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report at a glance
start-up market research
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introduction Entrepreneurs, by their very nature, challenge the established order with new and exciting ideas and concepts. They improve upon what we already know and, increasingly aided by modern technology, create whole new markets: products and services, which fast become must-have.
national economic growth. Our analysis consists of two strands of investigation. The first is a survey of over 1,000 UK small businesses and start-ups. We wanted to get under their skin, to reveal the common traits shared in how they are doing business and the challenges they are facing.
Today’s tough economic times have produced a For the second strand of research, we new breed of business innovators who succeed gathered 11 leaders of some of the UK’s most through an innovative combination of agility, innovative, ideas-driven, collaborative strategy and and successful new model customer-driven adaptation, businesses and asked them which allows them to thrive The tough to unpick and explain the rather than merely survive. economic times motivations, strategies and As the UK’s largest pay-asthinking that have enabled you-drive car network, Zipcar have produced them to launch, flourish and disrupted the car ownership expand. a new breed model, and created a new approach better suited to modern urban realities.
As providers of a convenient, flexible and cost-effective solution to urban transport needs, we feel a natural affinity with the men and women behind the latest generation of start-ups that have set out to disrupt the status quo and challenge traditional business models.
of business innovators who succeed through agility, collaborative strategy and customer driven adaptation
Working in partnership with StartUp Britain and Ashridge Business School, we have set out to uncover what the special ingredient is that makes them succeed and what it is that makes them tick. I am proud to introduce The Smarter Business Blueprint: Insights from SME trailblazers, an interactive report that combines original quantitative and qualitative research to outline the necessary ingredients for SMEs and start-ups to thrive today.
It’s a robust analysis of the smart, agile new companies that are reshaping the UK’s business landscape, and promising to spearhead future
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Their observations and insights about spotting opportunities to disrupt old industries with paradigmbusting new models struck a chord with our own experience. So did their suggestion that ownership is often a thing of the past and that the future is increasingly pay-per-use – be that for cars, office space, or even people.
At Zipcar, we work closely with SMEs and start-ups across the UK by providing them with access to a range of cars and vans on a pay-per-use basis in convenient, on-street locations. With our recent research revealing that the company vehicles of small businesses sit idle for an incredible two-thirds (63 per cent) of the week, we predicted that, as well as smarter transport, there must be other smarter ways of doing business that can help today’s start-ups to get going and thrive. We are living proof that this disruptive approach pays dividends for the
We feel a natural affinity with the men and women behind the latest generation of start-ups that have set out to disrupt the status quo and challenge traditional business models entrepreneurs who adopt it, and we work closely with business large and small-ranging from florists to accountants to film producers. Intrigued by the common themes that were beginning to emerge, we decided to go one step further and ask a panel of successful entrepreneurs to outline their own inspirational journeys. From this, we have built a six-point blueprint to growth and profit, providing what we hope is an incredibly valuable tool for anyone running or looking to start a business. The insight gained from our panel was fascinating. They explained how to hire top talent without having to pay top salaries; how to use data-mining to fine-tune your business model and social media to spread the word, and why it’s best to launch long before you feel you’re ready.
Mark Walker General Manager Zipcar UK
Winning the battle against corporate inertia and cutting costs by collaboration were other topics that our panel covered with refreshing honesty and enthusiasm. This report has been an inspiring and affirming experience for us. We’re certain that it will become an essential source of reference and inspiration for our fellow mould-breakers: the new start-ups and expanding SMEs setting out on their own journey to re-shape the business landscape in the UK.
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report at a glance Background In April 2013 Zipcar partnered with national enterprise campaign StartUp Britain and leading academic institution Ashridge Business School to produce and publish The Smarter Business Blueprint report. This report combines quantitative and qualitative research to identify the key attitudes and business approaches behind the UKs most successful start-ups and SMEs. The aim of the report is to provide a blueprint for start-up survival and success; a source of reference and guidance for present and future companies as they set up business in the UK.
Research methodology • Quantitative – survey of 1,296 UK start-ups and SMEs, coordinated by StartUp Britain: Survey respondents were made of StartUp Britain’s membership base. The survey sought to uncover the common challenges facing Britain’s start-up community and the solutions they are deploying to conquer them.
selected based on a combination of their innovative and disruptive business models, as well as their individual success stories.
Blueprint summary The focus group discussion and supporting survey data combined to highlight six key approaches and considerations for the budding UK start-up:
Adopt Beta Attitudes – A startup should never be regarded as a finished product. An experimental work-in-progress approach is essential to disrupting established industries and markets, and adapting quickly to the competitive landscape.
