Where it all started
We’ve always been committed to getting bigger, by being better. Today I want to share why and how we live by this mantra.
Around the time I was thinking about starting ihateironing, Zappos in the US and their CEO Tony Hsieh really struck a chord with me. Tony’s mantra was about focusing on customer happiness and the culture of the company would eventually lead to revenue and profits.
A great example of this was when most businesses were hiding their customer service telephone number to avoid calls and reduce costs, they displayed theirs prominently on the home page of their website.
They were about making customers happy, rather than selling shoes and we would be about making people’s lives easier, not just cleaning their clothes. This was how I wanted to run my business and Zappos reaching $1bn in sales gave me confidence that I could run my business this way and still be commercially successful.
We were the first company in London to launch an online/app based home delivery Dry Cleaning and Laundry service. We started very humbly without much investment and within two years, all of a sudden we saw competition enter the market from two different companies, with ‘warchests’ of £5m and £7m to spend on marketing. At the time of reading one of these announcements we had £18,000 in the bank account.
We did the only thing we really could and that was double down on making sure the customers we had got the very best service possible. Helen started at 7am and while the phone lines closed at 8:30pm, both of us wouldn’t leave the office at night until every single customer query had been answered and every missed call had been returned.
Then, sure enough we started to see more and more people talking about the great service they got from us. Online our review scores were consistently 4.9 out of 5 while our competitors were between 3 and 3.5. More and more new customers came to the business, despite us having very little to spend on marketing. Both these companies, as well as many others who tried to copy us, eventually went out of business and we went from strength to strength.
We worked so hard in this period and were always one or two bad months away from going out of business, but they were also such exciting times and really forged our values and work ethic of the company. One of the biggest benefits of us having such limited resources was the relationships we forged with our partner Cleaning Centres. They were small family businesses and were also working 14 hour days. Them calling at 7am in the morning and getting through to myself of Helen and then it being the same voices at 8pm at night, helped to develop a great sense of partnership and a feeling that we were all in it together. We asked a lot of our partners, but they knew we’d not ask anything of them we wouldn’t do ourselves.
From the early phase in our business, we knew that the key to success was focusing on making our customers happy, developing true partnerships with our Cleaning Centres and lots of hard work.
In my next post, I’ll talk about how we embrace the constraints on our resources to ensure we prioritise on the right things.
Founder and CEO