Dominic Monkhouse has made a career out of rejuvenating businesses in the tech industry. He took Rackspace from nothing to a £30m turnover and is now MD at PEER 1 Hosting, a global hosting firm. Here’s how he’s keeping clients sweet in a recession.
“We are a technology company,” says Monkhouse. “But first and foremost we’re a service company. It’s hard to get that across with a PowerPoint.”
To win new business in an incredibly competitive and saturated sector, Monkhouse has some unusual techniques. “We give all our new clients homemade chocolate cake, or carrot if they prefer, when they visit our offices,” he says. “Elsewhere in this sector, you’d just have some chaps in grey suits turning up and going through a slide deck.”
And its not just about the cake. Monkhouse has tweaked the whole company culture to be as welcoming for prospective customers as possible. “We invite them to come and spend the day with us,” he says. “It gives them an insight into who we are.”
This might sound hokey but there’s a sharp business case to this seemingly fluffy proposition. “We’re selling to technical people,” says Monkhouse shrewdly. “If we create an atmosphere here that they like and a company that they themselves would like to work for, it’s good for us. They may not be able to actually join the company but they’ll buy services from us.”
The proof is in the figures. The european turnover of the firm has hit £3m and PEER1’s customer feedback is outstanding, despite using the stringent “Net Promoter Score” system, which classifies anything beneath a nine out of ten as worthless.
And Monkhouse reveals another killer tip: “We offer new staff £1,000 to leave the company in the first two weeks,” he says. “If they stay, we know they want to be at the company long-term and fit into the culture.
“What you say at a pitch isn’t going to make the difference,” he concludes. “Being able to show that your staff yearn to belong communicates a whole lot more about the quality of service you deliver than a slide deck ever could, and that wins pitches.
- Best Bets: Chocolate cake (commercialappeal.com)