By Sunny Ackerman, President of Americas at Frank Recruitment Group
When it comes to great moments in a company’s lifecycle, expansion is among the most exciting.
Watching your business grow and develop is thrilling, and an indisputable sign of your continuing success.
If you’re in a position where you think it may be time to take on a new market, there are an enormous number of considerations to wade through to ensure that you don’t overreach and jeopardize the strong foundations of your company. Expanding your operations or opening a new branch can feel almost as dicey as starting a new business; so, is it worth the risk?
They say in business, you’re either growing or you’re dying. Growth rate is the ultimate indicator of the health of your organization—you might focus on turnover, market share, profits, sales, or head count, but however you measure your growth rate, if it’s not climbing, then your business viability is in question.
Even if you’re happy with the level that your business is operating at now, by eschewing growth opportunities, you’re rolling out the red carpet for your competitors to move into that space and snatch up more market share. In addition, fixating on one location, or market, is akin to putting all your eggs in one basket, giving you no backup if business were to dry up in the future.
Maintaining growth is more complex than ever in the modern age, but remains of principal importance for the majority of businesses. Gartner’s 2018 CEO Survey[i] reported that CEOs ranked growth as their top priority for 2018/2019, and while many CEOs are looking for deeper structural sources of growth, national expansion remains one of the most effective ways to expand your company.
There’s no business without customers, so clearly reaching new audiences in new markets is crucial to increasing your profits and allowing your business to develop. In an increasingly connected world, there is more opportunity than ever for businesses to expand their operations across the country, with minimal disruption to primary operations.
When I joined Frank Recruitment Group as President of Americas earlier this year, I immediately began looking for strategic locations from which we could build our presence across the North America. Since then, we’ve opened a new office in Tampa, bringing the number of US hubs to six; two more are set to open in Denver and Phoenix later in 2018.
As niche technology recruiters, we see first-hand how fast the tech sector moves; this constant innovation makes it an incredibly exciting space to work in, but it can also create skills gaps when tech professionals can’t catch up with mushrooming demand for experience.
As President of Americas, my job is to make sure we’re serving the US as best we can. There is enormous opportunity in the tech sector right now; tech is far and away the fastest growing industry in the country, and vibrant new tech hubs are springing up all the time.
Maintaining rapid expansion can be challenging even in the most blooming markets, however—when you’re looking to take your business into pastures new, here are a few of the core issues to consider before throwing a dart at the map.
Identifying new market locations
No one wants to stagnate, and you should always be ready to move into new spaces when opportunity and circumstances allow. However, be careful to avoidexpansion for expansion’s sake.
When business is good, and your feet are getting itchy, it can be all too easy to get caught up in the excitement of a move and breeze through your due diligence. You need to take the time to identify the right place for your business to move into. Find out where the growth in your industry is taking place, or even better, where it may take place in the near future. Trying to get in on the ground floor is always more risky than expanding into a geographical market that’s already established, but the rewards can be huge if done right.
Five years ago, almost every tech company in the US wanted to have a base in Silicon Valley. The Bay Area was the place to be for both start-ups and established tech enterprises, but today, the high costs of doing business and over-saturation of tech companies, many firms are beginning to branch out from the California tech bubble.
We used to think of the tech industry being concentrated in the country’s costal conurbations, but digital transformation is happening everywhere—and with it comes massive job growth. Places like Denver, Austin, Chicago, Minneapolis all have booming start-up scenes, with many cities funnelling massive amounts of money into start-ups to help drive local tech economies.
If you keep your ear to the ground in terms of which cities are piping money into your industry, you can get a good idea of where your sector will be taking off next.
A great team is the backbone of any successful business and having the right people in your corner becomes doubly important during expansion. Employees hired to help your business grow have a heavy load to bear; not only do they need to live up to the standards that’ve helped your business succeed so far, they’ll also need to be able to shoulder the business through the busy and often stressful growth period.
When moving into a new market, your employees are on the frontlines of business development, and the impression they leave in your new base of operations can make or break your expansion plans from the moment you land.
If you’ve spotted a great opportunity to grow or have set your expansion an ambitious timeline for your ribbon-cutting, you need to make sure that your time-to-hire isn’t coming at the expense of quality acquisitions.
This doesn’t just apply to new hires, but also to any internal moves you may be planning to staff your new location. Culture is fast becoming one of those corporate buzzwords, but the sentiment behind it is crucial; the most important factor in expansion hiring is finding people who share your vision and have the passion to help carry your business forward.
That said, it’s still important to do some research into your new market—average salaries, local regulations, competitor businesses—to make sure you’re attracting the right people.
