Strive E-magazine

VICTA Young Ambassador Alexandra Mackie interviews VICTA Trustee Chris Sprenger

Chris Sprenger

When thinking of inspirational role models for the VI community, the immediate assumption is that the individual has to be VI. However, I don’t believe this is always the case. Anyone who has managed to achieve their goals and objectives in life can be an inspiration for all.

Chris Sprenger is the Managing Director of the Highfield Group, a global leader in regulated, international, endorsed and workbased learning qualifications, end-point assessment, training materials and e-learning, and the winner of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise. Chris is also a Trustee of VICTA.

In this article l explore Chris Sprenger’s success story and share his advice on how to build a successful business. As an entrepreneur and owner of a start-up soap making business, I was particularly keen to gain his insight. While l have achieved a lot in my business over the last year, I now appreciate the secret to achieving long-term success is perseverance. Perseverance to embrace change, to learn from mistakes, to face challenges head on and never to lose sight of the end goal.

From your personal experience, what do you
think it takes to be a good business leader?

Alexandra Mackie

CSPotential business owners need to understand the difference between a strong leader and manager, before they attempt to adopt one or the other. A strong leader is someone who devises a vision and inspires people to follow and get things done, whereas a strong manager focuses on setting, measuring and achieving goals.

For me in the start-up phase, I recognise the importance of shifting between these two roles. Balancing these competing functions is significant – I understand that if I get it right from the start, it will help with my long-term success.

As the Managing Director of Highfield, what are some of the daily challenges that you face and what strategies do you use to overcome these?

CSWe put the customer at the heart of our business, as a result, our greatest challenge is to maintain the very high standards of customer service we set for ourselves. We achieve this through the continual development of our employees. In any business, a high employee satisfaction produces’ a high level of customer satisfaction, which effectively allows you to build a positive brand and build the foundation of a successful business.

Chris reinforced my own belief in the need to put the customer at the heart of what l do. I am in the process of becoming a member of the Guild of Craft Soap & Toiletry Makers. Such a badge on my website will be a marque of quality and provide assurance to my customers. They will be safe in the knowledge that all my products have been fully tested and comply with all European guidelines. I hope to turn a higher customer satisfaction rate into a higher profit yield.

What are the three things that you would say are key to starting a business??

CSAny product or service offered must have a unique selling point (USP). This allows you to differentiate your product or service from your competitors. Secondly, regardless of your product or service, your business plan must be structured in a way that focuses on achieving maximum customer satisfaction. I truly believe good customer service should always be at the heart of any business. Having a strong USP and providing good customer service will indirectly contribute to your business and develop a positive brand.

To ensure that I have identified the right marketplace and target customers, I plan on conducting some more market research. This will enable me to strengthen my business plan and ensure that I remain correctly focused on building my brand.

How do you stay ahead of your competitors?

CSKeep it simple. A simple business strategy will allow you to make more informed decisions that are focused on achieving your set objectives. It is important for all business owners to be able to gain a certified authorisation from an official body to certify your product or service. This will allow you to increase the amount of confidence that your customers feel towards your business.

Invaluable advice from Chris. While many start off with a simple and clear business plan, in an effort to increase profit it is all too easy to move away from your original idea. With too many plates spinning at any one time, it becomes harder to remain focused and you can end up achieving less.

The Blind Soapmaker

As a service-based business, how important would you say your customers are in determining the new services that are offered within Highfield?

CSWhile we appreciate the advantages of technology, as a company, we still focus on maintaining one-to-one personal relationships with our customers. This allows us to tailor our services to the specific needs of each individual customer. There is nothing better than word of mouth recommendations.

In a rush to get products to market, there is a danger of making assumptions about what customers want. As part of my market research, I take the time to discuss some of my ideas with existing and potential customers to gauge their interest. This is one way I can ensure that I stay on track.
Chris Sprenger

Chris celebrating after completing the London Marathon for VICTA

How did you become a trustee of VICTA?

CSCorporate social responsibility is at the centre of our company as we feel very strongly about making a positive impact within the local community. My initial involvement with VICTA started as a personal running commitment which then encouraged other members of staff within the Highfield Group to run the marathon for the charity. As a company, we are very passionate about supporting the charity with the important work that it does in supporting VI children and their families. As a result, l would encourage aspiring individuals who would like to enter the world of self-employment to be highly selective when choosing to form support networks within different areas.

The strong focus Chris has on CSR has inspired me to strengthen sustainability within my soap-making business. Since speaking with Chris, l have researched the use of recyclable plastics to wrap my soaps and am investigating the possibility of using biodegradable cellophane.

Written by Alexandra Mackie

 

About Alex
Alexandra Mackie

 

Alex is 26 and feels incredibly honoured to be chosen as a VICTA Young Ambassador. She is excited to start her role researching inspiring stories and bringing news and information to VICTA readers. Alex applied to be part of the programme as, being a visually impaired young person herself, she has sometimes felt as though there are a lack of positive role models for people her age. Alex has come to realise that you don’t have to be a super hero to inspire others and that, as a business owner, she has much to contribute.

Alex looks forward to using the skills and experience that she gains from the Young Ambassador Programme to expand her soap making business ‘The Blind Soap Maker’ and to take it to the next step. Most of all, in the process of doing so, and through the Young Ambassador Magazine, Alex hopes to inspire others to believe that the impossible is actually possible.

Blind soapmaker soaps Blind Soapmaker hand soap

The Blind Soapmaker Logo

Visit The Blind Soapmaker website here >

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