book, Anyone Can Do It: Building Coffee Republic from our Kitchen Table has been translated into six languages and is the second-highest selling book on entrepreneurship.

Customer connection

For Sahar, focusing on a customer-centric approach that’s based around a deep and ongoing understanding of your target market is essential for ensuring that you have the strongest product or service offering possible.

“It’s all about customers, and understanding customers being at the forefront,” she says. “Making sure what you give to them is innovative and ahead. Having enormous  customer empathy and customer connection. If you know where your customers are going, you know where your business is going. There’s no point doing a business plan if it doesn’t take into consideration the customer.”

The connection between your business and your market is fundamental to success. One of the key factors in determining the long-term potential of your business is in having a good, clear, and passionate connection to – and understanding of – your customers’ needs.

Forever a start-up

The exciting, collaborative and supportive culture of a start-up is one that most entrepreneurs will be familiar with, but this can be challenging to hold onto as the business grows or diversifies.

Sahar believes what makes start-up culture different from corporate culture is the special connection start-up employees have with the business they work in and the customers they serve. This, in turn, can foster greater creativity, resourcefulness and problem-solving ability among staff, which can create more success and, as a result, feed back into the culture.

For businesses going through transitions, however, it is never too late to re-evaluate your company culture – and make changes if necessary.

“Culture is not something set in stone about your company,” says Sahar. “Culture is the sum total of individual behaviors, and it’s not static. How you behave everyday sets the tone for what your culture is and, as a leader, you set the tone.

“If you change the way you behave,  if you change your focus back towards the customer, by definition, almost by osmosis, everyone will be faced towards the customer because they see that as a priority of the business. So, culture is something that changes every day. It’s hugely important, and it’s the tiny stuff that makes a difference with culture.”

Attitudes of success

Your team are the people you rely on to ensure that the wheels of your business run smoothly. It’s vital that those you hire are aligned with your vision for the business, and share your sense of purpose.

Sahar believes that hiring through ‘will’ – that is, putting attitude and sense of purpose above skills that can be learned – can help you build a team that is engaged and passionate about doing their best for the business.

“[Hire] people that have enthusiasm, people that can consider customers’ issues, and that can deal with uncertainty,” she says. “Focus on everyone being engaged and finding their own purpose within the organisation, which includes: Always bringing it back to the customer; not having too much bureaucracy that dampens that down; not restricting them too much; and, not giving them too many procedures. When you give people freedom to do their best for the customers, everyone’s acting in an entrepreneurial way.”

Treating your team with respect and choosing those people who are also dedicated  to your purpose, means that you are on the same page. Listen to them. Learn from them. And value each team member for the insight and ideas that they bring to the table.

Top tips for creating a legacy of success

  1. Take time to consider and review the kind of culture you are creating – and want to create for the future.
  2. Learn as much about your customers as possible, and continue to learn.
  3. Be sure to incorporate your customer into every part of your business plan.
  4. Culture is not set in stone. If you focus on the consumer, you will naturally create a company culture that puts the customer first.
  5. Hire people based on their enthusiasm and alignment with your vision, and give them the space to do their best for the customers.

If you’re looking for the tools, connections and support to pursue your growth goals and to find out more about how HSBC is supporting female entrepreneurs, please visit this page.

Further insights

Legacy and leadership: Building your team for tomorrow

Business is, at the end of the day, about relationships. Here, we learn about how putting people at the heart of your strategy can pay off in the long run, and how to weigh up the risks and opportunities of going against the grain.

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