Be a collaborative cost cutter – Sharing costs and services is crucial to start-up scalability, efficiency, cost savings and long term survival. This collaborative approach can extend from IT equipment and office costs, to staff and transport.
Use Staffing 2.0 – A compelling vision and equity in the business should be utilised to attract, retain and • Qualitative – focus group discussion motivate the world-class team needed to build a company from the ground involving 11 small business leaders, up. A step away from the traditional hosted by Ashridge Business School: business world towards something The participating businesses were
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more exciting and inspiring can be a more powerful motivator than money and pay increases.
Get tech savvy – Technology should sit at the heart of today’s smart businesses and start-ups should maximise the potential of online by ensuring they launch and maintain a brand-specific and userfriendly software interface. This online presence should extend to social media engagement, a fundamental way to cut the costs of traditional marketing and advertising.
Battle the box tickers – Determination and persistence are essential when attempting to disrupt long-established supply chains and modes of operation. Focus on proving the value of the model to key stakeholders and expect to come up against both external and internal inertia on route.
Stay forward-focused – Avoid micro-management and only be a perfectionist about those things that are essential to the business vision and its survival, be a pragmatist about everything else. Together the research findings lay down an invaluable six-point blueprint for future UK business start-ups.
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Zipcar partnered with Ashridge Business School to host a focus group discussion involving 11 small business leaders. The aim: to work together to outline a blueprint for start-up survival
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start-up market research
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key ﬁndings What are the rules of business in 2013? 1,296 Start-Up Britain members were polled. Here are the results...
Fast movers ...on the road to success IDEA
Access to finance Cash ﬂow Time Reaching customers Resourcing constraints Recruiting right skills
45% 43% 42% 33% 27% 17%
Within 6 months of initial business idea... ...60% make the first moves to start their business
More than 1 in 2 say it is essential
Sharing to survive
Gut feeling ‘gut instinct’
What drove you to start your own business?
to share resources to ensure survival ‘extensive market research’
Together we are stronger
13% currently 40% share resources
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14% plan to share over the next year
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key ďŹ ndings Money walks How to incentivise the talent?
Top 3 shared infrastructure services Technology
The business vision
Chance to make a difference
Tech set Top 3 shared human services Accounting
Rely on technology to function
Todayâ€™s tough economic times have produced a new breed of business innovators, who succeed through a combination or agility, collaborative strategy and customer-driven adaptation, which allows them to thrive, rather than merely survive.
Mark Walker, General Manager, Zipcar UK
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An emerging generation of start-up pioneers are building new model businesses founded on collaboration, vision, passion and innovation, by keying into the exciting technological possibilities of our online age 14 Report 3.indd 14-15
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the blueprint Zipcar recruited a team of 11 of the UK’s best and brightest entrepreneurs and asked them to outline an inspirational six-point blueprint for launching a successful start-up business today
Adopt beta attitudes
Today’s start-up business should never be regarded as a finished product. Instead, entrepreneurs must aim to keep their project fresh and innovative by maintaining the experimental work-in-progress approach of the initial launch stage. The aim of the successful start-up is to disrupt the existing business model of the industry incumbents. So, rather than attempting to build and launch a perfect service or product, it’s better to send a Beta model out into the marketplace, and use customer feedback to fine-tune the business as it evolves. As James Davis, CEO of UPad, an online lettings agent, says: ‘Get your product or technology 80 per cent ready and then bash it out there. That’s the only way to find out if you’ve got something that people want.’
‘My naivety helped me hugely,’ says Darren Fell, co-founder & MD of Crunch, an online
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‘If I’d known how complex it was going to be to challenge centuries of established practice in the accountancy industry, and the backlash we would face in doing so, I might not have had the nerve to do it.’ A Beta attitude must run through the very structure of the business in order to allow entrepreneurs and their teams to adapt their original concept to inevitable strategic changes of direction necessitated by the realities of the marketplace, and shifts in an often challenging commercial environment.
Drop any pre-conceived notions and accept that your business vision may not finish up where you expected. That’s the agility of creativity
In older business models, naivety is often regarded as a dangerous weakness. Modern entrepreneurs should see it as one of their most powerful weapons, enabling them to take risks and exploit opportunities that their more hide-bound competitors may have missed. Indeed, according to Zipcar’s quantitative survey of 1,296 UK start-up and small business innovators, 34 per cent of entrepreneurs say that starting something without having all the answers is an essential quality for an entrepreneur.
accounting service or freelancers, contractors and small businesses.
