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Do Your Homework

Figure out what your consumers expect from you… and deliver.

Axel Rittershaus




I was recently looking for a web design agency. I needed a new design for one of my websites and of course I was looking for a company to help me through a web search. Where else?

What would you expect from a web design agency’s website? I guess you would expect a decent or even mind-blowing website. That’s what I expected. What I found instead shocked me.

I searched for a Cape Town-based agency and got a long list. Naturally, I was curious as to how these companies (and self-professed professionals) present themselves on the Internet. And I was blown away for two reasons.

Surprise, surprise

I clicked on the first ad for an agency. The website I saw was way beyond my expectations. It was so bad I’m not even sure how to put it into words. It was worse than even the simplest design templates you can download for free!

I saw the first page and closed it immediately. I couldn’t even read the first page! The whole experience was alienating – and of course the company lost a potential customer.

So I went to the second agency, promoting their service with a paid ad. Once again, a big surprise. They weren’t as bad as the first site I had visited, but still worse than what you get for free. Off I went.

Third ad and it got a little bit better. At least this website had some kind of design and style. I clicked on the ‘clients’ link – and saw an empty page. Oh no…

The whole experienced saddened me, particularly because I know that many web designers struggle to find new clients. But I’m sorry: If you present yourself in such a bad way, you will never find enough clients.

And here’s the million dollar question: have you ever looked at your website from a client’s point of view?

Think about your clients’ expectations

Some might say: “We’re too busy to build our own website.” Hmm, good for you, but I doubt that this will last for long. If you are so busy because your work for clients is that great, do me a favour: upload a nice website with only one page, write some words about some clients, add some links to their websites and mention that you’re too busy to take on new clients. You can offer a registration form for people who want to stay in touch with you and work with you when you have the capacity for them. That should be easy to do for you and you wouldn’t scarce away potential clients because of your unprofessional website.

If you’re not so busy, do your homework and create something attractive to win new clients!

As a potential client, I need to see how great your design and coding capabilities are. If you can’t prove that on your own site, you’re not even on my list for the future.

Invest your money wisely

What really struck me was not the bad design. Well, it did hit me hard, but what’s been even worse: These guys paid money for ads to make me go to their website. They paid for letting clients know about them. And then they chased them away. That’s an interesting way of burning money.

The web designers I had a look at were also amongst the first ads, which means that they paid a lot of money for my visit.

My suggestion to them: Stop the ad-campaign for two months, hire another web designer to let them create a nice website. You can fund it using the advertisement-money you’re just saving. Then you can go back online. This makes much more sense than paying for ads and chasing away potential clients.

Do your homework

Now I ask you: Have you done your homework or are you discouraging potential clients when they get in touch with you for the first time?

  • If you are a web designer, you need to have an outstanding website.
  • If you are a car dealer, you have to have a clean shop, clean cars and polite staff.
  • If you are selling insurance, you have to have call centre employees who are pleasant, polite and know what kind of insurances you are selling – so they can forward every caller to the right agent.

The quarterly first impression check

As we all know, ‘there’s no second chance to make a first impression’. I recommend that you make a ‘First Impression Check’ every quarter. “That often?” you might ask. Yes. For a good reason – because the first impression often gets worse, not because of a dramatic change you have made. It perishes slowly but steadily. If you check quarterly, you can identify a decline in quality and service soon enough – if you pay attention to it!

Your check could look like this:

  • Do what potential clients do when they get in touch with you for the first time. It might be a call, a visit to your website, a look inside your window, whatever it is. Do what they are doing.
  • Now notice: Do you feel drawn towards your company or chased away?
  • Next step: Do what your existing clients are doing. It might be different to a new customer’s behaviour.
  • Now notice: Do you feel a) well treated as a customer, b) is your experience okay or c) do you think you need to find a new business partner immediately?

It won’t hurt you to figure out what’s wrong. But only when you know it can you can change it!

If you don’t do it by yourself, your clients will do it. They will show you their (bad) experience as your customer by not showing up any more. And by then it might be too late for you to react.

Do your ‘First Impression Check’ on a regular basis and you will have more loyal customers!

