Chairman of Fontana Kevin O'Brien Chang has advised small businesses looking to grow to ensure they perfect the art of listening to staff and customers.
Speaking on the #MoneyMoves with Kalilah Reynolds, Chang said that has been critical to Fontana's expansion over the years. He said as part of the company's workplace culture, emphasis has been placed on putting customers first, treating everyone as equal, giving back to the communities where outlets are located and operating as a family.
“Those things have been our philosophy and we still try to stick by it. We listen to staff, customers and everything flows from that,” he said, adding that “happy staff equals happy customers and happy customers equal happy directors and stock.”
Chang said listening has helped the company to navigate the effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic, leading them to become one of the more essential companies over the last 18 months.
“Curfews and other restrictions have affected us ...and customers' needs have shifted so we have to accommodate them as best as we can,” he said.
“We welcome the suggestions. We have worked around the difficulties and the pandemic has forced us to do a lot of things better and we hope to be a more efficient company post-COVID-19,” he added.
He said the company has also publicly recognised staff and has an open door approach which allows them to meet with directors at any time.
In the meantime, Chang said having a broader perspective outside of Jamaica helped with the creation of multiple locations for Fontana. However, he has cautioned companies seeking to do the same to ensure that the knowledge gained doesn't influence their original identity.
In Fontana's case he said the company's motto reads: 'First world efficiency with Jamaican warmth'. That he said has allowed them to remain rooted even though they have incorporated ideas from Canada where he and his siblings furthered their education before returning to Jamaica.
“We wanted to bring both of them together, we don't want to be cold and impersonal so we try to give that personal touch all the time. We want customers to want to feel at home,” he said.
The chairman said while growth will present new challenges where customer relations are concerned, getting continuous feedback will help to keep service balanced. He said that may mean keeping in touch more with key personnel in the locations.
“They say the natural grouping of a community is 150 so once you get above that you're going to shift from a family to being corporate. That's the challenge we've been having but we're trying to maintain that [level of interaction],” he said.
Fontana has plans to open another location in Portmore by Christmas. As part of the national vaccination programme, the company also recently signed on as one of the private entities to offer COVID-19 vaccines at all its outlets.