Boutique London Lets was established in 2009 and provides Luxury Serviced Apartments to international business travelers and tourists throughout the world looking for affordable quality in London. The company has been a success story with 90% trade now from international travelers and turnover has tripled in each of the last 3 years. Learn from their success – the founder has listed 5 key business tips below:
1. Hiring Abroad.
To talk to our customer’s in their own language we had to hire staff who spoke the main languages, we now have staff working for us that are based in Australia, The Philippines, USA and the UK.
Hiring overseas staff was made much easier with the use of freelance websites such as oDesk and Elance who can source workers for you from all over the world. As with any open position and especially more so when crossing borders and Continents where candidate experience and backgrounds can be hugely varied a detailed job description will help matters.
2. Cost effective Communication.
Interviewing, proof reading articles written and video conferencing have all helped us when interviewing for new staff without globe-trotting on a regular basis. As a company we are extremely reliant on technology and invest extensively in our website but due to the rise of ‘cloud based’ computing and inexpensive business applications such as Google Enterprise for Business the Company has never had to spend on IT Maintenance or Hardware Support.
Cloud based technologies also have the added advantage of being accessible from anywhere with an internet connection, meaning mobile business is a reality.
3. Transparent Communication.
When the company first started I had all emails coming directly into my inbox and I distributed them to the appropriate staff. Whilst this was initially great for keeping track of everything it did somewhat clutter my inbox so now we use a collaborative inbox with Google Groups where I can still keep of what’s going on with the team.
Storing template email responses, apartment’s specs and details also allows us a consistency with how and what we communicate to our customers.
4. Staff Training.
The success of our business is heavily dependent on customer service and where applicable soft sales skills. Staff need to have a passion for London and be extremely knowledgeable about the Capital and the accommodation our company can offer.
Training is vital in this respect but when staff are spread over the world, the logistics and costs incurred can make it increasingly difficult for any small business to consider. Technology once again can be an enormous help here; email, chat and video conferencing via Google can all be used to assist training – we mimic real life situations in our video conferencing training sessions that we share with staff from all over the world in real time. Staff can communicate, ask questions and comment even though they aren’t all in the same room or country!
Running an almost entirely virtual business presents its own challenges. Staff that would have normally chatted over morning coffee or by the water machine in our company will probably never actually meet each other so a sense of ‘community’ needs to be encouraged and nurtured.
We make a point of remembering staff birthdays, making a fuss of such moments and helping to create as social and fun an environment as we can with the limitations in place. We’re currently looking into using an internal Social Media Network to further drive the sense of community that is increasingly important for all businesses.