As a business that advises organisations on how to achieve stretching growth, we work with a wide spectrum of organisations – from blue-chip multi-nationals to start-ups with little more than a couple of founders and a dream. Given our broad client base we’re often asked what lessons can be learned from others. Most commonly it’s the biggest businesses that ask us what they can learn from SMEs and start-ups. They have a warped view of what it’s like to work in such an environment and misinterpret the realities behind the strong growth that smaller organisations can achieve. So, when we outline what we think the most helpful lessons are for them, they can be somewhat unexpected. In no particular order, here are the 10 most valuable lessons I think big businesses can learn from SMEs…
One of the biggest challenges for big businesses is the sheer number of ideas and projects being worked on at any one time. With resource comes a lack of focus and this can seriously compromise your chances of delivering step-change growth. Conversely, SMEs tend to be better at focusing on doing one or two things brilliantly, as they typically don’t have the luxury of big budgets and teams of people. In big companies, there is a palpable feeling of risk associated with just doing one or two things and there is perceived safety in numbers – the more we do, the more chance something will be a success. Wrong!
- Stay Lean
The other big advantage of not having access to significant resources is that it forces individuals and teams to think more creatively. In our experience, too much resource can lead to complacency and even laziness in big organisations. There is a sense that money can be thrown at a problem to resolve it, but in truth, that is rarely the case. When resources are restricted you have to think your way around problems and compensate for lack of budget by having bigger and better ideas. This is something SMEs often use to their advantage. Limiting the resources allocated to a project team in a big business can significantly improve the creativity and quality of that team’s outputs.
- Mitigate risk
In our experience, the smaller the company, the greater understanding there is of the risks involved in doing or not doing something. SMEs tend to be better at understanding risk and mitigating it because everyone is so much closer to the bottom line. Interestingly, when you ask big companies what they admire about SMEs and start-ups they always talk about their desire to take risks. This is a misunderstanding: it’s highly unlikely smaller companies seek out risk given the consequences could mean the end of the road for the business. Rather than taking more risk, big companies should spend more time assessing and mitigating risk – not just of projects they do work on, but also the risk of doing nothing.
- Share the spoils
If you want your employees to be motivated to deliver your vision and growth targets, then they need to know there are different outcomes for them if those targets are successfully delivered. Incentivising individuals via significant upside is much more difficult to do in bigger organisations, where HR is focused on implementing and adhering to rigid bonus schemes. Equally, we find the corporate world less adept at using other non-financial ways of recognising performance and a general reluctance to single out the contributions of any particular individuals. The best SMEs are much more willing to share the spoils with those who delivered them and understand the power of the annual company away day or Christmas party to motivate as well as galvanise.
- Be courageous
SMEs are more likely to ‘play to win’ whereas big businesses are more likely to ‘play to not lose’. The bigger you get, the more you have to lose, and this can drive conservative attitudes and behaviours. For SMEs, the potential gains are always so much greater than the potential downsides of trying something and failing. This is one of their advantages – they have a ‘challenger mindset’ that so few big businesses manage to adopt. The increased focus on short-term goals in big companies also restricts their ability to make courageous decisions that may only payback in the longer-term. Employees need to know what kind of behaviours and decisions are appropriate and be given the ‘freedom to fail’ knowing there will be no negative consequences.
- Be agile
From first-hand experience, we’ve witnessed how quickly decisions can be made within SMEs. During a workshop with a small, fast-growth business, we saw a critical strategic decision made during a cigarette break – one that determined the future direction of the company. Perhaps quite rightly, given what’s at stake, this could never happen in a big organisation. However, decision making and planning in big business tends to take an unreasonable amount of time and involve an awful lot of people. There are huge gains to be made by becoming quicker at making good decisions AND acting upon them.
- Learn & adapt
The other advantage of being small is the ability to learn and adapt quickly. If a marketing plan or new product launch is not going to plan, then SMEs seem more adept at finding out why and intervening quickly. They tend to be closer to the market and to their customers, whereas sitting in the ivory tower of a Corporate HQ can give a sense of being detached and distant from the real world. Learning tends to be more formal, involving expensive and slow research, which means by the time the learning has permeated the business, it can be too late to act to rectify the situation. On the other hand, SME’s approach to learning is usually more informal – some conversations with key customers to inform the assessment of the situation, rapidly followed by a plan to fix things before it’s too late.
