Fake News: Brands and Social Media Credibility

With the advent of social media came hope that consumers would be treated to a world where the truth prevailed – a brave new world powered by the people against global media moguls peddling propaganda. Now, it appears the situation has been turned on its head, with the likes of Pepsi, New Balance, Macy’s, Grubhub, and Oreo falling victim to fake news that spread rapidly via social media.

Social media – A breeding ground for viral (but fake) content

Brands have a real problem with platforms such as Facebook and the like. Social media is now so ingrained within our lives that consumers seem to believe every last word, of every shared post. And the trouble is, we truly trust it.

Like lambs to the slaughter, brands are potentially killed off by a single post from those who profiteer on click bait. At least we knew the clear positions of media outlets – vested interests, self-declared political persuasions and (with a little research) their connections to the world of big business. Now this no-holds-barred free-speech is looking less like a utopia, and more like an Orwellian nightmare for brands doing battle with news fakery.

Compared to mainstream news, this fakery is altogether more difficult to decipher – both the origins and the intent. There are those who create click-bait for a rush of penny-click profit (something Google has vowed to get to grips with when it comes to AdSense) – but these are the easy guys to tackle. There are then those doing it just for kicks – the pre-teen in his bedroom, bored between tea and bedtime.

And the potential result? Outcomes that range from the bizarre to the financially devastating

Fake news can (allegedly) be held at least partly to blame for electing a megalomaniac business man – now the most powerful in the world (Buzzfeed’s take on this). It can also be credited with Kylie Jenner having been awarded the Medal of Freedom for – “realizing stuff”. Amazing. Ok, you could argue that target market of the Kardashian clan is arguably less intellectually gifted than the average man, but even market traders (who we’d like to think are pretty smart) aren’t immune : £1.05m losses suffered by shareholders of two companies following fake tweets that both were under US government investigation.

Brands – You’ve got a challenge on your hands. And you (may be) on your own with this one.

There’s been much heat on the likes of Facebook to get on top of this issue. Mark Zuckerberg spearheads the importance of free speech, yet his position on the antithesis of free speech – propaganda and brand BS – has until recently been a flat out denial of the issue. Bottom line? It’s debatable whether this is the responsibility of social media platforms, and even if it were, brands can’t rely on them for protection from fake news.

PR guru Tony Telloni says that it takes anywhere from six weeks to six months for brands to recover from the impact of a fake news story. The need for a reactive and finely honed strategy is then a non-negotiable for brands of any and every industry. But when it comes to the crunch, brands have two big problems – the speed at which these stories spread and being able to counter the impact by being able to reach people on-mass (and even then – will the consumer listen?).

So, how can brands manage the risk of fake news?

As a first step, straight-from-the-horse’s-mouth communications from brand to consumer need to be innovative and engaging enough to contend with the allure of fake news. But beyond this line of messaging is the need for a reply to such stories with a voice that goes beyond the official announcement with a voice that is authentic and credible. And there may be no more an authentic or credible voice than real, fellow social media users. But when faced with a viral fake story, some brands are missing a trick by ruling out thousands of potential mouthpieces that could aptly counteract mistruths and rumours – their employees.

Whilst employee advocacy has been harnessed and accepted as important for tasks such as productivity, recruiting, brand awareness, social selling, event attendance and more, brands have been slow to catch onto employee advocacy as a tool for fighting fake news.

One example that others may learn a lot from is healthcare company Humana, where staff aren’t only granted access to social media, but are promoted to a level where they themselves can become original content creators. This is the kind of innovation that could be capable of truly tackling social media news fakery.

By comparison, 54% of employees in the wider working world are banned entirely from social media. It’s all pretty archaic, to say the least, and in fact 45% of companies ban it exactly because they fear it’ll damage business reputation (Lewis Communications and HCL Technologies), when in fact, quite the opposite could be true.

Whilst we can hope that Facebook etc get to grips with the issue of fake stories, brands need to presume that all responsibility currently lies at their door.

