David Saul, managing director of leading serviced office operator Business Environment, explains why businesses need to be prepared to change in order to thrive
Even someone who only occasionally glances at the newspapers will have become aware that all is not well on the British high street.
In recent weeks, major household name retailers have entered administration, resulting in thousands of jobs lost or at risk.
Unfortunately, for those directly affected by the difficulties faced by HMV, Jessops and Blockbuster, it is likely that little will be on their mind other than their job prospects. For the wider business community, however, this is a cautionary tale and lessons should be learned.
It’s been said that the three firms were victims of a changing environment – their buisness models belonged to a by-gone age and they were too slow to adapt to the new reality in order survive.
Jessops, like most bricks and mortar retailers, was under pressure from online retailers with low overheads, selling the same camera equipment to shoppers at a lower price.
For HMV and Blockbuster, the digital age didn’t just leave them vulnerable to being undercut on cost, but they were were beaten on convenience too. Consumers could buy films and music at the touch of a button – no need to travel or wait days for an album or film to arrive.
Some will argue that there was nothing these firms could have done – online stores made them redundant in the same way that DVDs replaced the VCR. However, that’s probably somewhat defeatist – succesful businesses are those that adapt to remain competitive.
In the case of HMV, this involved expanding beyond its core business, opening a cinema as part of a joint venture, sponsoring music venues and showcasing up and coming musicians. All interesting ideas, but perhaps the actions of a firm caught on the back foot and playing catch-up, rather than a business with a clear strategy in place, thinking towards the future.
Truly succesful businesses need to be agile, anticipate changes early and be prepared to respond quickly.
At Business Environment, assessing our business model also involves examining how we can help our clients deal with challenges in their sector. Our success is dependent on that of our clients – we’re left with unoccupied offices if they fail.
One of our big drives in this area involves supporting start-up firms. We recognise that the professional business address and front-of-house team we offer can prove vitally important to new businesses seeking to gain the confidence of potential customers.
Having identified this fit between our services and SMEs’ needs, we’ve created a tailored start-ups package devised not just to gain their initial custom, but to help them thrive.
This package enables start-ups to take office space without paying a deposit. There’s also no rent to pay in the first month and no fixed-term contract.
Additionally, we’ve created our SMARTpreneur award, aiming to encourage entrepreneurs put their ideas into action and give them the boost they need to get off the ground.
The new award is offering entrants the chance to win a year’s office space, worth £4,000, along with call answering, mail handling and initial support from an accountant, lawyer and ‘Dragon’s Den’-style mentor. The winner will also benefit from marketing, branding and PR support.
We know that healthy businesses play a key role in building a strong economy, paying significant amounts in tax and creating employment opportunities. With so many high-profile businesses in trouble, it’s crucial that firms adapt, finding new ways to thrive, and in our industry, new ways to support ambitious entrepreneurs.
David Saul is Managing Director for Business Environment