Projecting an enthusiastic attitude is a positive way for business owners to start their workday, says the founder and general manager of Artina Promotional Products, a distributor of promotional products. And offering a profit-sharing program also encourages his 25 employees to have a vested interest in the company’s success. Both tactics are working Artina has grown from $4.6 million revenue in 2004 to a projected $7 million this year.
Smart Business spoke with Bouzounis about how he grows his company by forming positive client relationships and listening to his employees.
How can business owners create a good corporate reputation?
Know what your client’s job is and what they’re trying to accomplish, then consult with them and give them ideas about how they can accomplish that. When you do that, you gain so much trust, and they believe in you.
Clients know their problems, and when they tell us, we give them information to help them out. It creates a very good relationship.
How do you create a positive relationship with your employees?
We have an extensive questionnaire twice a year. This questionnaire asks for their input on their position, their department and the company in general. It helps us to develop our business plan for the following year.
I went outside to a consultant who was a specialist for profit-sharing, and we created the questionnaire. This is a good opportunity to sit down with employees and be a little bit more in-depth with the questions about what they can do for themselves to improve and in which areas they think they are not doing as well.
The reason we do two of them is so they can be informed where they stand and how things are going for them. If we did it only once a year, a lot of things can be forgotten.
According to what they suggest, we see what’s possible and if it can be financially accomplished. That’s how we create the plan in the budget. That’s why I do it toward the end of the year.
How do you expand your company’s presence?
We try to grow our business through account penetration and referrals. The first step in both of these areas is to first provide exceptional service to our existing clients. We strive to understand our clients’ business and their needs, inside and out, and focus on how we may better serve them.
Once we have developed a firm foundation within a company, it enables us to reach out to other departments within that same company to offer our products and services. Prospective clients are much more receptive to working with a company that has been referred to them and one which has previously proven itself.
What advice would you give other business owners who are trying to grow their companies?
Always do what you do best first. Stick to your values and beliefs, but don’t be afraid to take chances.
Always take care of your clients; they will help you to grow. Be fiscally responsible and protect your credit.
How do you take chances with your company while remaining true to your core values?
You take chances within the boundaries where you think you should stay and, of course, those boundaries can extend accordingly, and it’s part of taking chances. If there’s a situation and you don’t know for sure which way it’s going to go, but if it’s within the fiscal responsibility, you go for it.
You can’t wait to be 100 percent sure because then it’s not a chance, it’s a reality.
How can business owners be fiscally responsible?
The simplest way is to (ask yourself), ‘Can I afford it?’ I’m not going to go and borrow money for something that doesn’t have a very good chance for success.
It’s similar to your personal income and expenses: You know how much you make, how much you need to spend and how much you want to spend. When you make the plan for next year, you should say, ‘This year, we sold this much. What realistically can we do for next year?’
You have to know how much you are planning to sell coming into next year, and that determines how you are going to make your budget. But then, you watch it continuously (to ensure that) the sales and the profitability are there and that the expenses are not higher than what you planned.
That’s the safest way to stay in business.
HOW TO REACH: Artina Promotional Products, (800) 433-5587 or www.artina.com