‘Drop any preconceived notions and accept that your business vision may not finish up where you expected. That’s the agility of creativity,’ says Mark Antwis, MD of Brompton Dock, a convenient bike hire service from on-street docking systems.
‘Social media caused our business to expand at an incredible rate. It was like being on a motorbike at 100mph and not knowing where the brake was. Only our in-built agility allowed us to keep pace with demand.’ In order to have the confidence to maintain this level of adaptability, a start-up entrepreneur must have a solid belief in his own business instincts and the efficacy of his original vision. ‘Trust your gut instincts,’ says Jonathan Brenner, co-founder of Lawyers on Demand, an on-demand law firm. ‘It’s your concept and you know where you want it to go.’
Be a collaborative cost-cutter
Hierarchies are anathema to the new model start-up. A flat, collaborative company structure that can scale up cheaply and easily is vital both to allow efficient, innovative problem solving, and to keep costs down. Eight out of 10 (82 per cent) entrepreneurs rely on collaboration to build and grow their business, and more than half (55 per cent) say it is essential to their survival, according to Zipcar’s survey. As Darren Fell says: ‘My business is designed to conserve the close relationships of a start-up as
Premiership football teams loan their talent to others. That’s what we are - a talent sharing business. Owning staff, cars, offices are all concepts whose time has come and gone we get bigger. Scalability was always part of the plan. It will split into small 100-strong pods as we expand, creating self-sufficient, collaborative units who all know each other’s names and have their own Christmas parties.’ Within this non-hierarchical structure, entrepreneurs must foster a questioning, freeto-fail ambience that will facilitate the early diagnosis and cure of problems that could prove costly if allowed to go unnoticed or untreated for any length of time. ‘Every member of the team must feel free to question everything at any time without fear of any career consequences,’ says Mark Antwis. ‘That way problems are spotted fast - and solved fast too.’
‘Allow your people to fail, but enable them to fail well. It is not a problem to fail on well thought out process that you can move on from, and learn from,’ says Philip Macartney, Commercial Director of Citysocialiser, a social discovery network. Collaboration as a tool for reducing costs and encouraging flexibility and dynamism should be extended to company car, office and staffing options too. Modern start-ups should collaborate with pay-as-you-go model companies and clients to avoid the expense and administrative complexity of maintaining corporate office facilities, owning or leasing a permanent vehicle fleet or hiring a complement of full-time staff. ‘The idea that ownership of staff is nine-tenths of the law is seriously out-dated,’ says Jonathan Brenner. ‘Premiership football teams loan their talent to others. That’s what we are - a talent sharing business. Owning staff, cars, offices are all concepts whose time has come and gone.’
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the blueprint 03
Use Staffing 2.0
Start-ups must to adopt a new attitude to recruitment . Unlike a traditional business, competitive salary offers are much less of a motivator for the world-class team that an entrepreneur should be seeking to put together. As James Layfield, CEO of Central Working, the ideal environment for growing businesses says:
Start-ups are where the best graduates want to be now, not corporates, because that’s where the passion, challenge and inspiration is ‘Entrepreneurs are the rock stars of today. It’s the challenge, not the salary, which pushes their buttons.’ Rather than putting a start-up’s fledgling finances under pressure by attempting to compete for talent with high salary offers, startups should consider offering equity instead. Indeed less than a third of start-ups (30%) rely on cash rewards to lure talented staff, according to Zipcar’s survey. ‘Money isn’t a deciding factor for real talent,’ says Darren Fell. ‘Initially, we gave shareholdings to our technology team. ‘One guy gave up a £150k a year job for £600 a month salary for six months because he shared our vision.’ Another powerful tool to lure high-grade candidates is the promise of working in an exciting and innovative environment, unbounded by the bureaucracy and hierarchies of a major corporate business.
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‘Start-ups are where the best graduates want to be now, not corporates, because that’s where the passion, challenge and inspiration is,’ says Simon Campbell, CEO, of The Sandpit, an investment and sales acceleration business. ‘Get them to buy into your dream by leading from the front.’ Entrepreneurs must look beyond the CV s and formal qualifications, and seek out raw talent. ‘I’m not that interested in your CV or where you got your MBA from – or even if you’ve got one,’ says Philip Macartney, Commercial Director, Citysocialiser. ‘I’m looking at you and thinking: have you got the unique personality and drive to do the job that I need doing? I believe I can spot it when it’s there.’ Crowd-sourcing expert staff is another innovative recruitment technique being deployed by entrepreneurs. ‘We put our projects out to the crowd online and it’s up to our community to submit their ideas,’ says Adam Ball, General Manager of the Concept Cupboard.
