People will often tell you that ‘hindsight is a wonderful thing’. We caught up with businesses from across the North East and asked them for their top tips for business development, with the benefit of experience. Leaders from Space Group, AVID Technology, re:heat, Gedanken and Homeserve PLC shared their advice.
Rob Charlton, CEO of Space Group, advises: “Focus on understanding your clients’ issues, rather than telling them what you can do for them.”
“Have something to say. Instead of telling your client how great you are (the company before you has just said the same thing), discuss something that may be of interest or use to them or talk about something interesting you have been working on that will really engage them.”
Don’t be afraid to do things differently. Ryan Maughan, founder and managing director of AVID Technology, advised: “Innovation is the key driver to successfully differentiate yourself from the competition.
“Market leaders will always seek innovation to add value and sustain their position of strength. Technology innovation means that you can offer unique product solutions, develop deep technology partnerships with customers and command premium prices.”
Whether they be inside or outside the business, they are your greatest untapped asset.
Neil Harrison, co-founder and director at re:heat, the Northumberland-based biomass specialists, said: “My advice to entrepreneurs and leaders of SMEs is to recruit and continuously develop good people and never relent in showing dogged perseverance.
Ryan Maughan of AVID Technology, said: “Take action to address problems quickly and decisively. If you want to grow a beautiful garden you have to stay on top of the weeds and maintenance.”
And Rob Charlton, of Space Group, advises you to invest in your network: “Relationships don't just happen. You need to invest a lot of time and effort into your network to grow it as well as getting to know your contacts well.”
Jeremy Middleton, the Newcastle-based angel investor and co-founder of HomeServe PLC said: “When you’re growing a business, advice and training can only take you so far. There are points when sheer bloody mindedness and a determination to succeed are your greatest assets.
“After that you just have to keep working on the business model, if it isn't working then change something, and keep changing things until it does work, nobody gets it right first time. If you can get the model on the right lines and keep at it, all you need after that is a bit of luck!"
David Cliff, managing director of business coaching firm Gedanken said: “The advice I give to the owners of new and growing businesses that I coach is that they should delegate or outsource when appropriate, but always have a comprehensive overview and ‘feel’ of what's going on.
“It can be tempting for inexperienced people to stick to what they’re good at and what they like, neglecting critical areas on an almost ‘head in the sand’ basis. Keep on top of quality, money matters, customer service, reputation, marketing, and planning, and remember there is not a single decision you will make in your business that does not have financial implications, even just to stop for coffee.”
Look for win-win situations
Ryan Maughan, founder and managing director of AVID Technology added: “The world is changing and there is an increasing awareness of sustainability and environmental issues, but most people and companies are only willing to make changes that bring a benefit to their business as well as wider environmental benefits. Look for the win-win solutions and you will be successful.”