Meet Ron Bell who, after serving in the Royal Australian Navy and building a computer software development company, is now branching out with a small business based around the tourism market and Segway machines.
The Segway PT is a two-wheeled self-balancing battery-powered electric vehicle invented by New Yorker Dean Kamen and introduced in 2001. It is produced by Segway Inc. of New Hampshire in the US. Bell founded Segway Central Coast, an experiential activity based in Mount Penang Gardens on the NSW Central Coast, a little over a year ago after noting the success of other Segway operators in Australia.
While heavily committed to community activities Ron says he was looking for a business opportunity that would allow him the flexibility of being able to continue to contribute to the Central Coast community, spend time with his family and provide a service not yet available in his local region. Segway Central Coast is a family operated business with members of the Bell family all helping with the operation of the business. In the below Q&A, Bell outlines his approach to business.
My Business: What are your most effective work habits?
Ron Bell: I don’t think of it as work. It’s helped develop my attitude towards time spent at work, which has been needed as I have been working seven days a week since our launch.
MB: The most important person in my business is ... because ...
RB: My eldest son, Jake. Without him I would not have gone into this business. He has supported me with his involvement in the operation, freely and readily giving his time and energy. He has shown a significant amount of interest and provided ideas from a different perspective. He accepts and displays the responsibility required of him when he has operated the business independently of me.
MB: Best business decision you’ve ever made?
RB: Was to have a break in 2006 after working for over 25 years in the one business. It allowed me time to reflect and analyse the successes and failures of my previous business. It also gave me time to reconnect with my family, who had played second fiddle to my own goals and ambition. During this period I spent time researching various attitudes and psychological strategies which help people succeed through different goals and challenges. If I was to go into business again I wanted a better work-life strategy.
MB: What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in business? How did you fix it?
RB: Not having an exit strategy. I knew that I was coming to the end of an enjoyable business relationship, but did not develop an appropriate plan to finalise my involvement. In the end, I walked away with something which did not suit my gut feeling. This outcome was more reflective of my loyalty to my business partner than to the logic and circumstances of the moment. The eventual outcome helped me mature and strengthen my understanding of very difficult situations which arise within business relationships. I suspect that with an established exit strategy I may have better closure with this venture, when the time comes.
MB: How do you delight customers?
RB: Give them what they expect, and then a little more. Most companies will focus on P-E (Profit-Earnings) aspects of their business, which is important but loses the true nature of business. If you don’t succeed with meeting the expectations of the customer the business will struggle. Management is the effort needed to ensure the P-E aspects are achieved with this initial goal.
MB: Share your number one sales technique with us.
RB: Listen to what the customer wants. Once you are aware of their requirements you will be better suited to meet their expectations, or even add a little more.
MB: What’s your secret team-building tactic?
RB: Leadership. Building a team starts with the leader – if you focus on your own leadership, your team will evolve into who it needs to be. It is important to have a specific vision of the requirements of the team. This will be communicated to all members and reaffirmed when required.
MB: Favourite piece of business technology?
RB: Because we have a portable business, the wireless EFTPOS machine is a great piece of technology. It makes for a simple way to accept payment and the funds are directly placed within your bank account.
MB: Best tip for managing people?
RB: Treat them how you would like to be treated.
MB: Who do you most admire and why?
RB: My wife. She is my rock and gives me a perspective and grounding that would not be found in any aspect of the business world. She runs our family in an incredible way. Over the years she has brought up our children to be polite, intelligent, funny and loving. Some of this time was without my involvement. She has taught me the benefits of unconditional love and allowed me to see the true outcome of developing my own personal attitude and leadership skills.
MB: What’s more important in business: passion or preparation? Why?
RB: Passion for the preparation. Passion is a quality which MUST exist. Without it you will lose focus and find it difficult in those inevitable hard times which arise. Preparation is something which helps to eliminate those annoying events which impact on your passion. I have seen the effects of both poor and rich planning. I would definitely prefer rich planning.
MB: What’s your favourite networking activity? Why?
RB: Something which builds a relationship. Although it’s not done a lot, visits to other businesses which give you a better understanding of them.
MB: If someone gave you $100,000 and said, “Invest this in your business by the end of the week – or lose it” what would you do?
RB: Half of it I would spend on advertising, with a quarter I would improve capacity, and the final quarter I would put in reserve.
MB: How do you foster and express creativity?
RB: Any idea can be a good idea. Listen, evaluate against the vision, and move on it if it is in line.
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