- Have a purpose
We all need to know why we get out of bed in the morning and come into the office. More than just the motivation of money, we want to feel like we are devoting 40+ hours a week to a cause we understand and believe in. Whilst corporates try very hard to do this, their expensively researched corporate ambitions tend to be so high level and distant from employees, that they are paid little more than lip service. Given SMEs are so often owner-managed businesses, there is a direct and immediate reminder of why the business was set up and what it aims to achieve. The motivations of these key individuals are inherent in everything the business does, so it cannot fail to rub off on the work force. And if anybody does not buy into that mission, the chances are they will not stay for long anyway.
- Don’t try to do everything yourself
Invariably, when a big business spots a market opportunity, they dedicate resources to creating a new product, service or offer to exploit it. They have a strong bias towards working autonomously to developing an appropriate solution – even if the more logical solution would be to partner with others who already have part of that solution or the skills to develop it on their behalf. We find that small businesses are much more open to joint ventures, collaborations or licensing options that get them to a fit-for-purpose solution quicker, and without huge development investment. They realise what their strengths are and play to them, supplementing additional capabilities by inviting others to work with them. Big businesses could learn a lot from this more pragmatic and collaborative approach.
- Enjoy the journey
One of the most exciting things about working in an SME is being able to contribute to, enjoy and benefit from the growth of the organisation. You are much more able to enjoy the journey – which is often dynamic and stimulating. Most big organisations have existed for some time and they are well into their journey. Often the focus is on not going backwards or just keeping pace with market growth rates. The journey is less tangible – if there is one at all. Whilst this may be true at an overall corporate level, there is no reason why the leaders of teams or departments cannot create this sense of journey and allow all team members to contribute to and enjoy it.
So there they are, 10 key lessons, many of which are clearly inter-related. The challenge for big businesses is they cannot just pretend they are small and act in this way – they have too much at stake. Instead, they must understand the implications for their organisation and focus on emulating a few of the advantages that SMEs enjoy as a consequence of them lacking scale.
Justin Wright is co-author of ‘Stretchonomics – the art and science of success’ and co-founder of innovation and growth agency,Mangrove.
Are bots eating your Facebook budget?
By Mike Townend, founding CMO of Beaconsoft Ltd
In an increasingly digitised world, social media has arguably become the most powerful and influential tool at the disposal of businesses, both large and small.
With more than 3.6 billion active social media users worldwide today, it is no surprise that many companies view it as an unparalleled means of marketing their products and services to new and otherwise unreachable audiences, as well as an opportunity to better understand consumer demand and habits.
Facebook is often regarded as one of the very best social media platforms for marketers – not least because of its targeted digital advertising service – but many firms using it may not realise just how much of their budget could be being wasted due to ad fraud.
Numerous studies suggest digital ad fraud affects between 10% and 60% of all types of digital advertising, with businesses of every size falling prey to so-called ‘bots’ – automated programs used by scammers to undercut deals, divert visitors or steal clicks.
But how do bots work, how might they be affecting businesses’ Facebook budgets, data and analytics, and what can be done to combat them?
How do bots work?
A report published by security firm Imperva found that bots – both good and bad – are responsible for 52% of all web traffic, while a separate study by White Ops concluded that as much as 20% of websites that serve ads are visited exclusively by fraudulent click bots.
In simple terms, a click bot is specially designed to carry out click fraud – in other words, the bot poses as a legitimate visitor to a webpage and automatically clicks on pay-per-click [PPC] ads, buttons or other types of hyperlinks.
Their purpose is to trick a platform or service – in this case, Facebook – into believing that real users are interacting with the webpage, app or ad in question.
Usually, bots will not just click a link once; they will click it over and over again to give the impression that the webpage is receiving a high level of traffic.
Why is this a problem?
The presence of click bots on Facebook is particularly problematic because they can effectively drain a business’ online marketing budget without many of its targeted ads reaching real users who might have a genuine interest.
