I’ve been a business mentor for many years.

Shaun invited me to add some of my thoughts to the Thompson Balch website and I am delighted to do so and meet you all.  So who is this woman with the funny name and what is her take on the world? I trade as Elizabeth Toogood Insightful Business Mentor but what does that mean?

I am a businesswoman of mature years – well old really! I have been working for over 50 years having started at 12 with my mother in her wine shop. My career proper began in road transport and has spanned retail, motor retailing and consulting in both big limited companies, privately owned businesses and my own businesses. If you want to know more then get in touch and I will tell you some of the stories of crises, chutzpah, strikes and serendipitous events. I am now a business mentor helping people develop their enterprises effectively to deliver whatever outcomes they aim for.

My shorthand is this “ Helping you and your business grow. Together we find your focus and craft the plan to build your success. Together we’ll create your legend, we’ll make it a reality”.

Of course, this is different depending on the circumstances but let’s unpick this.

01234 273644 / 07968 822275

[email protected]


The consequences of a Blue Dress

It is January and it started warm, more like spring than winter. Always such a difficult month psychologically after all our celebrating and excess but worse this year I think. We only half celebrated, taking Christmas and new year more gently than usual, keeping away from large crowds. I hope you were able to avoid covid. It seems to me most families had someone missing from the festive table due to the virus. Thank goodness the infection seems less severe and fewer people ended up in hospital.

So we go back to work and back to school. Also maybe we go into alcohol-free January and perhaps some are also trying to be meat-free. As usual, everyone is discussing having overindulged and needing to diet and exercise. Yet again we are going to punish ourselves during one of the most miserable months of the year. Is it wise? However good luck to you if you are assembling your willpower to improve your health.

I am not a great one for new year resolutions – why not start them when the idea first comes to you? However, if you have made some may you do well with them. If you have made some unusual ones please let me know.

So getting back to work what am I thinking about?

Normally at this time of year coaches and mentors are focusing on objectives and financial targets for the year. I am not as I suggested doing that back in December. I want to focus on customer service and the importance of everyone in the organisation understanding how it affects sales and cash flow.

Recently I had a client concerned about the level of monthly billing as she was going to miss her turnover and profit targets. She ended up sharing her thoughts with her team and the targets became a friendly competition. She completed the year £20,000 over her turnover target! Happiness. Smiles ear to ear!

However, let me tell you a less cheerful story that happened to me. At times it made me laugh but overall it is very sad for the business concerned.

Back in September, I ordered a dress and jacket from a reputable, well-known retailer. In both cases the blue was described as “midnight blue” but the colour did not look quite the same. When I had called the advice line I asked whether they were the same colour and the very helpful girl told me she only had access to the same pictures as me and agreed that you could not be sure. Yes, you saw it coming, when the garments arrived the blues were different. I returned the dress and asked for a refund of £119. When my October credit card bill arrived they had refunded the cost twice! Now I am honest so on the following Monday I rang to report this. I had my credit card in my hand and just wanted it dealt with quickly. It took me an hour to get through – though my call was deemed to be important! When will we get rid of the queues and make it easy to make contact? Improving the music might help too! When I finally spoke to a person she refused to believe that the system could allow this to happen. I had to spend ten minutes convincing her – remember I was trying to pay back £119. Eventually, she granted that I might be right but said this would have to be dealt with by “seniors.” I gave her all the details and hung up wondering whether anyone cared about that £119.

On the Thursday of that week – so it took seniors three days to pick it up, being a senior must make you busy  – I received a very nice email saying “With reference to your enquiry, we are so sorry you have been refunded twice for your knitted dress. Please can you confirm your best contact number and date & time for us to call you to take the recharge of the second refund over the phone? Please accept my sincere apologies for any disappointment or inconvenience caused. If you have any further queries, please do not hesitate to contact us.”

So I mailed back saying that Friday at 12 noon would be good and giving my mobile number. This was the reply “Thank you for your email. I have put in the request for someone to give you a call around noon tomorrow, however, please note that with lunch breaks there might not be someone available to call you until the afternoon. I apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused.”

I was mildly surprised that lunchtime was going to get in the way of taking £119 but thought I would hear that afternoon. I heard nothing for forty days! Yes really – forty days! Then someone phoned me out of the blue to see if it was convenient to take £119. When I asked why it had taken so long and why I had heard nothing from them he kept saying that he had only just been given “the green light” to do this. As you can imagine I had not the slightest interest in his traffic lights but did ask why this matter had taken so long. He kept telling me about his green lights!!! It took about ten minutes to pay my bill by which time I was miffed all over again. So  I asked for a 20% discount to acknowledge my honesty and as a goodwill gesture. He grudgingly gave me 10% on my next order.

Why do I tell you all this? Firstly as a customer, it left me feeling very lukewarm about this retailer. Remember it started because they were inconsistent in how they named colours. This morphed into their backroom business processes. 

During the forty days of silence, they went off my radar. There was no sales contact. Since the accounts man got his green light and gave me a discount I am being bombarded by special offers, new ranges, sale events. There have been at least three emails every week. So far I have not bothered to trade with them again. I liked their product previously but do not think I want to encourage them. There are other good firms. Secondly and much more importantly how would their MD feel about her accounts department being so cavalier in the way they treat honest customers; and lackadaisical and negligent of the cashflow implications of their decisions?

So a quick checklist: 

  • How sure can you be about your employees? 
  • Do they understand your targets? 
  • Do they understand the importance of cash flow? 
  • Would they regard £119 as important? 
  • How many £119s outstanding might there be? 
  • Are they enhancing customer relationships in their dealings with them? 
  • Might your employees be representing you as poorly as this?
  • How can you be sure of any of this?

Please check out your team members’ understanding and how they behave with customers.

If as you read this it resonates with you or someone you might know; if you like my ideas and values; if you want to develop your business or yourself; then please give me a call. I love speaking with people, off the meter, to help them explore possibilities and whether/how to take them forward. If you want an objective view of how things are in your business pick up the phone now and let’s have a chat.

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