I was lucky enough to attend a breakfast event with some amazing speakers from the startup world – the co-founder of Bulb Energy, Hayden Wood, the chief product officer of Starling Bank, Megan Caywood, founder of The Dots, Pip Jamieson and Debbie Wosskow, serial entrepreneur and founder of The Allbright, “an ecosystem that aims to make the UK a better place to be a smart-thinking woman.”
The focus was on challenger brands. Brands and businesses that challenge the status quo and aren’t the run of the mill. With over five million UK SMEs, our country is definitely home to a diverse bunch of exciting small businesses.
So what advice was imparted at the session for those looking to start, or grow, their business?
Be fearless: starting a business isn’t easy. There is never a right time (I know, I started my own business when I was also getting divorced!). But if you have an idea, start scoping it out and see if it can build into a compelling business proposition.
The right product market fit: businesses don’t always get their product market fit right first time. By iterating to find this, remaining agile and responsive to change and customer demands, the business will stay fresh and fill a need.
Question the need the business is trying to solve, even in a crowded or heavily regulated market: Banking and energy (where two of the event speakers’ businesses reside) are heavily regulated and dominated by large businesses. But large business have legacy issues and often businesses models that are not predicated on change or innovation. This is where smaller businesses have an advantage.
Get your marketing right: Hayden advised us to think of customer acquisition as “a machine” – and look at advertising from the off. Bulb initially tried some labour-intensive ways to recruit customers but turned to (digital) advertising to grow. It now advertises across other channels, including TV and has 725,000 customers – acquired in just four years. It’s a true British success story!
The importance of people: working in the creative industries, I am only too aware of how important people are to making businesses work. Getting the right people in the right roles who are happy and healthy helps to build amazing businesses. Pip Jamieson of The Dots told us that her main OKR (“objective and key result”) was the happiness of her people. Everything else falls behind this.
If you have any tips or advice for growing and running a successful SME, do get in touch! We’d love to learn more and help others as much as we can to ensure the UK is a great place to run and do business.