When it comes to voices to whom consumers may listen, employee advocacy is a critical tool to be harnessed – and yet all too many companies fall at the first hurdle by not even allowing their staff online – all whilst the world may well be falling down around their ears.

Ultimately companies of every industry need to think hard on their strategies if they’re to limit the impact of any future fake story – and this may well be such an imposing challenge that global businesses may need to completely rip up corporation-wide communication policies.

If You Can Keep Your Head When All About You Are Losing Theirs…

2016 is shaping up to be quite the annus horribilis. Quite apart from the passing of such legends as Bowie, Rickman, Cohen, Wogan and Corbet, there has been unprecedented political turmoil, with UK’s vote to leave the EU (“Brexit”) and the election of Donald Trump to the US Presidency.

It’s these last two events that have caused all businesses – but particularly start-ups – to face increased uncertainty, difficult markets and most of all, higher levels of risk. Though I think Brexit is likely to affect UK businesses more than Trump’s success (it’s going to be a key topic of discussion at the ‘TechCrunch Disrupt London’ event in December), even sectors such as renewable energies are facing disruption after the election, according to Elon Musk.

“An Entrepreneur is someone who jumps off a cliff and builds a plane on the way down” Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn.

So what’s the problem? Entrepreneurs thrive on this risk and uncertainty – without the thrill of riding out the waves of uncertainty there would be little interest in venturing into the world of start-ups to begin with. When uncertainty hits, it’s natural for your brain tell you to panic, but those with entrepreneurial acumen automatically begin thinking rationally – how can they effectively assimilate and deal with this new information? How do you keep your head and continue building your plane?

When I started my last business I had absolutely no money, no staff, no business plan and a sizable amount of unsecured debt to my name – not to mention my wife, Viki, and Ofelia, our six-month-old baby, to support. And it was slap bang in the middle of a recession! Five years later, at the age of 31, I sold my company, E-Tale Marketing Solutions Ltd., in a multi-million-dollar deal; after selling to, and competing with, some of the biggest businesses in the world. Despite the challenges it was something i felt compelled to do. I simply had to do it, and i trusted myself that, whatever the challenge, I could overcome it. The journey was peppered with a huge amount of risk and uncertainty, but it’s how you deal with it that marks you out for success. These are some of the mental strategies that kept me going:

1. Think Positive

During the good times, entrepreneurs can find is easy to forget about focusing their mood, because the smiles come easy. But when the tough times present themselves – and they will – try to find a happy or positive thought to rebalance the panicked reaction. Whether it is a business breakthrough from recent weeks, or a promising event happening soon, remind yourself that good things can (and will) happen and that focusing on negativity will not help you to get through it.

 2. Let Go

As much as the entrepreneurial instinct is to micro-manage everything, there are some things that are simply out of your control – such as the outcome of an election. When these situations arise, you need to be able to accept that, yes, this will affect your business, but no, you cannot prevent it or ignore it. So your job is to ride it out and decide the best course of action to see the other side with minimal damage. Try not to exaggerate the situation to yourself or those around you – acknowledge it with a level head for exactly what it is and plan using the information you have available.

3. Prioritise

Understanding the difference between a make-or-break decision and an inconsequential one is vital for when tumultuous situations arise. The truth is that every decision made during the running of a start-up brings uncertainty, but by using the information available and focusing on the most important decisions first, whilst weighing up a range of possible outcomes will save a lot of your energy and relieve enough stress to allow you to wiz through the small choices later.

4. Trust Yourself

You started the business on your own and sometimes you must trust the same instincts, that used to scream at you that this was a good idea, to carry it forward. Start by listening to your instincts on small matters and learn whether your first impressions are to be relied upon or if you’re the kind of person who needs to research more thoroughly. Many top entrepreneurs know how to settle their brain and focus on the issues – Steve Jobs took walks to make decisions, whilst Einstein went sailing to clear his mental blocks.

5. Stay Agile

I’ve said it before, agility to is the best defence against uncertainty and by adopting an agile, or flexible approach to your business, you gain a competitive advantage. Now is the time to take a progressive view, remain dynamic and revert to Entrepreneur 101: remain agile and look for opportunities.