‘It allows us to source great design ideas at no cost, and to pinpoint the best person to fill each brief, without the expense and risk of hiring someone full time.’ Start-up leaders must also understand that team members who were ideally suited to the launch stage may not have the necessary professional outlook and skill set to take the business on to the next stage of its development and expansion. ‘Accept that the people you start with may not stay the whole course,’ says Simon Prockter, CEO of Housebites, a service that offers food cooked by top class chefs delivered to your door.
Modern start-up culture would be impossible without the incredible networking powers of the Internet. The rapid development of smartphone technology, and its associated ecosystem of apps, allows levels of customer and market engagement and communication that were undreamt of even ten years ago. Nine out of 10 (93 per cent) of entrepreneurs’ business models now rely on technology to function, according to Zipcar’s survey. So, it’s crucial for 21st -century entrepreneurs to maximise the potential of online digital technologies by ensuring that they launch and maintain a brand-specific and user-friendly software interface.
A start-up’s software must incorporate stateof-the-art data mining capabilities in order to capture and analyse the customer interactions that will play a crucial part in shaping the evolution of the business. ‘Data is your biggest ally,’ says Prockter, of Housebites. ‘It tells you what your customers really want and lets you become a business that they will want to be part of.’ The explosion of social media has revolutionised start-up culture, opening up the possibility of online dialogues with customers that benefit both parties by shaping consumer-friendly, ultra-responsive businesses.
Data is your biggest ally. It tells you what your customers really want and lets you become a business that they will want to be part of.
For this purpose, start-ups must aim to recruit and finance a top class in-house technology team as soon as cash flow and revenue will allow. ‘They support everything you do,’ says Campbell, of The Sandpit. ‘They are one of your core competencies. So, pay whatever it takes to get the best, and keep them in-house. ‘These are the people who will ensure that your online presence is cutting edge and does everything possible to enhance your customer’s experience. They are vital, so look after them.’
Entrepreneurs should take advantage of the readiness of consumers to engage through sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest by launching low-cost social media tools and online viral campaigns to spread a message about new services and products. ‘It’s cheaper and simpler to get your message across than ever before because of the Internet,’ says Matt King, MD of WeQ4U, a mobile app that offers a solution to phone call queuing. ‘Social media gives you more opportunities to interact with your customers. That’s incredibly mutually supportive. You answer their questions, and they answer yours, and you build a mutually-beneficial relationship built on trust and loyalty.’
‘You need to know when it’s best for both of you to part company because having someone on board who doesn’t share your vision as it evolves can be fatal to your business.’
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the blueprint 05
Battle the box tickers
Corporate inertia is one of the biggest barriers to launching and establishing a new start-up. In fact, a quarter (25 per cent) of start-ups are actually set up to escape bureaucracy of corporate environments, according to Zipcar’s survey. Major players who were once innovators in your chosen industry are often unable, or unwilling, to accept the arrival of potentially disruptive emergents. ‘Old innovation is the greatest barrier to new innovation,’ says Jonathan Brenner, co-founder, Lawyers on Demand. ‘All those corporates sitting there, telling you that you’re wrong - and crazy - for trying to change the way that things have always been done. You need to prove the value of your model early, build momentum and convert them to your way of thinking. The corporates now come to us for advice on making their lawyers as happy and successful as ours.’ Potential customers will initially be suspicious of a new service or product, and unwilling to disrupt long-established supply chains and modes of operation. Start-ups must have high levels of persistence and, most importantly, an offer that is demonstrably better than what it aims to replace in order to overturn the old order. ‘There are a lot of box tickers in a big company and a lot of inertia,’ says Matt King, MD of WeQ4U. ‘But you can convert them to your business model with determination and perseverance – and by showing them that what you do works.’
Agility is an intrinsic component of a new model start-up, and must be utilised to the full by entrepreneurs to out-manoeuvre major competitors whose ability to react fast to market opportunities will be hampered by their complex, hierarchical company structure. As Elizabeth Obee, Head of Marketing Communication and Partnership at Funding Circle, an online investor marketplace, says: ‘Major corporates are massive, clumsy battleships. We are a nifty little dinghy.’ ‘We can change our business priorities on a day-to-day basis. A corporate can’t change anything in less than 12 months.’ Inertia can be an internal as well as an external barrier to start-up success. Entrepreneurs are often more than willing to go the extra mile, emotionally and in terms of work rate and hours, for a business that they conceived and own.