There are a number of reasons why click fraud could be used – for example, competitors may employ a ‘click farm’ – a group of low-paid workers or bots hired to click on paid advertising links – or organised criminals may have found a way to profit from clicking on a business’ links.
In other cases, apps and software are created to collect the payout for a company’s ads, often with the help of bots.
Considering the average cost per click in the UK is £0.78, according to Hubspot, with some ad campaigns for popular key phrases running at £10 per click, or even more, it is clear to see how easily this could mount up if a firm’s budget were to be hijacked by scammers.
How might bots affect data and analytics?
Negative click bots have the potential to produce skewed analytics from Facebook advertising campaigns.
Because many businesses are unable to distinguish between fake clicks and legitimate ones, the data that they collect can lead to false conclusions and decisions that could have a detrimental impact on the business. For example, firms may choose to overspend or under-invest on a campaign based on findings that are substantially erroneous.
Businesses must be confident that they are making sound decisions that are informed by reliable data and analytics – and fortunately, there is a way that they can do this.
Taking the fight to the bots
There are a number of methods that firms can use to identify bot clicks, some more straightforward than others.
Frequently checking Facebook analytics for irregularities in traffic that could be attributable to bots can make this task considerably easier.
Specific things to monitor include the average number of page views, the average session time, and the source of referrer traffic – if there are any glaring anomalies in the data, bots could be the source.
Big spikes in page views caused by a higher number of visits than usual can also be indicative of bot activity and are especially dangerous given their propensity to slow down the page for genuine visitors.
Once malicious traffic has been identified, steps can then be taken in blocking it at source, although this is not a simple process and requires technical knowledge and know-how.
After removing negative click bots, companies can take comfort in knowing they are optimising their campaigns by gaining accurate insights that help to increase efficiency, lower the cost per visit, and improve return on investment.
Defeating the bots that are impairing a business’ performance on Facebook is by no means easy, and it requires time and effort to keep malicious traffic under constant surveillance.
Having experts on your side who are well versed in identifying and removing instances of click fraud can help to turn the tide in the battle against bots and ultimately allow a company to make big savings on its advertising spend.
Firms not only owe it to themselves, but to their customers also, to knock these harmful and disruptive programs offline for good.
Advanced Acquiring: How can omnichannel merchants optimise all payment needs through one provider?
By Marc Docherty, Head of UK Acquiring / Large – Strategic Business, Ingenico, a Worldline brand
Today’s consumers are constantly moving, buying across multiple touchpoints, devices and channels, thus driving significantly greater transactional volume. Against this backdrop, in order to capture and harness the market potential, omnichannel remains an essential strategy for merchants while conducting business operations.
Driven by consumer demands regarding a richer, more personalised and seamless buying journey, ease of use and frictionless transactions have always defined the terms for omnichannel success. However unsurprisingly, payments processing is not always at the forefront of merchants’ minds, hence, more often than not, businesses find it difficult to capture the fundamental importance of a seamless experience.
As a result, they risk not only alienating and losing customers and leaving revenue on the table, but also inefficient management of their costs by missing important savings on acquiring fees. It is therefore prudent for businesses to consider how best they can provide a frictionless experience if they want to remain competitive and ensure conversions in this increasingly fast-paced world.
Understanding how payments processing works
Innovation and efficiency in payment processing is often focused on the transaction itself, helping merchants conduct sales and process payments faster and through more convenient platforms, such as online and mobile. All these transactions, irrespective of the channel used or their value, might take only seconds to complete, however behind the scenes there are many different industry players (including an acquirer, an issuer, the payment gateway, the card network and the merchant), working together towards the same goal: making sure the payment process is flawless, secure and fast.
In theory, the payment should pass from each party without the customer ever noticing, however with a multitude of different providers at each stage, this process can be prone to errors or extra time added to the transaction, leaving shoppers with a disappointing payments experience hence less likely to return for another sale.
Much the same as their consumer counterparts, merchants also appreciate seamless experiences, frictionless integration and having everything in one place. They want to focus on their core business without any restrictions or having to worry about declines, chargebacks or interchange fees. As such, consolidating all this information in a single, comprehensive view will be a key asset for merchants, providing them with full visibility over their processes.