 

Knowledge is the key, and whilst it is vital to remember that there will be things you cannot possibly know – you can take the information you do have and build upon it to make plans. Whether it’s finding funding, or choosing the people you want to be by your side, plan ahead and never let negativity hold you back.

How do you see it? Is your business facing new challenges as a result of Brexit or Trump? How do you handle uncertainty? – let me know below.

5 Keys To Hiring The Best Talent

Dyson launched a recruitment campaign last week, kick-starting their quest to recruit three thousand engineers over the next four years. They have effectively done away with traditional recruitment techniques in favour of a series of ‘cryptic’ puzzles designed to attract and identify lateral thinkers.

Investing in staff is crucial for the growth of any business; whether start-up, growing SME or mega-corporation, each will face a different landscape when it comes to hiring. Whilst large, well-established corporations can rely on their brand, reputation and large budgets to create intricate recruitment campaigns and cherry-pick from a pool of talent, start-ups face several limitations. However, there are a few key things you can do to improve your chances of hiring the best talent out there.

1. Hire Early to Stay Ahead of The Curve

This does involve hiring more people than you need right now, but I don’t mean that you should hire people unnecessarily – what it does involve is looking to the future. Staff who are able to support customers, fix bugs and hold the fort when the time comes, need to be in place before they are needed. Try not to worry about excess employees sitting around with nothing to do. When it comes to start-ups, there’s always something to do…

2. Your First Hire Should Get Stuff Done.

Early staff within start-ups need to be willing, able and flexible enough to do whatever needs doing. There are often responsibilities from different sectors being undertaken by one person.Hiring staff in advance of their necessity means these ‘extra’ people can help to take the weight off and make sure that the workload is spread evenly. When hiring staff, it is important to make sure that they understand the need for flexibility, new hires must have an adaptable outlook on their role. As Miles Jenner, of Recruiter.com, says:

All companies must now assume the inevitability of change, if not disruption, for which there is no manual. It’s imperative to hire for this challenge, which can only be met with agile, adaptable and flexible minds that are capable of constant learning.

3. Employees like Money – It’s Not Rocket Science.

Knowing that your first few hires will be taking on much more than their specified position entails, it is worth thinking seriously about their pay. According to ‘JobVite,  61% of job seekers see higher pay as a bigger draw toward a job than other factors, including location, flexibility and company mission, especially when they factor in the often heavy workload and instability of the company. Clarity on this last point needs to be addressed directly and as early as possible, reassuring new hires that they will be looked after should the worst happen.

4. Recruit in The Same Way You Work.

The transition from candidate to employee can be fraught, but to make it as seamless as possible, and to avoid giving your chosen candidate a nasty culture shock once they’re through the door. Your recruitment process should match the company culture. For example, if online processes are an integral part of your business, they should be a part of your recruitment strategy. Recruitee.com have some great tips for integrating digital innovations into the recruitment process. Closely matching your recruitment technique to your company’s culture also allows you to see how well candidates will respond to, and integrate with the current working order of things – it may also give you the opportunity to receive feedback and opinions for improvement.

5.  Always be Looking

50% of employees see their current position as a placeholder and job satisfaction is no longer a guarantee of employee loyalty, therefore, it is impossible to know whether your current employees are planning to remain with the company. This does not mean that you should be hiring continuously, rather you should be making connections within your industry, reaching out to potential candidates and keeping them informed about future possibilities, so that they are primed and ready to commit, should the opportunity become available. Bas Kohnke, co-founder at Impraise says:

 “It can take a great deal of time to find the right candidates once you need them, so make sure you start looking for new talent way ahead. Developers especially can be hard to find, so ideally keep a watch list of talent that you can approach later.”

Whilst putting so much thought into a start-up recruitment campaign may seem daunting, these steps are the foundation of the recruitment process which will stay with the company throughout its growth and expansion. Even when you have grown to the point where you can justify an HR department, these guidelines can still be used to hire the best talent for your business.