You have to accept that it’s not life or death for your employees in the same way it is for you. So you need to infect them with your passion, and make coming to work fun and exciting However, a clever start-up leader must be willing to accept that some of his employees may lack the same visceral attachment to the business and find other ways to inspire them to high levels of commitment and energy. ‘You have to accept that it’s not life-or-death for your employees in the same way that it is for you,’ says Simon Prockter. ‘So, you need to infect them with your passion, and make coming to work fun, exciting and challenging.’
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A strategy to allow a start-up to flourish and grow in the future needs to be built around workload prioritisation, a thoughtful engagement with the board of directors, the recruitment of customers as brand ambassadors, and a constant search for new talent. Entrepreneurs need to resist the temptation to micro-manage every aspect of their business, risking burnout through overwork as a result. ‘Only be a perfectionist about the one or two things that need to be perfect. Be a pragmatist about everything else,’ says Elizabeth Obee. ‘There are only so many hours in the day, and you will kill yourself unless you learn to prioritise.’ Having too little time is listed by nearly four out of 10 entrepreneurs (38 per cent) as one of the top three challenges when planning for the future, according to Zipcar’s survey. Finding ways to embrace social media in order to cut overheads is the biggest futurefacing difficulty for 57 per cent, with overregulation a major barrier to future development for 40 per cent of start-ups and small businesses.
job of bringing the board along with them into their envisioned future as a chance to test and fine-tune their long-term plans for the business. ‘Preparing reports for the Board can sometimes feel like one of the biggest distractions,’ says Simon Prockter. ‘But marshalling your arguments for them can help you see the way ahead.’ Start-ups need to see customers as far more than consumers of their service or product. Instead, they should be recruited through social media strategies as cheerleaders for the growing brand. Their Facebook ‘Likes’ and Twitter recommendations will carry far more weight with other potential customers than any in-house marketing campaign. ‘Word of mouth, offline and through social media, is the driver of our business, says Darren Fell. ‘So we want fans, not customers. They will build excitement around your brand and bring new business on board.’
Only be a perfectionist about the one or two things that need to be perfect. Be a pragmatist about everything else
Building a good working relationship with the start-up’s board of directors can feel like an unwanted and irritating diversion from the dayto-day task of growing a business. But successful entrepreneurs should see the
Entrepreneurs must avoid recruiting only for existing vacancies. Their long-term recruitment policy should be based upon an on-going assessment of available talent for roles that may emerge in the future.
‘We recruit constantly, even when we’ve got no vacancies,’ says Simon Campbell of the Sandpit. ‘You need to have new talent in your sights at all times. The time might not be right for either of you. But in six months or a year, you’ll have a gap and know exactly who to fill it with. They are your future.’
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A snapshot of the 11 focus group attendees and what makes them and their respective businesses successful
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case studies Em. Ita vollestem. Tati accum, accus arum as quiataerio core quo omnihitias dissimus aborendit acium rehent. Sequam labo. Nam fugia num eum expelent volupta epudia cori idem eturibu scipsa velitatia ant quidis sa consers pitiae solo milit eum landemp ernatius asint licienihilit qui cus experion re por a cuscit la sedi qui cone nonem rehenis exces aliquam aut asiminto volum d Sequam labo. Nam fugia num eum expelent volupta epudia cori idem eturibu scipsa velitatia ant quidis sa consers vpitiae solo milit eum landemp ernatius asint licienihilit qui cus experion re por a cuscit la
Darren Fell Co-founder & MD Crunch Business model: Online accounting service for freelancers, contractors and small businesses Motivation to innovate: Technology start-ups have a tendency to look for possibilities in the sexiest, flashiest sectors, but I do the reverse. It’s the oldest, most boring industries where things have been done the same way for hundreds of years that have the biggest possibilities. My biggest challenge: My co-founder, Steve Crouch had an established accountancy practice but his traditional accountant’s team laughed when I told about my humans-andsoftware model to change small business accountancy
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forever. We had to turn to a younger, more open-minded generation of accountancy experts who were willing to buy into our idea and work at Crunch. The secret of my success: Our business model suits the customer rather than the accountant, scrapping expensive hourly rates in favour of a basic £700 a year flat fee that covers unlimited customer service and access to the software and apps. How I beat the competition: Our approach had been carefully and painstakingly thought out to create a unified software, accountants and customer service package, all under one roof. So, the competition are playing catch-up – and they have a long way to go. My leadership style: We have an open-plan mind set. No boardrooms, or executive offices, a flat structure with everyone sitting side-by-side, with their sleeves rolled up and ready to help with any problem that arises.
