Business Change – JEGS Case Study
In December 2007, I received a phone call which would result in me leaving a successful career at IBM to lead the rescue, rebuilding and growth of my 35 year old family business in Essex, employing 85 staff after it was destroyed by fire.
It was challenging, hard work, there were obstacles to overcome and we had just hit a global economic recession. The odds were against us and I would be lying if I didn’t admit there were times when I just wanted to give up but by engaging with my team, my customers and embracing technology change the business became a profitable award- winning success.
JEGS was our family business which for the past 35 years sold a broad range of electrical, DIY, housewares and garden products, to 4,000 independent retailers throughout the UK and Northern Ireland. He wanted to rebuild the business but needed my help.
At the time I was having a great career at IBM working in change management leading international sales and marketing change program projects. I loved my job and was in discussion for promotion to Director level. At the time, I did not know 85% of all business affected by a wide scale fire fail in the first 2 years. Had I known, I may not have taken on the mountain which felt like the scale of Everest, we had to climb!
|1. Build the business back to profitability|
|2. Regain customers who had been obliged to buy elsewhere|
|3. Create a customer experience which differentiated us from competitors|
Firstly, I had to win the hearts and minds of the JEGS team. I engaged with them, learnt what they did , how they did it, their fears, challenges and suggestions on how it could be done better to provide a better customer experience. Without this, we wouldn’t have succeeded. The old culture of blame was replaced with an engaged, proactive, ‘can do’ culture built on a common set of shared values.
Next, we engaged with our customers. It was not a case of just getting back to where the business had been prior to the fire but to use this as an opportunity to build a business where we could be better than our competitors. We had to do this if we were going to persuade them come back to us. So, I had lots of questions;
What had they liked about us before the fire? What could we do better? What were their pain points and priorities? How could we change and develop our service to win back their business and in turn, enable their growth?
With this wealth of information from our employees, customers and using our own business data from prior the fire, we were able to determine the process and system changes which would not only lower our operating costs but improve our overall customer experience.
Within 3 years of the fire, the business had the best year ever in it’s 38 year history, we won the British Independent Retailer Award for Supplier of the Year (BIRA) as voted by its 7,000 members. We later won several other customer experience and marketing awards and even featured in the Daily Telegraph and Wall Street Journal!
After selling the business in 2017 to a global manufacturer and distributor, I decided to go on a mission to help other SMEs implement sustainable and effective change in their business so they grow and thrive!