15 NI Companies Share Their Tips For Growth During Small Business Advice Week 2017
By Leanne Ross
September 2, 2017
Small Business Advice Week returns this September. The 2017 week-long campaign will be focused on growth and productivity, with advice from leading businesses on how SMEs can maximise their potential.
Entering its 14th year, SBAW was set up to maximise the potential of the UK’s thriving SME industry.
The week continues to help the UK’s 4.5 million SMEs thrive in tough times.
The theme for 2017 is growth and productivity, with leading experts and businesses providing all important advice on how SMEs can maximize growth and productivity in 2018.
In a recent speech by Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, he offered some words of encouragement to forward-thinking businesses;
“While the most productive companies have continued to innovate, others have become slower at adopting those innovations. Speeding up the rate of take-up of new inventions and processes… would provide a significant boost to overall productivity growth.”
In Northern Ireland, the Federation of Small Business, a not-for-profit organisation, exists to help their members, who own and run their own small businesses or are self-employed, to reduce the costs and risks of running their business, by providing a range of benefits and support.
Here, at Digital DNA, we’ve also worked with hundreds of small businesses and startups over the years.
So we wanted to showcase the advice of some of Northern Ireland’s successful, growing, SMEs with their local counterparts, and the rest of the UK:
“The best advice I have probably received since starting up HugeRugby.com was to ‘work on” my business rather than ‘in it”, so I’ve delegated as many of the day to day running tasks of the business as possible to employees, freeing up my time to focus on developing and growing the business.”
Jonny Small, HugeRugby.com
“As the director of a new digital marketing agency, I know the main way a small business like ours can grow a client base and reputation is by constantly innovating and embracing new technology and trends, so that we can deliver the results our clients expect and more. Digital marketing moves so quickly that the only way to ensure success is to be comfortable with constant change. If you feel that something is becoming a habit, it’s time to shake things up because you’ll never grow by doing the same thing every day. The journey never stops. You have to keep innovating and finding new ways to grow. We’ve designed our processes to ensure our clients chances of succeeding is maximised. We take clients on the journey with us – this is so important. They are the eyes and ears of marketing and we need to listen to their opinions. I believe the success hinges largely on strong client relationships, especially for a small or early stage company like Digital 24. Exceptional client service constitutes a core value for our business, and we always aim to become a trusted partner of our clients. We have been able to differentiate ourselves from the competition through strong relationships, and our level of service is one of the very reasons clients continue to work with us.”
Niamh Taylor, Digital Twenty Four and DANI Digital Business Person 2017
“Before you leap into execution, chat with at least 30 prospective clients, shut-up and really listen to their feedback. More often than not you will be surprised where the conversations take you!”
James Scott, The App Builder
“Data Protection is something that most start ups don’t feel is relevant to them. A data breach is something that happens to huge corporations, right? What if I told you that something as simple as a miss-sent email or a lost laptop could leave you exposed to penalties of up to €20m. All companies, even SME’s, need to consider their data protection obligations in order to be compliant by the May 25th 2018 cut off date. If you have a tight budget there are cost effective ways increase compliance but you need to act now before it’s too late.”
Orlagh Kelly, Barrister and CEO of Briefed
“Innovation and growth is essential for any small business to survive, and it’s something we are constantly reminded of here at DHD, as we constantly seek to develop our services and also in how we provide and deliver those services to our clients. Personally, over the last couple of years I have learnt a very valuable lesson regarding growth; never underestimate the importance of taking time out of the studio to meet new people face to face. Whether that’s booking a flight and tickets to a world class conference or getting a date in the diary to grab a coffee down the street. I have been reminded of this very recently when a chance encounter at the Web Summit last year lead to being invited to teach to 160 international students on branding at MIT in Boston in June and July this year. An experience I will never forget and which again has opened up new doors for collaboration, contracts and new relationships to be developed in the months and years that lie ahead. So my advice for small businesses around the themes of innovation and growth is to remember to make time for people and book in that ‘face to face’ time as much as possible!”
David Henderson, Creative Director at DHD
“Small businesses are only as good as the people behind them and as a consultancy business this is particularly true. Large businesses can afford to make mistakes but for small businesses hiring can make or break the company so my / our advice would be to hire carefully and thoughtfully particularly when small businesses are taking on staff for the first time.”
