Five minutes with InfoQuest

For John Coldwell of InfoQuest, a company that trades as far afield as China and South Africa, 70 is the magic number: 70% of his business comes from exports and InfoQuest’s customer satisfaction survey method generates a response rate of over 70%. While his business offers clients valuable insights into their business relationships, building his company has not been straightforward.

My business card says: The front says managing director but, as I too often see the back of business cards as wasted space, I have the text: “InfoQuest – the most cost effective, dynamic and actionable business-to-business customer satisfaction survey available.” I have tried for years to cut that down but so far with little success.

I would describe my business self, in five words, as: Honest, trustworthy, prudent (with other people’s money), amenable and patient.

The hardest part of setting up the business was: To be honest, dealing with outside angel investors – they nearly took us under about 16 years ago.

The biggest challenge for my business has been: Self-motivation. When we, as a business, are busy, I am generally not. That’s because I generally don’t get too involved in the process. My role is working with new clients to help them create surveys that work and provide the insights to the senior management afterwards with a workshop.

My biggest business regret is: Giving shares away! I would advise all business owners: do it on your own and don’t rely on anyone else.

My greatest business success is: Selling a survey over the phone without actually meeting anyone – it’s a really nice feeling when people trust you with their customer base, which is their most important asset. For instance, one large crane manufacturer asked for a worldwide customer satisfaction survey, which we did with seven weeks of conference calls every Tuesday across three continents. The first time I actually met anyone was when we presented the findings in Singapore, which was followed by a single day in Shanghai.

The key to being a successful small business owner is: Drive and focus. It’s so easy to just throw in the towel in the early days but it’s only through staying the course that a business will become successful.

My top tip for entrepreneurs is: Focus on realistic goals, be persistent and be patient. In one case I was paid 50% upfront but it took another 10 months before we got the client’s customer lists we needed to begin work. Another client took eight years to go from making an enquiry to deciding that they wanted to work with us.

The one thing that has saved me the most time with running my business is: A financial director at one of my clients suggested that I try using two screens at my computer instead of one. It is really surprising how much time you can save by not having to shuttle between windows.

The one thing I would do differently with my business if I had my time again is: I wouldn’t give away the shares or use angel investors.

The business headline I would most like to see is: Now that the UK is no longer part of the EU, British businesses are finding it easier to trade with the rest of the world and German cars are now 30% cheaper to buy than they were in 2015.

If I wasn’t answering these questions I would be: Going for a walk with the dog.

My top tip for saving money is: Examine your bills. I used SwitchMyBusiness.com and found them very useful. The process was straightforward and I would recommend them to anyone and everyone. Also, keep in mind that comparing prices is not just something you should do once. Tariffs and deals are changing all the time.

Find out more about InfoQuest at infoquestcrm.com or +44 (0)1484 868 390

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