Axel Rittershaus is an internationally renowned C-Level / Executive Coach & Author who started as an entrepreneur in the IT industry in 1993. He knows that success is the result of hard work and determination even more than innate talent. A master of maintaining focus and follow-through, Axel supports C-Level leaders globally in achieving goals. Axel is dedicated and passionate to see clients succeed beyond their expectations. Axel is also the president of the International Coach Federation South Africa and a multiple Two Oceans and Comrades finisher. You can follow him on twitter.

Increase Profitability

Leon Meyer GM At Westin Cape Town Shares 4 Experience-Driven Tips On How To Keep Your Team Productive

Productivity is a fundamental requirement for an organisation – it’s the seed that builds a business and contributes to higher profit margins.

Leon Meyer




Productivity is a fundamental requirement for an organisation – it’s the seed that builds a business and contributes to higher profit margins. But what’s the best way to ensure employees remain productive, and happy in their day job?

The answer is simple and highly effective and I choose to sum it up with three short phrases – respect, trust and teamwork.

In partnership with my management team, which consists of about eight staffers across various disciplines, we strive to tick these boxes.

Related: 5 Surprising Elements That Boost Your Productivity (One of Them Is Colour)

In total we’re ultimately responsible for managing roughly 500 employees.

Five hundred employees across several departments is a mighty job. But with teamwork, good listening skills and the right attitude from the top to filter down, any business can run like a well-oiled machine.

I’d like share with you the essentials for building and maintaining a productive workforce, and these apply to all industries, not just the hospitality sector:

1. What’s your definition of a productive team and how do you achieve that?

We need to keep in mind that productivity is a result, one that CEOs and managing directors strive for with their teams. But what happens beforehand in order to achieve that result determines whether it will be achieved at all, and is equally important. I suggest the following to ensure a productive team:

Define roles and responsibilitiesDirection is incredibly important; everyone needs to know exactly where they’re going and how they need to get there, so KPIs are essential.

Often when roles and responsibilities are unclear, things go pear-shaped. I am an advocate for setting clear KPIs, it’s a good way to steer us in the right direction, and in turn helps to grow the business and the individual in his/her role.

Be flexible: Rigid environments are the worst kind, allow your employees some flexibility and the opportunity to be themselves in the workplace. We spend so much of our time at work, we need to be ourselves there.

Celebrate the team: When there are achievements, celebrate them, single out individuals who are excelling and living the company values. This builds morale and is indicative of appreciation, which is fundamental when running and building a business.

2. What has and continues to be your philosophy since managing a large team?

Know your strengths and weaknesses, as well as your team’s and leverage off that. Be prepared to learn from others, no one can operate in isolation, regardless of the level on which you operate. Accept criticism and don’t bulldoze someone’s ideas, that’s how you build trust.

3. What in your view are the top characteristics the team look for in a leader?

  • Be consistent – inconsistency screams bad leader
  • Provide guidance – this is key, don’t turn a blind eye, give input and council
  • Listen – always listen intently
  • Be impartial – always be fair
  • Give credit – it builds morale and shows you recognise good work
  • Be patient – Rome wasn’t built in a day, and remember not everyone thinks the same as you do

4. What’s your view on an open door policy and how does it assist with managing a team and ensuring everyone remains productive?

I believe in an open door policy. It’s essential to build and develop trust. I’m the first to admit that it takes a while to build that trust, but once the team (on all levels in all departments) know your door is always open, and that they can trust you implicitly, half the battle has been won.

I host a GM’s roundtable every two months, just to establish how everyone is feeling and where everyone is at. It gives staff the opportunity to bring their challenges to the table, and I deal with them the best I can.

It’s 100 percent confidential and line managers are not allowed to attend. During this meeting we try reach common ground, and I commit to addressing and ultimately solving the problem(s).

Related: 10 Ways To Make Your Employees 10x More Productive

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Increase Profitability

Why Purpose Drives Profits

If you want to succeed, it’s time to start engaging where it matters.




Over the past two years, many clients have been extending brand positioning exercises into purpose-driven expressions.

When we look at it, it makes sense given the country’s demographics. With many of our fellow countrymen struggling to make ends meet, brands have stepped in to provide them with a picture of a future worth striving for.

Global customer-centricity study, Insights 2020, led by research firm Kantar Millward Brown, has attempted to understand how brands could drive customer-centric growth as well as the factors that really make a difference. The research surveyed 10 495 individuals in 60 countries, and there are some significant efforts worth investing in if brands want to engage where it matters most, in consumers’ hearts.