Richard Megaw and Mark Kelso, Glaze Digital
“In order to flourish in the tech industry, we must try our best to reach all of those in it. This does not mean simply asking opinions, but rather getting to fully know your audience. Spend the time and invest your time working closely with those you want to impact. There is no use in acting big but thinking small, start at the bottom and work your way to the end goal. Think big, act small. Work closely with those who you are directly hoping to affect and ensure you listen (even when the process may bring things to light that you don’t agree with).”
Sheree Atcheson, UK Expansion Director, Women Who Code and Technical Business Consultant, Deloitte UK
“In terms of growth, find what is and isn’t working as quickly as possible and double down on what you are having success with both marketing and product wise. In terms of marketing, you have to try a number channels to see what works for your business, do not put everything in one basket until you have your formula for success. What may succeed for one business may not work for another, so you have to try many options for yourself. We tried plenty of marketing channels to attract new customers to Uni Baggage before we got our solid 3 channels that get the majority of our focus now. The chances of getting your marketing campaigns completely correct the first time are slim, allow for some failures.”
Paul Stewart, Uni Bagage
“We founded Logicearth Learning Services in 2009 at the height of the global financial crisis. We survived and grew through perseverance, personal resilience, and by asking for support. You will be surprised at the number of people and organisations willing to help you along your journey. Be clear about who you are and what problems you solve. Your immediate and extended network with serve you well – grow it. Embrace digital content marketing and social selling. Innovation only comes from continuous research, engrain this in your team behaviour.”
Peter Carlin, Logicearth
“Just because you can count to 10,000 doesn’t mean you should. It’s important that business owners know when to delegate and outsource. Handing over control is critical to avoid burnout and to ensure their business grows beyond the constraints of their time (and skillsets). By outsourcing, for example, finances and management reporting, it allows business owners time to focus on providing a high quality product and service to their customers and focus on what they do best. Outsourcing to people who can perform the task better makes sense; it allows you to develop your team and use them more efficiently – Let’s not forget the bonus benefit of lower cost and potential big savings; getting access to quality services that are offered at a much lower cost!”
Clare Galloway, Magic Beans
“The key learning point for me is how important relationships are in business. I know that obviously, customer service and networking are a must, but there is a difference between these skills and actually connecting with people. One of the key goals of Upskill Enterprise is not only to build lasting relationships but always ensure that those relationships open the door to at least 3 or 4 new contacts. 90% of our business has come as a result of building relationships with other partners while compiling a tender, rather than winning the tender itself. How we make it work: In this digital age, its easy to connect with people on Linkedin, skype or video conference, we have been told what sets us apart and gives us the competitive advantage over other SMEs in Europe is that we actually go and visit people. A relationship to us, is being able to shake a persons hand and look at the whites of their eyes, in their comfort zone (office or country) so they instantly connect,feel safe, trust and remember you. Invest time in people not time on your computer.”
Stephen Rice, UpSkill Enterprise Ltd.
“Find your niche and promote what makes you different. If you can’t stand shoulder to shoulder online with competitors and have enough people choose you over the others, then you have a problem. Differentiate yourselves, constantly improve on what’s working and have a clear mission for your team to follow.”
Louise McCartan, Search Scientist
“When someone goes into business on their own it is a very brave step in life and can be very daunting at the start. You will throw many balls up in the air and journey down many different roads to ultimately find the right one. The experience will be exciting and challenging but I believe if you work within you skill set, don’t over promise and deliver what your customer needs you will be a success. Be honest, fair and decent and that will always stand you in good stead, and always remember People buy People.”
Hugh Black, Black Marketing
“After more than 20 years in the Digital Web industry, we’ve earned a reputation for unsurpassed knowledge and an in-depth understanding of Enterprise Content Management Solutions, Bespoke Web development, and Hosting. Despite our heritage, it’s our forward-thinking and uniquely holistic approach to digital transformation projects, that sets us apart. This approach, as well as having top experts on our team, has helped us grow with every successful project completion.”
Keith Gutu, i3 Digital
Small Business Advice Week runs from the 4th -10th of September. For more information please visit http://www.