25/11/2010 - 00:00

Flexibility vital in rapidly changing business

25/11/2010 - 00:00

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WHEN Tim Salik moved to Australia from Pakistan in 1999, he dreamt of a job that was flexible enough to allow him the time to spend with his family; a not-entirely unrealistic expectation.

WHEN Tim Salik moved to Australia from Pakistan in 1999, he dreamt of a job that was flexible enough to allow him the time to spend with his family; a not-entirely unrealistic expectation.

After working for Orange – the telecommunications company that has since moved out of Western Australia – Mr Salik briefly started a marketing business, consulting importers in the Indian Ocean region, before returning to the area he considers his hobby – gadgets and telecommunications.

Mr Salik started Corporate Choice Communications in 2000, offering independent audits of small business’s communications systems, and looking at what plans and contracts SMEs were using and how effective these were.

He backed this up with a sales side of the business, which allowed him to find telecommunications plans for his clients that would be more effective, both financially and in terms of contractual flexibility.

Mr Salik grew the business with the intention of getting it to the point where he could hire a manager, and then step back from the business in order to focus on his family – a value high on his priority list.

But at the point where he had grown the business to 11 staff including a sales manager, something started to go wrong.

While Mr Salik had taken Corporate Choice to the point where he didn’t have to be there every day, the workplace culture had changed and lost focus, with his staff slowly moving away from delivering on targets.

“We had a whole mix of staff; some were in their 20s and some in their 50s. The younger staff seemed to be after a quick buck. The leadership I would have expected from the sales manager didn’t come,” Mr Salik told WA Business News.

Mr Salik said this underscored all staffing problems; finding the right staff was hard enough, but once they were on board they were being taught to work in a way that was opposite to the mission statement of the business.

At that point Mr Salik brought a business consultant on board, who highlighted several issues within the management of the business.

“I came to the stage when I had a sales manager who messed up the whole culture, and I had to sack everyone at the end of 2004,” Mr Salik said.

“The leader was not onto it, the business development manager and the sales people, nothing was happening with the targets so at the time I decided something was going wrong. I brought in a business consultant and he opened a can of worms.’’

After sacking his entire staff and restructuring the mission statement of the business, Mr Salik decided he had gone about his involvement with the business the wrong way.

He rehired staff, trained them to work in alignment with the maxim of the business – to help SMEs with their telecommunications needs, and to lower their wastage and costs, no matter how complex the needs are.

Another significant move was for Mr Salik to give up his director’s office, where he was separated from his staff, to move into the open-plan offices where he could work more closely with the team.

Staff movement has always been a facet of Corporate Choice Communications’ operations – when Mr Salik started the business he had three staff, and that slowly grew to 15, but he is now back to five full time and three part-time staff.

He said 10 staff was optimal for his business in terms of training, which flowed into client relationship development, thereby allowing the business to create quality, loyal client relationships.

Training and constant professional development have been integral to the business; there are about 600 plans available between the major telecoms, which are constantly altered to attract new customers.

As an independent retailer with no contract arrangements with any telecoms companies, Mr Salik said Corporate Choice Communications had to constantly keep on top of the implications of changes to plans in order to provide his full service to each customer.

“This is where employment becomes really tricky, it takes easily six to eight months to train someone so they really understand and know the whole spectrum of all the networks,” he said.

“When we are looking at employment, it takes a lot of training. We had a lot of young people, but it is a different mindset, businesses need to deal with mature employees who understand.

“You have to go through the whole market to find that gold nugget who can work with you, has that experience and understands what the company philosophy is.”

Mr Salik said the experience of restructuring his business meant he was now able to leave the business for a month at a time.

“That experience has given us stability,” he said.

 

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