Collaboration is key to competitive advantage

13/07/2012

How times have changed in the past ten years. Companies I would have viewed as major competitors at the turn of 2000 have now become close allies – we are sharing knowledge, IP, business ideas and revenue streams. It strikes me that collaboration is very much embedded within the mindset of the forward thinking organisations I meet on a day-to-day basis. Those that hold their cards too close to their chest will almost certainly miss out on new business and product opportunities. Collaboration can present itself in many formats:

  • Businesses with complementary skills coming together to bid for large contracts – one where the mix of expertise and geographical coverage offers massive benefits to a customer. This can be achieved as a consortium or through what is commonly referred to as a special purpose vehicle (SPV)
  • Companies fusing complimentary products and services to create a new offering – WP did this several years ago, we took creative expertise of a University and combined it with coaching techniques to create the highly successful Winning Pitch TV (WPtv) – a great example of HE working with a SME
  • Euro Garages one of the North’s most successful companies brought together petrol stations with Starbucks and Subway franchises to build a new experience in filling the tank.
  • We see it everyday on the motorways with Starbucks, M & S and other high street chains teaming up with service operators to create a new service station break – this used to be a joke in terms of food quality, now, very different
  • Large pharma companies engaging with smaller niche R & D operators. A much nimbler and cost effective route for multi nationals to build their innovation pipeline

Fundamental to collaboration is a win- win attitude, there has to be a common goal, a shared vision, a sense of trust and purpose, fair commercial gain for both parties. Working as I do everyday with high growth companies, its very clear that those entrepreneurs who think partnership are opening themselves up to so many new possibilities.  Stay awake, think about who you can collaborate with, the only warning is, be sure why you are doing it and what’s in it for both of you!

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There are good things happening!

15/06/2012

The constant doom and gloom we hear through the media really is not very helpful to the entrepreneur out there trying to build a life from him/herself and family. The reality is for many of us, the Euro crisis and all that other stuff going on does not have a direct impact on the success of our company. You can’t change what going on in world markets, so don’t get drawn into it, focus on the things you can effect.

Live in your own “micro climate” – staff, market, customers, new products, think differently, experiment with new ideas, discover new partnerships, think collaborate!

There are good things going on and despite what the media says there is help for SME’s, the new BIS service – GrowthAccelerator (www.growthaccelerator.com) is a great example of a fantastic service that will help entrepreneurs to build a better future – help for planning and strategy, innovation and getting yourself ready for investment…….

There are good things going on and smart people are doing great things – please can we celebrate a bit more!


Gazelles – past and present (part 2)

02/05/2012

I wrote a blog a week ago that covered Harvey Goldsmith’s view of the Top 10 greatest entrepreneurs past and present (part 1). Here is the final listing from 6 – 10 and the insights I think are important for other ambitious people:

6. Harry Hyams (1928 – ) – a man who changed the face of commercial property. He built Centre Point in the 60’s and left it controversially empty for months. He was a man who got his timing right, stirred things up – a great example of success is often down to luck. Many would say he planned to be “lucky”

7.Bernie Ecclestone (1930-) – grasped the opportunity when he saw it. From selling cars to F1 supremo. The window of opportunity is presented to so many of us but how many grab it when it appears? It often only lasts for a short time. His vision and leadership is an inspiration to us all.

8.William Morris (1834-1896) – crafts and arts specialist who dreamed of improving the quality of life for British workers. He was a highly successful artist whose designs are still around today – the message is? Leaving a legacy and putting something back!

9.Lew Grade (1906 -1998) – a master entrepreneur in the entertainment business. Famous for pushing an idea across the finishing line – how many of us are guilty of losing faith in an idea when the first hurdle presents itself. Faith is such an important part of getting the idea into the market place. Sunday Night at the Palladium and Pink Panther were several of his major accomplishments.

