Small Business: Client workshops keep them interested

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Seminars designed to provide topline thinking among a bunch of 'uber techs'.

Don't underestimate the value of bringing together key clients in a seminar or round table discussion. Photo / Thinkstock
Don't underestimate the value of bringing together key clients in a seminar or round table discussion. Photo / Thinkstock

Building and maintaining strong relationships with customers is something all small businesses try to do.

One way to add value to the service you provide is to run workshops and seminars for clients, which have the benefit of engaging them with your business.

ClearPoint, a company started by Phil Pietersen and Bain Hollister almost six years ago, provides a range of IT services here and overseas ranging from development of system strategies and architectures to project delivery. The Auckland-based company was listed in the Deloitte Asia-Pacific Technology Fast 500 and won top place in the business services category of the 2010 Deloitte Fast50.

ClearPoint, with 96 staff, also has offices in Wellington and in Melbourne and a client list that includes TVNZ, Genesis Energy, NZ Super Fund, Westpac, Vector, Vodafone and San Francisco firm Anaplan.

"Workshops are something we have always done," says Pietersen, the company's managing director. "In IT services it is an opportunity to give something back to clients, a value-add. It's also an opportunity to provide an educational aspect for what we do, particularly on what we see as upcoming trends."

ClearPoint runs two types of workshops, Leaders of Online and Techdrop.

"With Leaders of Online, we have quite a structured approach and a target audience. We are looking for senior managers in the online or digital space. The sessions cover both cutting-edge thinking on online development and mobility," says Pietersen.

The sessions are run in three stages and have a facilitator, ClearPoint advisory board chairman John Quirk.

The presentation at the last session - they are run quarterly - was on "gamefication" and how it related to customers' businesses. The final stage of each workshop is a facilitated discussion on topics of the day, looking at real challenges that each of the businesses present might have. The group comes up with suggestions, so people who attend leave with outcomes, says Pietersen.

Techdrop sessions, meanwhile, run every two months, are more informal and are about information sharing with a presentation and round table questions and answers. "We invite our staff and their colleagues from client sites," says Pietersen.

Techdrop seminars are designed to provide leading-edge thinking among a bunch of "uber techs" and they are to have business outcomes and a business application.

Consulting director Bain Hollister, who looks after customer delivery and high end consulting at ClearPoint, is closely involved with the Techdrop workshops. He is "a natural magnet" for the technical guys, says Pietersen, often acting as a chief technology officer for start-ups. ClearPoint works with a number of start-ups including Triplejump, an online insurance broking platform with global aspirations.

"For a business looking to lift to the next level, we can offer these guys a lot. How to go global from New Zealand, for instance," says Pietersen.

"Our plans, as we expand, are to invest in new technology businesses. We are looking for the next Xero or Serko. We would invest in an existing idea and create an incubator for commercialising some of these ideas."

It took about four years for ClearPoint turnover to top $10 million. "Our strategy to build ClearPoint is still at the bottom rung of the ladder," says Pietersen.

Top tip

Don't underestimate the value of bringing together key clients in a seminar or round table discussion.

Best business achievement

Building relationships with key clients who have stayed with us through thick and thin, for example, TVNZ and NZ Super Fund.

- NZ Herald

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