Guest Blog by Alex Mitchell: Flexibility – being competitive anywhere anytime



“Small businesses have a real advantage in that they can react a lot quicker than big corporations, they don’t have the endless layers of process and bureaucracy which they should really be making the most of.”

This was a quote by Nikki Hesford, founder of Miss Fit UK, who was of the speakers at a recent Institute of Directors evening debate I chaired that was held at Microsoft’s London offices and focused on the need for flexibility in all
areas of our businesses.

As we start to come out of the recession now is the time for businesses, large and small to react and grow. To take on new challenges, take some risks and ensure they don’t get left behind. Business needs to challenge the norm.

The debate bought together two together two young entrepreneurs who are doing just that, they have both set up their businesses in extremely tough sectors in the last 3 years, and who are now expanding and growing; Nikki Hesford, and Adam Soliman, founder of Charbrew.

We were also joined by Microsoft UK director of small & medium business, Clare Barclay, a person who liaises with and engages with small and medium businesses from across the UK every day and hears directly from all sectors exactly what flexibility means to them.

Nikki and Adam started off by explaining a bit about their respective companies and how they have had to embed flexibility into everything they do and how technology has been a key enabler to this. 

Adam commented “Technology is increasingly changing the way we can operate and compete as businesses. It is important to assess how as business operators we can benefit from advances in technology”

Both Adam and Nikki are running business which could be termed ‘Challenger Brands’; they are running companies in sectors which tend to be dominated by big national or multinational firms. Therefore the only way that their companies can compete is to challenge the norm, to be disruptive, to shake things up a bit.

“It is fascinating to hear the journey of companies like Charbrew and Miss Fit UK and how technology supported their business growth.” Commented Clare Barclay, director, small & medium business at Microsoft UK “We at Microsoft recognise that many small and medium businesses are working in conditions that are challenging, the question is how technology can help you deliver more to your customers and help confront day to day challenges?”

And this was one of the key areas covered during the session. In an age where we all increasingly wear many hats during our business day, we can find ourselves running our companies from anywhere and everywhere, from bedrooms to boardrooms and even customers’ premises. How do we manage this and crucially how do we show real value and return?

The response from the panel and the attendees seemed to be based around key buzzwords such as adapting, embracing and investing. Nikki commented “If we don’t adapt and change our business as demand requires, we will get left behind.”

Adam went on to say “The simple questions to ask ourselves are; can technology bring me cost savings? Can the right technology improve productivity and output, and what should I be looking out for? Can I use technology to
increase the flexibility and happiness of my employees?”

Realising that change is happening and adapting to this change quickly; embracing a new way of working, both as a business internally and with your customers. Finally, investing in the right people and the right systems that will provide your business with the flexibly to react quickly to changing needs or demands from wherever you are based.

Regardless of if you are a start-up or a 30 year established business, a company employing 2 people or 2,000 people, we all want more time with more customers. The challenge is how do we and our teams keep on top of and respond to the enquiries and opportunities, when you could be anywhere at any time.

I will finish with my final thoughts to what was an extremely positive session, where networking continued long after security were trying to get us out!

“Why should your location or the location of your team determine your productivity and/ or responsiveness? Surely in today’s world this is not a hindrance but a huge competitive advantage”


About the author:

Alex Mitchell is the Head of Influencer Relations at the Institute of Directors (Europe's largest professional body for company directors), he is the Co-founder and Director of Young Brits Network (a social enterprise focused on
prompting the views and interests of young entrepreneurs from Britain internationally), he is the current UK President of the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance (a global network of young entrepreneurs and the organisations that support them) and he is the current Vice President of the European Confederation of Young Entrepreneurs (the major association of young entrepreneurs throughout Europe). Alex has also recently co-founded Kit Us Out, a charity setup by four London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic volunteers (Gamesmakers) to get key kit to disabled athletes from developing countries
that can’t afford or don’t have a kit sponsor.

Posted by Steven Woodgate

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