9 Lessons from 9 Years in the Radio Communications Business

9 Lessons from 9 Years in the Radio Communications Business

Milestones in life, both personal and professional, are many and varied. They are an opportunity to celebrate, reflect and refocus. 3rd December 2021 marks our 9th year as the owners of Alcom Communication Services Ltd (More commonly known as Alcom). At the time of purchase, we were not only the proud owners of our first business but we were also new to the radio communications industry and new residents of Rotorua City.

Alcom was founded by radio technicians Jim Comber and Alan Coventry in 1987 when the government privatised the New Zealand Forest Service. Probably the biggest change over the years has been the advances in radio technology including integration with cell phones and other IP technologies. Radio can now not only provide crystal clear voice communication but also a range of other benefits and features that enhance worker safety and operational effectiveness.

While servicing the forestry and farming sectors remains a key focus of the business our customer base has broadened to other sectors including tourism, haulage/transport, hospitality, manufacturing and any business operating where cell phone coverage is either not available or inadequate for their needs.

So after 9 years at the helm, I thought it’s time to celebrate the journey so far and share 9 key lessons we’ve learned along the way.

1. Be customer focussed and solution-driven:
Customers are the lifeblood of any business. Getting to know them and understand their needs is not only essential but makes doing business more personal and fun. Find ways to get feedback and welcome any opportunity to deliver better solutions or services. And always remember customers have a choice so don’t forget to thank them for their business.

2. Develop industry knowledge and networks:
While as new directors we had a wealth of knowledge and skills between us we underestimated the double whammy of being new to Rotorua and the radio communications industry. Early on we had to work hard to learn about radio communications while also developing a network of contacts locally and within the wider New Zealand business community.

3. Create the right team culture:
Make sure to develop a team with the right balance of skills, attributes and values. Whether you take on existing staff or new employees, find out what motivates them and discuss openly how together you can align person and company goals. The ongoing challenge is to make each person feel valued and accountable while also keeping the team on track towards a shared vision/goal. We have found making time for regular informal and formal communications within the team is key to this process.

4. Develop & monitor systems and processes:
Systems for accounting, jobs processing, stock control, customer records, health and safety, payroll, information security and back-up are just some we have completely re-built or fine-tuned over the years. Good systems save everyone time and frustration and also significantly bolsters the bottom line.

5. Have a plan:
It was Benjamin Franklin who coined the now somewhat clichéd phrase “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” However, it is still relevant: a plan that’s written down and includes input from the team is very important. Directors may have the final say but “buy-in” from the whole team is essential for execution to be successful. Also, a written plan is a very powerful tool for reflection: What has been achieved? What has not? And what are the next set of priorities for the business?

6. Have a marketing strategy:
Invest in finding ways to get your message into the marketplace & learn how to create a meaningful connection with your customers. Even your regular customers need to be reminded of the ways you can support and offer value to them. For our business, we’ve found digital platforms such as our
e-newsletter, website, Facebook and LinkedIn are the best mediums to do this.

7. Nurture a culture of work/life balance:
As an owner of a small business, it is easy to get all consumed by the volume and scope of work to be done. Prioritise, delegate and manage your time as best you can. There may be times when you need to put in long hours to get a job done but if this becomes the norm rather than the exception you need to look at whether you need more staff or to outsource to someone else e.g. a lawyer, accountant, health and safety, human resources, marketing or another specialist contractor. Learn how to switch off and relax so you can return to work refreshed. This goes for your employees too so make sure you check in with them and find times throughout the year to celebrate successes together.

8. Consider getting a business coach or mentor:
We have found having a business coach over the past 2 years has helped our decision-making process. The right coach or mentor can be invaluable in helping you clarify your priorities, set targets, keep you accountable and maintain perspective. Our coach has given us 2 key mantras: “Better done than perfect!” and “Fail fast and move on!”

9. Expect the unexpected:
As we have all experienced with Covid we cannot control everything and you will inevitably be hit with “curve-balls” when you least expect them. In our experience, if you follow the 8 lessons above you will confidently navigate whatever is thrown at you and live to trade another day.

To all our customers past, present and future we know you have a choice so thank you for choosing to do business with us.

And finally, Happy Anniversary Alcom. Bring on year 10.