High growth companies actively pursue “customer lock” in strategies


Ambitious high growth entrepreneurs should spend at least 3 days of their official working week living in the customer’s world. Viewing the market place from the desk is extremely dangerous, being immersed within your industry and the needs of your customers provides real-time market intelligence. This helps to tailor propositions specifically to the wants and needs of your market place; it also supports new product and service development. Gazelles companies create a massive gap between them and their competitors because they deploy innovation and imagination to problems, this inspires and very often leads to development and evolution of propositions that the customer didn’t even know they wanted! They occupy uncontested space. Others will soon start to copy and replicate – your job is to stay one step ahead of the game.

High growth businesses we have studied stay close to their key stakeholders. More specifically, they spend time

  • Looking at the factors that impact their customer’s performance – this provides opportunities to provide new solutions
  • Understanding their customers strategy – this facilitates a partnership working model
  • Looking at how they can help improve efficiencies, reduce costs and enhance performance.

Getting close to the market helps to drive what I term “customer lock in” – that phase of the supplier/customer relationship were there is a true partnership, mutual respect and a genuine win-win. Moving to lock in can absorb an enormous amount of time effort and energy, however the rewards can be big. It also makes it very difficult for competitors to move in and occupy your space. Being embedded means any new entrant would have to untangle lots of relationships, systems and processes to get a foothold. A word of caution – never take relationships for granted and be aware of performance vs. KPIs. Customer complacency represents a real danger zone for businesses. Lock in delivers true competitive advantage.

10,000 Small Businesses – Last Night


I was delighted to part of last nights Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses celebration and first cohort graduation event. The results and growth achieved from the participating companies was very impressive to say the least. As usual I was observing what happens when a room full of ambitious entrepreneurs get together to network and share ideas and experiences – this is were real business advice takes place, in communities of like-minded individuals. The stimulus and input from other successful, been there done it, businessmen and women should not be underestimated either.

When ambitious people get together to share the pain and stories, remarkable things happen:

– The feeling of loneliness is less profound

– You get new ideas and different perspectives to take your business forward

– You get to hear about trusted advisers and networks relevant to your business

– You become introduced to new potential customers and collaborators

– Answers to challenges present themselves

– Your mind gets refreshed

– When you see others doing well you end up running faster!

These environments help to raise the bar of personal performance, training with the best is a very effective way to improve.

Congratulations to MMU on their facilitation of the activity and I am really chuffed to being part of this activity going forward. A great example of how public and private sector collaboration is the answer to growing new business talent.

Liverpool – a global city


The scale and potential of Liverpool as a truly global City hit home to me last week when I was at Princes Dock. Sat in a meeting room on the third floor of the building directly opposite, looking straight ahead was the Queen Mary 2 – an impressive sight is really an understatement. Exiting the cruise liner were hundreds of tourists, off to see the sights of the City. Then on Saturday, the same, another cruise liner, with loads of people getting ready to go and spend the money in the City.

There has been much debate about Liverpool being a “turnaround” port – the place where cruises start and end. Whilst I understand the issues surrounding competition and State support, Liverpool has so much to offer, the attractions, Albert Dock, Tate, Museum and its heritage blows the socks off Southampton.

The impact of Liverpool turnaround status on jobs, new business starts, facilitating growth of existing companies and the tourist economy would be amazing. Starting my holiday in Southampton or Liverpool….not a difficult choice. Lets get this in the North…

Are the universities letting the next generation down?


I am a firm believer that the UK has some of the best universities in the world. However, does a game plan to raise the bar of performance feature within their strategic plans, particularly in relation to what happens when they wave good bye to their graduates.  We turn out amazing talent, equipped with knowledge and expertise in writing highly intellectual theses and essays. But what happens when they try to get a job. As an employer and interviewer of graduate talent, what comes across my desk every day is CV’s that lack depth, an inability to articulate a point of differentiation and to be honest a document so generic it misses the point. The resultant effect is we send out piles of “no thank you” letters, this must be highly discouraging to those poor graduates who thought their degree was a passport to the world.

Well I think its time for a rethink of how we make the talent pool more ready for the work place – many universities have a careers advice service, but just how effective is it?  Employers are looking for a tailored CV, crisp and to the point, giving evidence led narrative, supported by an interview where the applicant is prepared and up for the pitch. Attitude is just as important as qualification.

So where does the responsibility lie for job readiness? Is it the employer or the university? My view it’s the latter. If it’s going to be the growth SMEs that create new jobs, I believe it’s the universities role to turn out more rounded graduates ready for the work place. Those who have been taught the importance of self motivation, the power of communication, researching employer needs and writing CVs that hit the spot. If we don’t get a grip of this we will end up with graduates whacking out hundreds of CVs and applications with many of them receiving the obvious replies – this will manifest into bright sparks becoming depressed and ultimately lacking self worth. A thought for policy makers.

Create a crisis and focus on consequences


One of the biggest challenges leaders of high growth companies face is the need to embrace change, so often imposed by markets, customer needs, technological or political demands. As John Henry Newman stated “to live is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often” 

Reluctance to change is a major cause of organisational inertia and its the leaders role to make sure that the business sets a new course when the warning signs or opportunities are presented. Making this happen is easier said than done, it takes time, effort, energy and the whole experience can be draining.

Effective leaders I have met use consequences and create a crisis to help lubricate the wheels of change. They make real the outcomes of not embracing new ways of working or doing things. Whist they may seem brutal, very often the consequences of not changing are fact of life – company goes under, losing competitive advantage, losing long-standing customers, redundancy, losing money, failure to capitalise on big opportunities, lost business…..

Creating a crisis and demonstrating with clarity the impact of not doing things differently for the greater good, both personally and organisationally can be a fantastic wake up call for change!