Simon Prockter Chief Executive Officer Housebites Business model: Home-delivered take-away meals cooked by top-class chefs My motivation to innovate: I could see the UK’s takeaway industry, saturated with bad pizzas and curries, needed to be torn apart. I wanted to create a model that created high-quality food in an open transparent way and secured better money for lots of talented, but poorly paid chefs. My biggest challenge: We had a high churn rate at first because we could only afford to pay our chefs £30 a day. So we ‘bought’ customers with a marketing campaign and soon boosted our chefs’ pay to £200 a day. The secret of my success: We used a high press profile to establish a brand personality, then played the celebrity card. Our online data told us that the actor Michael Fassbender, the Blairs and Stephen Fry were ordering Housebites. We made that work for us. How I beat the competition: Closely monitoring our online feedback allowed us to transform ordering a takeaway from a guilty pleasure into a matter of pride because our customers can show off their good taste in food. My leadership style: I encourage an atmosphere in which ideas are allowed to flourish. Everyone is encouraged to suggest changes and if an idea is easy to introduce we just do it – whether the rest of us agree or not – and see whether it works.
Philip Macartney Commercial director Citysocializer Business model: Social discovery network Motivation to innovate: We had a single, simple question at the heart of our business that we ask ourselves to check we’re innovating in the right way: are we helping our customers to have more fun together? My biggest challenge: In our early days, we were almost too far ahead of the times. We were a social discovery business before the term had even been invented. It was hard to explain to potential investors and customers what we were doing without being able to say: ‘It’s a bit like that business over there.’ The secret of my success: It all comes down to one big factor: the vision and commitment of our CEO Sanchita Saha. She had an idea that no one else had ever had and the drive to make it a reality and bring everyone along with her. How I beat the competition: We’ve put in the hard yards offline – we have 300 people in the field, feeding back to us constantly. All that data from people on the ground means that we understand the market in incredible detail. vMy leadership style: Our business is a meritocracy that promotes on talent. Our culture is built on responsibility rather than blame.
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case studies Jonathan Brenner Co-founder Lawyers on Demand Business model: On-demand law firm Motivation to innovate: We played a hunch. We thought a revolution in law was just around the corner because we had clients telling us that they wanted to work in a different way and lawyers telling us they were sick of being in the office for 12 hours a day. My biggest challenge: We were working for a law firm with 200 partners and our model looked like it could cannibalise their
James Davis CEO Upad Business model: Online lettings agency Motivation to innovate: In 14 years as a landlord, I’d seen lettings were the poor relations of the property industry. I decided it was time to take it online in the same way that travel and dating had migrated, and make it an interesting, attractive career in its own right. My biggest challenge: Assembling the right team means switching off your own ego and hiring people who are a lot more talented than me in their particular area. You have to be confident in yourself and your vision to be able to do that.
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business and deconstruct a 400-year-old career path. The 2008 crash then increased the urgency for a more innovative approach to resourcing legal work, so it was then that they let us go ahead, giving them a share of the profits.
James Layfield CEO Central Working
Adam Bell General Manager Concept Cupboard
The secret of my success: We are always in Beta mode. We never, ever tell ourselves that this is the finished product and that we’ve done everything we can. It’s a counter-intuitive business model, but it keeps us nimble. How I beat the competition: We invented the wheel and then made our mistakes early and learned from them. Our competitors are years behind us, trying to reinvent our wheel. My leadership style: We’ve stuck to a core group of nine people in head office who are very, very open and collaborative, and we give our bright recruits total access to the people at the top.
Business model: Business model: Shared workspaces for small and medium businesses Motivation to innovate: I could see that the way we work is changing fast. I wanted to find a way to help freelancers and contractors to find a place to evolve their businesses that wasn’t just about renting them a desk.
vMy biggest challenge: People just couldn’t grasp what we were trying to do. In the end, I had to build a living, breathing £500k, prototype, using every penny I could scrape together or borrow. The secret of my success: You have to sell the sizzle of your idea to everyone around you, and ensure you’re fulfilling a mainstream need. A niche business that only appeals to about 10 people will not be improving and expanding in two years’ time. How I beat the competition: Exceptional customer service is the key to our model. We’re on the end of the phone or the computer seven days a week, including Bank Holidays, with trained, qualified staff. With us, it’s never a voicemail, or, worse still, no telephone number at all. My leadership style: We lead by example from the top by demonstrating drive and inspiration, and ask everyone to be part of the vision.