5 Legal Tips That Can Save Your Startup

Startup entrepreneurs are rarely legal experts and as a result there is an inherent risk that the smallest contractual loophole or badly written IP clause can expose their entire enterprise. This was (and continues to be) perfectly demonstrated in popular TV show Silicon Valley, where cheap lawyers and poorly constructed contracts cause never-ending problems for the Pied Piper guys . Though obviously for comedic effect, it’s not so funny in the real world and this made me think about my own experiences leading up to, and during, the sale of E-Tale. For the small percentage of startups that successfully navigate the early years and scale to the point of sale, organising your legal documents in advance will save you a lot of time and stress  (and cost!) at the due-diligence stage.

 

5 things you can do now to get your legals on-point

1. Set up a ‘Deal Room’ 

Organising your documents in a tidy, cloud-based solution like Google Drive or Dropbox is a great way to start getting your house in order. It makes it easy to see what you’ve got, identify any gaps that need filling, and gives clarity when you come to reviewing and updating it all. The advantage of building out a ‘deal room’ early, is to avoid confusion later on in retrospectively trying to compile bundles of documents. Basically, when you begin looking for a buyer, or you’re approached about a buyout, you are hit with the realisation that you need to give the buyer access to ALL your contracts and legal documents. Storing these digitally would cut out a lot of manual search time, and you can update them easily. You can also share your confidential documents and data in real-time with the involved parties, whilst keeping them secure.

 

2. Don’t try to do legal documents on the cheap!

If you intend on selling your company, raising money or just want to have a well-run business, your legal docs need to be watertight! Downloading templates you find online puts you at high risk of getting it seriously wrong. I see them the same way as i see pre-built website themes – they look ok, but still require a lot of customisation to work to your specific requirements. The devil is in the detail. Some of the terms may not apply and you may not even be sure if it’s right for your business model. There is a reason people study law for years rather than just downloading generic templates and filling in the blanks. Try and work with a reputable law firm to create a template for your documents, contracts and shareholder agreements.

 

3. Get a standard commercial contract 

Come up with a great standard commercial contract in favour of your company. Every company should have a standard form contract when dealing with customers or clients. The paradox is, there really isn’t a “standard form contract,” as every contract can be tailored to be more favourable to one side or the other. The key is to start with YOUR form of contract, make sure it’s broad enough to cover all eventualities, and hope the other side doesn’t negotiate it too much. Your standard contract should outline all the key responsibilities undertaken by each employee, their conduct, as well as their stock options or salary. It should also highlight your company’s confidentiality and intellectual properties, along with any competition clauses, forbidding employees to discuss any of your companies details externally. Confidentiality is crucial to the success of your company and the protection of your USP

 

4. Chose a decent lawyer

If you have ever purchased a house you will know the quality and the services lawyer provide can vary wildly. Ideally you need a firm that is big enough to cope with complex scenarios and small enough to care about you. Meet them and get a feel for how proactive they will be. Cutting corners when choosing a legal representative may seem like a good idea to save a few hundred but can cost thousands in the long run, especially if they don’t have the level of expertise you require. Contact different lawyers, check out their portfolio of work, get recommendations from business associates and others that you trust. Think of it as a long-term relationship with someone – you need to know that you are compatible with them!

 

5. Get your employment contracts in order 

Startups often run into problems when they don’t maintain adequate employment documentation. You should prepare a core group of employment documents that each employee is required to sign. A starting list of employment documents for a new company would typically include Stock Option documents, confidentiality agreements and IP ownership clarity. There numerous examples of companies that almost tripped up over this – one of the biggest is Facebook and the confusion it caused around ownership with some of founding partners.

 

Don’t leave yourself contractually exposed – put these tips in place and you will avoid looking like Silicon Valley’s Gavin Belson, when you realise your employment contracts aren’t valid and you just lose a lawsuit you thought you were guaranteed to win…

My 5 Keys To Successfully Funding Your Startup

It seems as though Brexit speculation will never end, for start-ups in particular, there is still a lot of uncertainty and it is important that entrepreneurs arm themselves with enough information to face whatever may come from the current political climate.

