The current business environment is still far from easy. As companies continue to struggle with ongoing and significant economic challenges, they are also faced with bullish competitors and increasingly internet-savvy customers, who are fast to complain online when their expectations are not met. On top of this, well-known brands may have to contend with their Intellectual Property (IP), product or service being copied or emulated, or their trademark being used without their control.
Where is the value?
For household names, the integrity of their brand often runs deep. It is built on years, often decades, of customer trust and loyalty, which can often survive blips in management or attempts by the competition to elbow into their market. Some companies, such as Harris Tweed, profiled in this issue of Business Up Close, have such value imbued in the quality and craftsmanship of their product that a law dictates criteria which must be fulfilled to be able to apply their related trademark. And for businesses expanding overseas in particular, threats which might undermine this value can seem to come from all sides.
Protect your provenance
In these difficult times, it is important to differentiate your business from the rest, with many quite rightly looking to the quality of their service and/or the quality and provenance of their product as a means to do this. In Business Up Close, we have spoken to many businesses, such as Brompton Bicycle and Fortnum & Mason, which are embracing this concept as a unique selling point. However, this means that maintaining this, quality becomes paramount, without it being watered down by the competition, or by a subsidiary or overseas agent. When expanding internationally, for instance, it is important to have trusted people on the ground to manage the way your brand is being represented and used. Companies which achieve this are not throwaway propositions; they are multi-layered and complex, offering a lasting and meaningful experience to their customer base that goes well beyond the superficial.
Finding out more
At Santander, I am proud to say that we too look beyond the surface and beyond the initial numbers when considering whether or not to lend. Instead we seek out the whole picture to assess the deeper value of a business before we make our decisions. As a bank we have to manage risk, so work hard to get the full story of a business before we make a lending decision. It is often only after our Relationship Directors have taken the time to dig a little deeper and ask the right questions of a management team that the full potential of a business is revealed. We do not sacrifice good credit judgment for the sake of being more efficient – instead we attempt to balance both when we make our lending decisions. This is what makes us unique.
Santander Corporate & Commercial
As a bank, we also have to look at our own brand and how we appear to our customers. As you will see from this month’s Business Up Close email, we have made a decision to rebrand our organisation for businesses turning over £250,000 and beyond – changing from Santander Corporate Banking to Santander Corporate & Commercial. Part of the reason for this rebrand is that we want to acknowledge just how crucial a role SMEs play in the UK economy and underline that Santander's solutions have the potential to help all businesses achieve their aims – whether they be small, growing commercial businesses, or large established corporate organisations.
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