The research uncovered that for market-leading companies and brands, traditional value drivers such as quality, packaging, or distribution are necessary, but no longer provide a competitive advantage; most brands are capable of providing these drivers. What is important, are a few critical approaches.

1. Purpose-led brands

The study found that when companies or brands linked to a purpose, 80% of them outperformed the market. Only 32% of non-purpose led brands managed to perform better than the market. 

Related: How To Calculate Gross Profit

2. On the ground

It’s important to engage with consumers in their space and on their terms. Through the use of memorable campaigns, experiential events and activations it is critical to engage with consumers on their turf.

3. Be truthful and authentic

Consumers can smell something inauthentic a mile away, especially when it’s coming from a brand. This forces brands to strive for authenticity in everything they do, especially when it comes to marketing. Building values and principle-based attributes into your brand as a guiding tool is essential.

4. Helping consumers commit

By allowing individuals to attach themselves to a brand with a purpose, it helps consumers personally commit to a cause that they consider important. When a consumer is personally invested, the link between the brand and product or service deepens.

Related: Profit Share for Increased Performance

5. Balancing heritage and modern relevance

There is a continuous tussle in balancing the traditional market, transitional market and the new consumers brands are trying to attract. Keeping the heritage and roots of the brand true to itself, while creating relevance for the new market, is a battle marketers are still fighting.

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Increase Profitability

Need To Trim The Fat To Boost Profitability? Listen To Your Clients First

Jeff Bezos believed that once you win the client over by doing this, everything else will follow – not least profitability.

Marc Wachsberger




Finding the balance between offering the extras that set you apart from your competitors and keeping things ‘lean and mean’ to minimise wastage and maximise return on investment is a tricky balancing act.

I’ve noticed that many businesses try to attract or retain customers by offering what they think their customers want, rather than finding out what they really need, and then delivering that. That’s an expensive mistake to make – and it’s not going to achieve the business results you need.

I’ve also observed that now is the age of the new entrepreneur – the game changers who disrupt the status quo long set by big bureaucratic competitors who think that their customers will just accept an inflationary (or slightly larger) increase every year, just because they always have.

While Amazon has been around for a while now, there’s also an important lesson to be learned from its launch goal, which was to bring the price to the client. Jeff Bezos believed that once you win the client over by doing this, everything else will follow – not least profitability.

How have I applied these lessons in my business?

Firstly, we design our hotels backwards – we focus on the needs of our clients, very aware that what hotel guests wanted years ago is not what they want now. That’s why we don’t offer thing like a turn-down service with chocolates on the pillow. Nobody eats the chocolates, and nobody uses the toiletries – so why should we include the costs of these unwanted extras (and the cost of the staff required to implement them) in the final bill to our clients?

Related: 7 Steps To Optimise Your Cycle Of Customer Service

We do, however, offer free WiFi internet connectivity, free parking in our buildings, free laundry services and either bed-and-breakfast options or self-catering rooms.

Simply put, we’ve cut the fat that nobody wants anyway, and added the value that our guests have said they expect.

Our clients have said that they expect the whole hotel to be a workstation, and not just the business centre in a dark, unwanted corner. So, we’ve put a workstation in every room, with always-on access to the internet. Our hotels are designed with beautiful work spaces that cater for nomadic entrepreneurs and double up as comfortable meeting spaces, again – gone are days of boardroom only meetings, our spaces are primed for work and play in one integrated space.

Our clients have pointed out that they’re already paying for their room – so why should they pay for parking?

Many of our clients stay with us for days or weeks at a time, and have said it would be helpful if we did their laundry. So, we do that for them – and we don’t charge them for it.

Related: Good Customer Service Is About Relating At The Same Level

It’s true that many of our old-school competitors offer a broader range of products and services than we do, but we’ve built a successful business on adding the value that our clients need, removing the costs and extras that annoy them, and keeping costs (theirs as well as ours) under control by cutting out unnecessary frills.

It’s an approach that’s worked for The Capital Hotels and Apartments as a disruptor in the hotel and long-stay accommodation industry, and I’m confident that its principles would apply to any other industry that’s ripe for disruption.

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