There have been some high profile investments in the news which are showing the continued strength of the UK’s tech hub status, such as Entrepreneur First – an accelerator business which has successfully funded 75 start-ups, with a further three investment deals signed since the EU Referendum result. WeSwap, the peer-to-peer travel money start-up has raised $6.5m, showing no signs of letting the referendum slow them down.

The Telegraph reported that European investors have not been put off by the referendum results, still aware of the benefits of investing in start-ups within the UK’s tech-hub. The wealth of education opportunities, tax benefits and the large English-speaking market are still huge benefits in the business world and the country’s politics do not seem to have impacted on the great reputation we have.

The drop in the value of the pound has given foreign investors and opportunity to invest in the companies which were previously too expensive to assist. No-one is sure how long the dip in value will last, but at least there is a silver-lining for start-ups in that foreign investors still know that UK start-ups are strong seeds and worth investing in, especially now that a window of opportunity is present.

However, while attracting investment is import if you’re looking to rapidly grow your businesses, there are a number of reasons why self-funding (or “bootstrapping”) is actually a better way for a start-up to grow.

Is It Absolutely Necessary?

My perspective on funding is that there are clearly benefits to have a bank full of cash. You can hire the right people, you can get the office where you want it to be (geographically and operationally). However, there is a beauty, and a certain clarity, in starting with nothing.

There is a saying: “the only thing scarier than a man with everything to lose, is one with nothing to lose”. I found that starting a business with no money taught me how to be frugal and go without certain expensive luxuries. It made me think carefully about where we were spending the money, and why. It also meant that we grew our company in line with our financial growth so that we never over committed. We didn’t have finance agreements for IT equipment – not because we didn’t want it – we simply couldn’t have it! So everything was bought and paid for up front. This meant that we retained ownership and therefore control in the direction of the company.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if you do have investors in place they will often look to put clauses in place where they can take control of the company if targets are not met. This combined with the fact that it’s more than common to be over optimistic when presenting projected figures to an investor put the founding team in a tricky spot.

 

My 5 Keys To Investment Success

1. Do you really need it?

Think about if you really need money, or if it would just be nice to have more. If there is no real plan as to where the ‘wanted’ money is going, it can become more of a burden – unspent money will prove to investors that you didn’t need the amount you asked for and will show bad planning skills, whilst money which is spent unnecessarily will cause problems further down the line.

 

2. Look for the Right Partners.

Investors who understand the realistic growth of the company are more valuable than those who are willing to throw money around without asking about goals. Investors should be partners and it is important for them to care about the growth of your business – and in order to care, they need to know what to expect. This applies the other way, too. If your investors grant money without fully understanding what they will be getting in return, you may find yourself in a situation where investors expect more than you can provide – or something completely different.

 

3. Don’t make ‘getting funded’ a goal unto itself.

Getting funding gives you the opportunity to started on your journey with a better chance of success. But it doesn’t mean that success is guaranteed. Try to avoid making funding into a big goal, it is merely an early step toward other business-oriented goals.

 

4. Treat the money as your own.

Bearing in mind that money spent will impact the business valuation. E.g. If you forecast that your valuation will be 8 times profit, then every single pound spent unnecessarily is £8 less for your valuation!

 

5. Be transparent.

I think that it’s good to keep your team in the loop about the company objectives including financial ones. So let them know what money is in the bank and when it runs out. You will find a few sense of team spirit is created when people know that there isn’t an everlasting pot of cash. However, the fact that the business has procured finance can boost work ethic and morale.

 

These are my top 5 tips and they worked for me; maybe you have a different take on them, or maybe you’ve taken a different route to financing your startup? I’d like to know more: DM me on Twitter: @bradindigital or leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you.

