Small means smart
In our last issue of Business Up Close, we spoke to Judith Clegg, entrepreneur and founder of Takeout – an innovation consultancy. Clegg is passionate about the start-up business ethos, saying in a recent interview on BBC Radio 4: “I think that the start-up culture can change the world. I wonder what life would be like if institutions and each of us as individuals took on some of these ways of working and values? I think it would be better.”
Bring the entrepreneurs to you
She is not alone in this point-of-view. Start-ups reflect the very best of what makes the business world tick: innovation, ambition, people-focus, individuality, excitement, drive, and much more. Unfortunately, when companies achieve a certain level of scale, much of this can be diluted or lost. Large businesses lack the ability to take risks and find it difficult to move quickly enough to grasp opportunities. Alongside this, employee engagement can often be lacking, which can result in less innovation and compromised customer service.
A common metaphor used to describe these differences is that a large corporate is an oil tanker and a start-up is a speedboat.
As a way of finding their inner speedboat, smart companies are beginning to implement entrepreneurship or ‘intrapreneurship’ initiatives as a way to fuel innovation, encourage top talent and gain a competitive advantage. Schemes include allowing workers from across the organisation to pitch their ideas, entrepreneurship contests, forming investment partnerships with start-ups and bringing in ‘entrepreneurs in residence’ to mentor staff and provide direct access to this way of thinking.
Google, for instance, so often at the vanguard of innovative ways of thinking, is the ultimate example of a huge organisation which pairs executives with ‘internal entrepreneurs’ as a way of driving growth. However, this form of collaboration is not always easy to achieve – it can be difficult in large corporates for different business functions to feel ownership of the innovation process, in contrast to start-up teams where working collaboratively is really the only way to work. One way of addressing this issue is to mirror the small business environment. You can do this by creating cross-functional teams and giving them strict deadlines for delivery, then inspiring them with feedback on what they achieve – showing them the tangible difference it is making to the overall company.
In terms of supporting start-ups and SMEs themselves, Santander is passionate about highlighting how important they are to the economy and committed to providing the ongoing funding required to fulfill their potential. We recently announced our partnership with the government’s Start Up Loans Company, which has, in 11 months, provided funding and mentors to over 8,000 entrepreneurs across England and Northern Ireland.
This relationship means that Start Up Loan companies which show growth and promise can access second-phase funds from Santander of up to £25,000.
Also, through the Santander Breakthrough programme, we work with a number of ‘growth champion’ businesses to provide, not just financial support, but access to the insight and experience of other established entrepreneurs, alongside fact-finding and networking Trade Missions to international markets.
This month, Breakthrough took a group of entrepreneurs to New York, where they met with a number of experts and industry-specific contacts. An attendee from a previous Trade Mission to New York, Neil Douglas, Co-Founder of undersea equipment provider Viper Subsea, said of the experience: ““I think we would have found it much harder to secure the contract if we hadn’t had the opportunity to go out and meet people face-to-face on the Santander Trade Mission.”
By continually working to support entrepreneurs to achieve their ambitions, we hope we are also helping to create the next generation of the most innovative and inspirational companies.
If you would like to know more about how we have helped our customers, click here to see their full stories on our YouTube site: http://www.youtube.com/santanderukccb
To find out more about Santander’s Breakthrough programme and to see if your business is eligible to apply, go to: www.santanderbreakthrough.co.uk
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