10. Sir Martin Sorrell (1945-) Not had the best of press this week given the big salary. However, so many forget what this man has achieved. In the mid 80’s he bought a little company called Wire & Plastic Products – this became WPP. It emerged as a world-beating communications and advertising business. Annual revenues running into billions and profits approaching £1bn. How many others can say they have done that. Grit and determination are key ingredients of his success. So the press….get off his back, how short people’s memories are!


Global Entrepreneurship Conference – Get Lucky

14/03/2012

This was probably one of the best events I have been to for a long time. Sometime fantastic speakers, for me Lord Heseltine did the business, what an incredible man. His own entrepreneurial story was highly engaging, it came straight from the heart. He talked about how lucky he had been in his career, one that led to the creation of Haymarket Publishing, a global business with 2,000 employees.

Well on the note of luck, Harvard Business School have done their research and some really interesting findings have emerged. They claim that luck in business can be cultivated, through what they call lucky attitudes and lucky networks. They found that a lot of their entrepreneurs believed in and are extremely open to the power of serendipity – in other words a lucky attitude. They also have a wide network of relationships that at first glance may have little to do with business but somehow later come into great relevance.

Richard Branson’s off the scale mindset of creativity is testament to the power of being different. A common theme around loving what you do was woven throughout the day – passion lies of the heart of success, it keeps you going and is a vital ingredient to mental toughness. The Black Farmer Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, hit the spot as well – going into business or growing a company means you have to overcome your fear, and you only live once, so go for it and be brave.

An amazing job done by Liverpool Vision and the broader Liverpool Community – so many other cities could learn from their ambition and visionary leadership. An example of public sector practicing what they preach.


Manchester Business Survey – Downtown

27/01/2012

A breath of fresh air entered the business support arena at this mornings launch of the Manchester Business Survey. Frank McKenna led a great debate, much of which focused around the support for growth businesses in the GM Region. At last we are getting to the real issues and I am so pleased that Scott Fletcher, Chairman and Founder of ANS has started to unearth the paucity and confusion that sits within the business support arena.

The number of quango’s that still exist is causing enormous confusion within the business world and if we are going to create more “ANS Types” then its time to raise the bar, leave delivery to the private sector and provide the much-needed hands on help for risk takers. In particular advice from people who have been there and done it, inputs that drive strategy into action, executes plans, embed innovation, provides route to market, delivers an introduction to trusted advisers not just fee chasers, develops winning teams and leaders and provides well crafted business plans that hit the mark with the finance community.

Interesting comments about the Growth Hub and relations of the Family.

Well done Frank for getting on the table this long overdue debate. Fingers crossed that Scott’s forays to getting it sorted will create the desired changes and he doesn’t get ground down by non value added debates driven by committee, sub committees, talking shops, steering groups……


The Manchester Family

19/01/2012

Today’s headlines of the North West Insider Bulletin reads – Leese stresses importance of ‘family’ ties. This was one of the core themes of yesterday’s Manchester Economic Forum. What a great job the Sir’s Howard and Richard have done in placing Manchester as the UK’s second city. The City has a brand that spans every corner of the globe and the investment attracted and regeneration projects completed must be applauded – a fantastic job. The work on the graphene hub also provides bags of excitement for the Region.

My concern lie at the heart of how the Manchester Family can be perceived – can it portray an image of “closed shop”. This particularly relates to business support in the Greater Manchester Region. Every aspect of Manchester is world-class – however its business support infrastructure is outdated and out of touch with the real needs of growth SME’s. The Business Growth Hub needs passionate leadership that reflects the needs of the coal face, not world domination and self interest.

Still some work to be done here!


Livercool Business Awards

18/11/2011

I experienced another great celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit that lives in Liverpool at last nights Downtown’s Livercool Business Awards. It was a packed house, great laugh, met many old mates as well as new contacts.

If the other major cities in the UK could replicate this energy…..then growth would most certainly follow. Celebrate success, acknowledge the winners, give recognition to those who are making a difference – turn off the news and lets stop conditioning our minds to doom and gloom. From what I saw last night there are some fantastic things going on in Liverpool and the North.

A great example of public and private sector working together for the benefit of the City and its people and employers – top stuff.

Well done Frank!