 

  –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –

How Funding Works

I came across this great infographic on the Funders and Founders website that neatly explains the funding process, and the roles of the key protagonists, from startup to sale:

how-funding-works-infographic

 

 

 

The Startup Mentor: Product Development and Adaptation

Uncertainty is still a huge issue for small businesses, start-ups and entrepreneurs, especially in these Brexit times. The economy and the business landscape are very much in the hands of both politicians and the future business leaders. After discussing why now is the best time for business owners and start-ups to make their own mark on post-Brexit Britain, I want to now discuss how exactly to go about doing it. Following last week’s post on the importance of agility in start-ups, this week I want to narrow the focus to product development and how the ability and willingness to flex and adapt to the surroundings of the business are the key to navigating and staying afloat during the uncertain times which lie ahead.

Agile Principles

Lean product development is the application of a process to ensure that the product development cycle is responsive and flexible, so that changes can be made almost on the fly. A flexible approach allows start-ups to modify their products and services quickly to adapt to changing demands and respond to feedback in a sharp, intuitive way. By allowing for small, constant changes, businesses and start-ups eliminate the need for lengthy product development cycles, which can cause frustration to investors and cause them to lose interest in what may eventually become a successful product. An example of how lean development can be applied to digital product cycles has been investigated by PC Quest. 

The key lesson here is in bringing prospective clients into your circle of trust. There is always the option of creating a team of clients who get access to early versions of your product on the basis they give you honest feedback. You could even call this type of thing an ‘innovation committee’. If you have built a good relationship with some of your clients, they will value input on innovation. It gives them a sense of primacy and kudos that you respect their opinions; they will also appreciate having prioritised access to new tools or services that may give them a competitive advantage.

The Lean Methodology Checklist

1. Determine whether the product is interesting.

A common mistake made by start-ups is to rush head-first into designing and creating a product that they think people want, and then approaching investors with a prototype after internal reviews. In reality, talking to prospective investors – the businesses and organisations who really may be interested in the product – before creating anything beyond a brainstorm or an idea, is the best practise.

When I started I was meeting prospective customers before a line of code had even been written! The idea is to position it as a passive request for their opinion and expertise: “I’m planning on building something that would work like this, what do you think? Would this be useful in your space? How can I improve it? How could I make this an easy decision for you”.

 

2. Keep the initial ideas basic

Start-ups don’t need an extensive master plan, the key to being flexible is taking a more laid-back approach to developing products. A rigid, unyielding development strategy offers no flexibility and can be shaken apart by the slightest unforeseen complication.

That is not to say that start-ups should not be looking into all possible eventualities. As we discussed last week, having multiple basic plans to account for a range of possibilities is better than one military-style plan which will not hold up if external factors differ from the expected.

 

3. Experimentation Is more effective than extensive planning

Smaller changes and trying something new is much more effective and adaptable than planning an extensive design without any feedback. Make smaller changes based on first impressions, rather than redesigning the entire product at each stage. Over-engineering causes start-ups to lose sight of the goal – which is creating a product which has an advantage over competitors and piques the interest of investors.

Regarding over-engineering… What is often see is that  businesses load up on features and they think that they will offer so much that people can’t say no. This is generally a fallacy. If this is a new-to-market product it actually makes it harder for people to understand. Look at the iPhone, when it was announced the CEO of Blackberry (RIM) stated that he wasn’t concerned because they didn’t have the features the top of the range Blackberry, specifically a qwerty keyboard:

The most exciting mobile trend is[…]full Qwerty keyboards. I’m sorry, it really is. I’m not making this up. People are running out of their two-year contracts and they’re coming into the stores and they want to be able to do Facebook and they want to be able to do instant messaging and they want to be able to do e-mail and they ask for those features thinking that they’re going to get another flip phone and they’re walking out with a (BlackBerry) Curve or a Pearl because they’re the best devices for doing those kinds of activities. And so what is the defining factor? The keyboard.”

What he demonstrated by saying this was; whilst Blackberry were busy trying to build ‘features’, Apple simply made a product that was easier to use- and therefore easier to choose – and we all know what happened after that…

 

4. Keep it small, keep it simple

Small changes are quicker to make and easier to plan than large changes – the best changes are those which respond to the external feedback without affecting any other factor of the product. As a simple example, a plastic-cased product which receives the feedback ‘This would be more exciting if it were available in metallic silver’; the answer is not to recreate the casing in metal, but to apply a layer of paint or use a different colour of plastic. This keeps all other factors – ones which have not received any complaints – intact.