The secret of my success: We spotted and harnessed a tipping point. Millions of people are becoming entrepreneurial, through choice or necessity, and they are discovering that they need somewhere to work where they can get a lot of love and support. How I beat the competition: We’ve created a club that’s about business people interacting and finding ways to grow and develop together. Having a desk is almost incidental to our business model. My leadership style: We ask our people to believe in a vision of the future that is exciting with lots of opportunities to grow and get involved.
Online creative crowdsourcing service working with young talent. Motivation to innovate: We are constantly experimenting, but that doesn’t always mean inventing something brand new. It can mean looking at something that already exists from a new angle and finding ways to make it better. My biggest challenge: Getting the word out about Concept Cupboard on a shoestring. We overcame that problem by launching a multi-media offensive built around social media. The secret of my success: It’s tempting to say that we had some good luck: brilliant opportunity came up at a meeting that allowed us to really take off. But we worked hard, created a clear vision and had a great team in place, ready to pounce and take advantage of our luck when it came along. How I beat the competition: Our unique selling point is that we are socially motivated: we want graduates to be more employable and get good jobs because we were very recently one of them and understand exactly where they are coming from. My leadership style: We come from a generation who don’t really do hierarchies, so we trust our people to flourish if we leave them to get on with it. We want work to be cool and fun.
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case studies Matt King MD WeQ4U Business model: An award-winning mobile app that puts users through to UK 08 telephone numbers without queuing for free Motivation to innovate: Customer reaction is always my big motivator. I can’t wait to get my idea in front of real people so that I can start asking them: is that good for you? What works and what doesn’t? What extra things would you like? My biggest challenge: There is a massive amount of corporate inertia out there. The first barrier is to get them to listen to you. The second – and biggest one – is to get them to take
you seriously enough to do business with you. The secret of my success: We truly listen to our customers. We react every time one of our customers says ‘That’s brilliant – but that isn’t.’ It is like having 100,000 sets of eyes examining our business and helping us make it better. How I beat the competition: We’ve got a product that is unique in our marketplace so we don’t have any real competition. And staying small and focused gives you the agility to deal with whatever each day throws at you. My leadership style: We aim to give everyone a stake in the business so that they are not just turning up to claim their wages. And our motto: destroy a bad idea but not the individual that has it. We celebrate all ideas.
Mark Antwis MD Brompton Dock Business model: Simple convenient bike hire from on-street docking systems
Motivation to innovate: Innovation is not necessarily an idea. It is often about spotting that there is a connection between a number of existing elements and then finding a way to make that connection work as a business. My biggest challenge:
Simon Campbell CEO The Sandpit Business model: Investment and sales acceleration business Motivation to innovate: We want to naturally allow innovation by removing the barriers to it that established organisations often build. We are creating a culture in which all ideas, good or bad, are celebrated as a step toward changing other peoples’ lives. My biggest challenge: Finding the right people, and knowing when to say goodbye to others, are two of the hardest aspects of life in a start-up. You have to accept that sometimes the business moves on and people may not be right for a part of the journey.
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We started with one location in April 2012 and now have 22 docking stations spread between Exeter and Canterbury. The customer support, infrastructure, and security challenges are huge. The secret of my success: Celebrate that and have them understand that moving on is not a negative should that moment come. The secret of my success: I’m proud of the fact that we’ve created a business where excitement and the freedom to grow as a person are seen as equally valid as earnings as benchmarks of success. How I beat the competition: There are a lot of people out there who are all about launching early stage technology, and others who give direction to successful companies who want to scale up. We operated in the middle of those two sectors. My leadership style: Empowerment is what my business is all about – for our clients and for the people who work for me.
We had no pre-conceived notions of how our business would look. We had a vision of where we wanted to be in three or four years’ time, but we were completely open-minded about the path we would take to reach it. How I beat the competition: Talking problems through is how we solve them. No one had done what we are doing before, and we kept coming across difficulties which needed original solutions. My leadership style: I’m a natural delegator, not a control freak. I’m very happy to listen to my team, and discover that my idea is the worst one around the table.
Elizabeth Obee Head of Marketing Funding Circle Business model: Online investor marketplace Motivation to innovate: In-depth use of customer data is how we find ways to innovate. We use the latest technology to analyse our customers so fully that we often understand their needs better than they do. My biggest challenge: People are notoriously reluctant to change the way that they bank and we were saying: ‘We’re the new kids on the block – trust us!” It was a big ask. But we turned our newness into a news story and pushed our message out through unorthodox channels such as social media and QVC. The secret of my success: We have achieved a synergy of collaboration. Side-by-side and working together, our talented team are an even more formidable force than they are as individuals. You can never underestimate the power of a good team. How I beat the competition: We offered the most creative disruption of the banking sector after the 2008 financial crash. We enabled aggregate lending by lots of people to one person, and established a direct connection between lenders. My leadership style: Every solution is fully debated in a very inclusive environment and so no-one is shy about saying ‘That’s not going to work.’ I guess our only rule is that your argument only truly stands up if you can provide a fully thought through alternative plan.
