Following on from local Business Week last week, we hear from UK-owned SMEs and business leaders on how UK businesses can build back better following the pandemic.
Peggy de Lange, VP of International Expansion at Fiverr:
“The past twelve months have shown that using freelancers is an easy way for local businesses to adapt to the demands in the market. Hiring a freelancer to fill an unexpected gap in a growing team ensures that businesses are well-equipped with the skill-set they need to adapt to UK market transformations and changes. With many freelancers pre-pandemic preferring to work remotely, the new structure of work makes it far easier for UK businesses to rely on independent talent as and when they need it.
The hybrid model of work has taught us that our workforces can be far more fluid and the conventional method of relying on 9-5 full-time staff is no longer the most productive way to operate – as businesses grow, they should be cognizant of that to attract the best talent and keep teams motivated. Today, workforces can consist of full time, part-time staff and freelancers who can scale to manage the ebbs and flows of business needs, as well as during pinch points or seasons of high activity. As organisations adapt to a changing workforce dynamic, business leaders should be looking to hire independent talent to help drive business agility. Workplaces can be far more fluid and they definitely need to be in order to remain resilient in the future.”
Sarah Clarke VP of Growth UK at Clearco (formerly Clearbanc):
“The best piece of advice I would give to local businesses is to explore all your financing options. So many businesses give away a percentage of their businesses to have the capital for marketing and advertising. This shouldn’t be the case; business owners shouldn’t be concerned to give up valuable shares to grow their business.
“Revenue-based capital options now exist to help entrepreneurs get up and running faster than ever before. At Clearco, we’re using AI to make investment decisions and give founders the data insights and network they need to grow. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, or who you know – our investments are made based on your company data alone, as quick as 24 hours. In fact, companies that took an initial investment of $20K from Clearco have grown 2 x faster. With these kinds of technologies at our fingertips, we’re hoping to inspire a new generation of businesses in the UK.”
Benji Vaughan, Founder and CEO of Disciple Media:
“As we transition out of the pandemic it’s important for businesses to stay connected with their team, customers and other key stakeholders.
As consumers become increasingly digitised, it’s very easy for them to switch brands, so the value of creating a meaningful connection with your customers is today higher than ever.
If a company wants to be customer-centric (and I believe every company does), building a genuine community will be also one of the easiest ways to do so. Having an open dialogue at scale allows the company to deliver its message and listen to customers.
Social media has put power in the hands of the consumers, and that won’t change. That is why owning part of that conversation is today so critical. Doing so away from a large social media outlet allows community managers to have better data, improve the experience and increase privacy.”
Jamie Milroy, Founder and CEO of DASH Rides
“Local Business Week celebrates the achievements of UK businesses and gives us a platform to share insights on how we can continue to thrive together. The way we work, interact and think has been affected by the pandemic, and businesses can’t ignore that if they want to continue on an upward streak. Constantly listening to people and evolving is key. To this end, COVID has only heightened the importance of agility, employee wellbeing and sustainability to ensure that business can meet the challenge of change.
We are nimble. People are eager to get back to the office, but the sentiment about getting there has changed. We offer them a way of doing it safely, cheaply, healthily and sustainably. Commuters are moving away from public transport and towards alternative safe and sustainable transport, in particular e-mobility. We have seen the corporate demand for e-bikes accelerate through the Cycle to Work scheme, and we give employees a more profound way to travel around the city whilst improving their wellbeing and air quality.
The world is changing, and the only way to build back better is to change with it. We have listened to people and businesses, and we are looking to the future.”
James Herbert, Founder of Hastee:
“The past year has had a seismic impact on the financial health of workers everywhere. But personal-finance related stress is not exclusive to the pandemic; it’s often a recurring issue that challenges workers every time they have an unexpected outlay or an unforeseen expense.
“Recent research shows that as many as two-thirds (66%) are regularly suffering from personal finance-related stress, and yet fewer than one in five workplaces currently offer financial wellbeing advice.
“Empowering teams to reach better financial health should be a priority for every business as we advance. It can be achieved by offering access to financial management support, such as saving, education and budgeting tools, and early access to salary as part of their employee wellbeing toolkit. Often these tools are free to provide and not only empower team members to improve their financial health, but they can also lead to better worker engagement, productivity and performance. We recently partnered with a well-known financial wellbeing provider nudge to access more personalised education and money management tools. Offering tailored financial wellbeing encourages long-term positive financial behaviour.”
Dahwood Ahmed, Senior Country Manager UK&I, Extreme Networks:
“UK businesses can’t just go back to “how things were” before the pandemic. To build back better, businesses need to ensure they have the right network infrastructure in place to facilitate what will likely be a more hybrid way of working—that is, a mix of remote and office working—both securely and safely.
“The first thing businesses should check is whether their current network enables employees to perform the tasks and operations they usually would in the office, but a home environment. If not, they should channel the power of cloud-driven networks to create reliable connectivity which is consistent no matter where employees might be working. A cloud-based network infrastructure also helps give businesses simple and flexible deployment options while also providing meaningful insights through rich data analytics across the entire distributed enterprise.
“Secondly, businesses should consider their network structure. Given that remote access also potentially opens the door for cybercriminals to wreak havoc, businesses need to utilise network segmentation to prevent bad actors from moving laterally throughout their network in the case of a breach.
“Finally, and in preparation for any office return, businesses could also think about the use of connected occupancy sensors and real-time location analytics to enable the unobtrusive identification and tracing of those who have encountered a Covid-19 carrier—to help keep their workplaces and workers safe. These sensors even allow employees to easily see which rooms are the least busy throughout the day and thus the safest for their use.”
Mike Canner, Founder and CEO of Pro Plates:
“I started my business in the thick of the pandemic and worked hard and smart to grow it in an economic climate that was working against small business owners. When I started this journey, I had no real prior experience in running a business, I had built small e-commerce websites in the past, but never on the scale I had envisioned in my head. Now, Pro Plates is the largest weighted plate & gym equipment manufacturer in the UK.
To build back better following the pandemic, businesses need to continue to adapt to your customers’ needs and stay true to your brand’s foundations. For Pro Plates, we design, manufacture and develop all products in-house, and we leverage how our customers value our high-quality products – and our quality standards won’t change. I’d recommend continuing to develop your business around your customers’ true value but don’t be afraid to break the status quo. You can’t always do things by the book; you have to step out of your comfort zone if you want to grow. A great piece of advice I received early on was that a good businessman doesn’t always make the right decision, but makes the decision right’.
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Another tip is to build strong and meaningful relationships. As we continue to grow, the relationships we build with our stakeholders are crucial. It’s important to choose partners who understand your ambition and believe in your potential. For example, since our early stages, we’ve partnered with Clearco, who invested capital as they saw great value in our business model. As an entrepreneur, taking calculated risks is part of the job, and you need to work with people with the same mindset.”
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