 

5. Maintain feedback

Little and often is the key to maintaining an adaptable approach to product development, where small, regular changes are the aim, feedback which suggests a lot of changes, but which is only received occasionally will not be practical.  A regular reporting system, and a ‘one feature at a time’ approach is much more useful.

 

Product development is arguably the most important focus when planning a start-up, each improvement leans toward a more successful end product and early interest and input from investors give start-ups the opportunity to create a product that the larger clients will already be familiar with and connected to. If this is a problem that you are facing right now as an entrepreneur, or if you have a totally different take on it, I’d love to hear from you. Please post a comment below, or connect with me on Twitter: @bradindigital

The Importance Of Agility

Now, more than ever, it is important for start-ups to look at the way they operate, and plan ahead to ensure that they are able to handle whatever the economy, politics and the business world tries to throw at them. The residual fallout from the Brexit results has shown that the unpredictable is always possible, even if it seems unlikely and start-ups find themselves in a vulnerable position in uncertain times such as these. So, how can new businesses prepare themselves for the journey ahead of them?

The founding principle of a start-up plan needs to be agility – or the ability to pivot an idea in reaction to – or even preparation for – an uncontrollable external factor.

 

Competitive Advantage

Adopting an agile, or flexible approach to your business gives you a competitive advantage. Big companies and brands are used to working with the larger agencies, where almost every business process seems to take twice as long as it should to be completed! Big companies will weigh the risks of working with start-ups against the sheer hunger, ambition and desire to raise the bar which is often seen in independent start-ups. This leads to the larger brands often working with smaller businesses and start-ups, in order to access the best talents and innovation on the market – regardless of how big business has been carried out in the past. This sort of change is already happening at places like financial services firm Fidelity who are using small incubator teams to solve specific problems.

Big organisations are also fond of working with businesses who are able to work around them, evolving and developing their products and services to match the brand’s needs perfectly. Being agile means that start-ups can bring Clients into their team and build products around them. Also, when you are a start-up working with a top tier brand, there is no question over who is the big fish and who is the little fish. When companies deal with large suppliers, they often feel like there is a power struggle. So the little start-up where the founder is on the phone can sound very appealing.

 

Changing Your Outlook – Becoming Agile

It may not be easy to change your outlook on business practices – education, tutorials and journals seem to be set in a certain mind-set of ‘this is how it’s always been done, therefore this way is correct’. However, a different way of thinking about how you market your products and how your products and services will benefit clients during times of uncertainty will make a huge difference to your business operations.

 

Meera Kaul, writing in Forbes, advises that start-ups should plan for the future based on their own rules, without trying to imitate those followed by small companies. She poses:

Start-ups are not companies. And they never will be. The parameters and thesis that define corporate success may not apply to them. A start-up is an experiment. The entrepreneur or a group of people with the acumen to identify an opportunity and match their skills, create a solution to meet the opportunity or gap. They possess the necessary skills to execute the vision, or have the capability of executing the skills.”

I think she is right, start-ups cannot be defined by the same rules as companies, especially those who have a reliable business model, which is so ingrained in society that changing times seem to leave them unaffected. Start-ups must be more experimental, ready to change and adapt with the times and flexible – just to survive long enough to become established.

Planning for Every Possible Outcome

Alison Freer advises that start-ups and small businesses need to plan for every potential outcome – even those less savoury and unwanted outcomes. Planning ahead gives the start-up the opportunity to see each eventuality and have a solid plan in place to overcome, circumvent and weather whatever situation happens. There’s a lot to be said for positive thinking, but denial that other outcomes are possible is sheer naivety.

As the effect of Brexit become more and more volatile and apparent, you will see more big businesses beginning to question the necessity of expenses as margins are squeezed. This means that highly agile and cost-effective suppliers are far more appealing. Therefore, providing that the start-up is themselves cost effective – i.e. not having a Soho office and a company Mercedes – you have the opportunity to take away business from the big guys,  especially when the barrier to entry is now so low.