How to build a service business that can revolutionise an industry

upplands_motor_workshop_paul_viioMany business owners and executives dream of transforming their stuck-in-the-middle business to a successful one, but only few succeed. Too few! Why do so many fail and only few succeed in building a successful business? How do you build and develop a service business that is successful?

In order to show how companies can transform their business from being a mediocre one to becoming a successful one, I and a few colleagues – all experts in their fields or marketing, sales, and entrepreneurship – decided to arrange a workshop that focuses on this topic. The target audience mainly consisted of alumni and partner companies of Hanken School of Economics. More precisely, most of the participants are business owners, executives, and managers who want to build a service business that can even revolutionise an industry. (A service business refers to one that focuses on the service enabled or provided to the customer as opposed to the physical or non-physical products that are sold or purchased.)
As we wanted the workshop to be a practical one that provides hands-on support, we decided to also present a company that has succeeded in building a highly successful service business that has had a major impact on their industry. Hence, we invited a company with an outstanding track-record: Upplands Motor, a Swedish company in the automotive industry. The operations include maintaining and serving cars of businesses, governmental organisations, and private people, selling pre-owned and new cars. However, it is not just a car company, but in fact the car company. Instead of focusing on cars, the company focuses on their customers, who also happen to have a car. They want to be meaningful for their customers. In order to have our audience hear it from the company directly, we invited the master mind of the company, Anders Lindström, and the marketing director, Filippa Lindström – who are also the main share holders of the company – to present the company, how they operate, and what challenges they face.
On 1st of April 2014, I had the honour to co-organise and co-host the workshop in a room filled with enthusiastic men and women eager to learn how to build and develop a service business that can revolutionise an industry. After the three-hour session, after having listened to and having had the chance to “pick the brains” of Anders and Filippa, after working in teams on various tasks, and following the concluding panel discussion, the participants had learned more than most of them had initially expected to. Some of the central points and take-aways from the workshop were:
  • Build and develop a service that is meaningful for your customer
  • Help your customer in a way that is meaningful for him/her
  • Have the courage to do what you believe if right for your customer and your business (In that order!)
Building a service business is not difficult, but it does require to think differently. Instead of thinking “how can I become successful”, the question that we should be asking is “how can I help my customers”. The service offered to our customers should be meaningful by our customers. If our customers consider the service and us meaningful for them, we will automatically become successful. Of course, when running a business, as opposed to a charity organisation, it is also important to focus on how to generate revenue. At Upplands Motor, the first question to ask is: Is that good for the customer?. If the answer is yes, there is the important follow-up question: Can we make money on this?
To help you build and develop a successful business, I recommend asking yourself:
  • How well do I understand my customers’s needs and dreams?
  • Is what we offer meaningful for our customers?
  • How can we still improve the situation of our customers in a way that is economically feasible?
 Hope the insights and ideas presented in this post trigger some new ideas and help you progress in building a successful service business that is meaningful for your customers and that can even revolutionise your industry.
P.S. Based on the very positive feedback provided by the participants, similar workshop – also focusing on other aspects – will be arranged again soon. Meanwhile, should you or your team want to learn more about how to build a successful service company, let me know. There are various ways in which I and the experts whom I work with can help you.
Best,
Paul