Debra Charles - Founder & CEO

Brand reputation is a promise to add value to your customers. One of the biggest risks you have is to make a promise that you can’t fulfil.

Today I ran a workshop with BSI, focussed on using supply chain excellence to build brand reputation and competitive edge. It’s part of their seminar on resilience in the supply chain, and how to turn risk into opportunity.

So what are my thoughts? I think that being part of a smoothly functioning supply chain is a crucial element in winning customer loyalty, building brand reputation and maintaining a competitive edge.

How do you keep your supply chain in order?

You have to start by building your brand, and your reputation, from the ground up. Create a set of values, and live by them. Build your client base using a customer ‘avatar’ of people you would want to work with. It’s a lot about collaboration – and how you enable yourself to understand the goals of your team, your customers, your stakeholders. By getting to the root of their issues and challenges, you be the expert, protecting clients from risks and reputational damage. You don’t have to be a huge company to do this, and I’ve always believed that it’s good to be a big fish in a small pond.

Communicate with your customers and suppliers

We use a ‘lessons learned’ format, and constantly review feedback from customers and suppliers, as well as our team members. We have a process for this, which includes what onboarding clients looks like, and are audited against this process. We constantly seek feedback. We have a learning and development programme which helps team members with their long term goals outside of the organisation – which not only gives them wings to fly, but makes them want to deliver a good service. This also results in improved resilience, which is win-win.

How do you collaborate with your customers and suppliers

To deliver for your clients, their partners, or your own business, you must collaborate to truly understand what success looks like. Getting to the root of their challenges will enable you to create your own vision….and find your own opportunities.

Inspiration can come from anywhere. Within my organisation, I identified an ‘air gap’ where information was going in, but not being shared to the wider team, even during times of transformational change. I implemented various methods to enable the wider team to share ideas and information. We completed a ‘track back’ exercise, enabling us to define what success looks like in the future, and develop a plan of how we will achieve it. My new ‘Enterprise Team’ is based on transparency and honesty and, in the first 10 weeks of 2017,  have ensured that we are well on our way to achieving our long-term vision.

How do you ensure and mitigate against risk in the supply chain

Strategic planning ensures we always have an eye on the future. Our 4 year plan means that we are investing in the products, services and people that we need in the future, not just for now. This is essential for organisational resilience.

We have serious rigour around evaluating risk and regularly complete gap analysis to assess strategic risk mitigation which might be, for example, lack of commerciality across the organisation. There’s a risk dashboard which is an agenda point at all meetings, and mitigating risk is in everybody’s objectives. Our appraisal process is reviewed monthly, so that we can nip any risk in the bud. You simply have to be on the front foot. For Novacroft this may be Information Security 27001, Cyber Security, or the upcoming legislative changes as we move to GDPR.

I’ve seen in practice how organisational resilience means a robust, successful supply chain, and how this in turn means that strong and robust opportunity arises for a business. With this in place, you’ll not only be able to fulfil the promises you make to your customers, you’ll be able to exceed their expectations.