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our partners Ashridge Business School Our research partner, Ashridge Business School, is ranked as the UK’s top business school in the Financial Times Custom Executive Education 2012 rankings and one of only two UK schools included in Business Week’s global top 20 rankings for custom and open programmes. Established in 1959, Ashridge provides a portfolio of qualifications, including MBA, MSc, Post-Graduate Certificate, Diploma and Doctorate programmes, to over 100 organisations and 9,000 managers each year. It is one of the very few schools worldwide to achieve triple accreditation from AMBA, EQUIS and AACSB; the UK, European and American accreditation bodies. Vicki Culpin, the Director of Research at Ashridge and a leading member of the school’s faculty, led our research team. Vicki studied Psychology at Manchester University, followed by an MPhil and PhD in Psychology from Lancaster University and an MSc in Applied Forensic Psychology from Leicester University. She is an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, a Chartered Psychologist and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
About StartUp Britain StartUp Britain is a national enterprise campaign that was created two years ago by eight independent entrepreneurs. Its mission is to spread the word across the UK that starting a business is possible for everyone, to share start-up learning and knowledge, and point new entrepreneurs toward the support they need. The campaign celebrates British entrepreneurship as an increasingly important driver of the country’s economy. There were more than 480k new businesses registered in the UK last year. Small and micro businesses employ 13 million people and generate £500bn in revenue. And StartUp Britain research shows the average entrepreneur generates an estimated £130k a year. Emma Jones is co-founder of the campaign and was awarded an MBE for services to enterprise in the Queen’s Jubilee Birthday Honours List. She also runs Enterprise Nation, an online business support membership. She studied Japanese and law at University and had sold her first business by the age of 27. These are the job creators and innovators of the future.
She works with a range of clients, nationally and internationally, from the public, private and cultural sectors and delivers guest lectures around the UK on a variety of psychological topics. She delivers workshops on a wide range of psychological issues including memory and leadership, works with clients to design and analyse psychometric tools and surveys, and supports the design, implementation and analysis of faculty research.
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zipcar for business Zipcar is the world’s largest pay-as-you-drive car network with more than 777,000 members and 9,500 vehicles in urban areas across the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Spain and Austria
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What is Zipcar for Business? l Zipcar is the world’s largest pay-as-you-drive car network with over 777,000 members and more than 9,500 vehicles in urban areas across the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Spain and Austria l With a fleet of over 1,500 vehicles in the UK, Zipcar for Business operates in London, Bristol, Cambridge and Oxford as well as having local authority partnerships in Kent and Surrey l London is Zipcar’s biggest network, with a wide variety of vehicles across 31 London boroughs l Zipcar provides businesses with a network of low-emission cars and vans by the hour or day, providing a viable alternative to pool cars, lease agreements, vehicle ownership, taxis and traditional vehicle hire l With Zipcar for Business there are no hidden costs: Rates start from just £3.96/hour (excl. VAT) and include comprehensive insurance, multiple employees under one account, the Congestion Charge in London, maintenance, roadside assistance, 40 miles of free fuel per day and a 24 hour Business Support Centre l In the UK, Zipcar offers businesses a dozen models, including: VW Polos, Golfs, Tourans, the Audi A3 and vans l Zipcar helps businesses achieve greater efficiency and streamline fleet management. Businesses can remove the need for costly and inflexible lease agreements by using and paying for Zipcars only for the hours or days required l Businesses can manage their Zipcar experience online or on the Zipcar mobile app, with detailed account management information available at all times. Live statements can be exported from the Zipcar site too, meaning businesses save the time spent on processing fuel and car hire receipts
Top Zipcar for business facts l Research shows businesses could make huge savings by switching to Zipcar, with company and personally owned vehicles sitting idle for a staggering 63 per cent of business hours per week l 4.6 million Londoners are within a tven minute walk of a Zipcar l Businesses using Zipcar can save over £3,000 per annum on vehicle costs l Zipcar helps businesses improvvve their envirovnmental credentials l 62 per cent of car club members are less likely to purchase a car in the next few years l Car club vehicles emit 20 per cent less CO2 per km than average vehicles
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