Offering the most relevant payment methods at the checkout is key
Local and alternative payment methods have enormous potential to drive greater value to merchants not only by expanding reach but also by strengthening the merchant – customer relationship. According to findings from a recent Capgemini report, online retail growth, coupled with the rapid adoption of transparent payment experiences and alternative payment methods will continue to drive non-cash transaction momentum, which is expected to reach 1.1 trillion by 2023.
Yet, while accepting a wide but relevant range of payment options at checkout will drive shopping enthusiasm and maintain consumer loyalty, this can add different complexity levels to the checkout process, depending on several factors, including performance, security, design, the merchant’s business size and geographical reach. Add targeted marketing programmes, product development and delivery strategies, return policies, risk and fraud management to the priorities list for merchants and surviving the long road ahead might easily become daunting.
That’s why, instead of trying to do it all by themselves, merchants should make it a top priority to partner with a competitive acquiring provider who can do this for them, ensuring the balancing act between security, flexibility, frictionless payments and speed.
By working with a partner that is acquirer agnostic and understands both business requirements and the importance of providing operational excellence, merchants can benefit from cost savings for each transaction with the different payment methods they offer. Furthermore, by working with a single acquirer better reconciliation for merchants will be achieved, thus ensuring faster payouts.
A full-service solution to rule them all
With coverage and expertise in over 120 countries, we are perfectly placed to assist businesses in delivering their expansion strategy in their home market or across borders. Our Advanced Acquiring full-service solution is a modular offering that addresses merchants’ needs for a more unified experience, including acceptance, payment gateway and acquiring.
What better way to expand geographical reach and boost revenues than by offering the most relevant payment methods for your target markets, while at the same time improving cash management with some of the fastest payouts on the market and keeping track of transactions and settlements into one unified omnichannel reporting solution which covers all your payments needs?
Motivate Your Management Team
A management team, typically a group of people at the top level of management in an organization, is a team of people in the top level of managerial leadership of a business or an organization. It may consist of one person at the top level or more than one person at the top level. In this article, we are going to talk about what it takes to become a successful manager of a company and the different types of managers that can be found.
Team members will usually work in teams of two or three people. They will work together to accomplish a specific goal that the organization has set for them. These goals and the ways to reach them vary. Sometimes a management team will work in teams to achieve the same goal but in different ways. Sometimes they will work in teams to solve a particular problem.
When a team begins working, they will usually meet for the first time at their office building or another place where they will gather. They will be given a specific mission statement that they will be working towards. There will usually be meetings on a regular basis so that the team can discuss what they have done so far. If there is anything that needs to be worked out, this meeting will occur to ensure that all questions have been answered.
When it comes to meeting deadlines, there are often things that the team members will need to do in order to meet their deadline. They will have to come up with the proper solutions. Once they have done this, the next thing that needs to be done is to ensure that the other members of the team are aware of what the solution is.
Sometimes, the team members will meet at different times. This is very common for people who will have different duties and who are not always available at the same time. They can meet at random times but it is very rare for there to be meetings that occur during the night. Sometimes these meetings are held after lunch and sometimes they happen after dinner.
When the team members meet, they will need to be organized. They will need to take all of the necessary items and papers to the meeting and not leave any behind. The meeting will begin with a presentation that will be made by the team leaders that will describe what they have done so far.
After this presentation, the team members will then have to sit down with the other team members to discuss what they have discussed. This is often a very productive way to get everyone talking about what they have accomplished so far.
To be a good manager, you must be able to organize yourself and your team. This is also necessary in order for you to be able to motivate your team.
One of the ways that you can motivate your team members is by encouraging them to get things done that they want to do. By doing this, they will be able to get excited about what they are working on. The excitement that they will feel will motivate them to work even harder and to complete the task as soon as possible.
Another way that you can motivate your team members is to give them rewards. In this case, they will know that there is something for doing a great job. They will know that if they have good performance, there will be a reward for their hard work.
It is also important for you to provide support to your team members. by helping them find jobs and making sure that they are able to find employment. This will encourage them to be self-motivated and to perform better on their jobs.
When you provide support to your team members, they will feel valued and respected. This will allow them to feel as though they have an employer who is willing to put in a lot of effort in order to help them get what they want out of their jobs.
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