Driving brand presence
Once you’re set up in your new market, you need to let people know you’re there. Most businesses don’t carry the kind of prominence that allows a company to drop a new branch anywhere they like and gain instant recognition. Brand awareness needs to be built all over again when it comes to new locations. The good news is that by this point you’ll have already mapped out your target demographic, your customer personas, and your brand voice will be well-established, so putting all those pieces together to form a marketing strategy shouldn’t be too big a task.
Brands thrive on customer loyalty, and brand advocates are hugely significant when it comes to building a name for yourself in a new market. Setting up a referral plan to help generate business is not only great for getting your name out there, but also provides the added bonus of steeping your brand in the sense of trustworthiness and reliability that can only come from a recommendation from previous customers.
Advertising can still be a massive win for businesses when done right, but don’t forget about thought-leadership when it comes to establishing your brand presence. Teaming up with local publications to provide useful, relevant advice and insight is a great way to position your company as a knowledgeable, supportive force in the market.
The ever-pervasive power of social media can’t be undervalued either. Focusing your efforts on the most appropriate platform for your business type can help you target new customers at a granular level, in a way that other, more traditional methods of advertising just don’t allow.
Whichever way you decide to build your presence, the most important part of new market penetration is keeping your brand essence intact. Translating what makes your brand unique and successful is key to growth—expansion is about reproducing your achievements in a new space, not diluting your brand. What you’re aiming for is a full-colour reproduction of your operations, not a copy of a copy of a copy, and as long as you’re achieving that, you’re heading in the right direction.
Young adults lean towards ‘on-the-job’ learning as 6 in 10 say pandemic has impacted educational plans
- Six in 10 (61%) of 16-25s agree learning ‘on-the-job’ is the best way to get on the jobs ladder in the current environment
- 59% would rather study a degree subject connected to a profession than one they are good at
- 59% believe tech sector offers strong career opportunities and is voted most futureproof sector by 16-25s following the pandemic
- QuickBooks launches free online programming course with Amigoscode to help young people kickstart their tech career
Nearly two thirds (63%) of 16-25s have seen their future educational plans impacted by the pandemic, new research from Intuit QuickBooks1 – the financial software provider – reveals, with the uncertainty caused by COVID-19 driving young people to look for faster and more secure ways to get jobs.
And with more than half a million young people now unemployed – a rise of 35,000 from the previous quarter2 – six in ten (61%) 16-25s agree that learning ‘on-the-job’ is the best way of getting on the careers ladder in the current environment.
With COVID-19 highlighting the importance of more ‘futureproof’ career options, the technology sector has been identified by 16-25s as offering particularly strong career opportunities (59%).
To help young people kickstart their tech career, QuickBooks – home to top UK tech talent – has launched a free online programming course with Amigoscode.
Careers-focused learning takes priority
If they were to attend university or study for a degree, 59% of 16-25s would rather study a subject connected to a profession than one they’re good at, while nearly a third (31%) would only consider studying for a degree that would help them get a job in a sector that is likely to grow in future.
However, almost half (45%) of 16-25s are now reconsidering attending university at all. A quarter (26%) believe it is now more important to get on the job ladder than get a degree, while 19% don’t want to go to university because they are worried about their safety.
As remote learning becomes the new norm, more than a quarter (28%) of 16-25s now plan to carry out an online university degree (such as those offered by the Open University) instead of physically going to university.
Technology sector is voted most futureproof
The research reveals 16-25s believe the technology sector is the most futureproof (40%), ranking significantly higher above the second most popular option (construction – 27%).
Almost a fifth (19%) of the 16-25s surveyed already have a career in the technology sector, while 34% are considering it – rising to 38% of those aged 16-19.
Of those who are interested in the sector but are not currently considering it, the biggest barrier is simply not knowing how to get a job in this area (32%), closely followed by having never received any information about the sector from careers advisors etc. (30%). A quarter (25%) don’t think they could afford to undertake the necessary training or qualifications to get a job in the sector.
Ben Brown, Head of Engineering at Intuit QuickBooks, comments:
“With COVID-19 causing economic uncertainty and driving unemployment levels, young people are increasingly looking for ways to fast-track onto the careers ladder. And getting straight into the tech sector, which has proven to be resilient in the face of the pandemic, is particularly appealing. Technology, after all, is the fuel that has allowed many other sectors to continue operating.
“On-the-job learning is common in the tech sector, but to be a successful candidate, applicants need to demonstrate genuine interest and enthusiasm by having carried out their own independent learning. Employers can enable this by creating opportunities for young people to take part in free training courses and taster sessions, which helps them to gain valuable skills and decide if the sector is for them.
“QuickBooks engineers frequently host and coach participants through Code First Girls sessions – which are aimed at women looking to learn more about programming – and we are thrilled to be partnering with Amigoscode to offer a free programming course.”
Nelson Djalo, Founder of free coding resource Amigoscode and Software Engineer, comments:
“The perception of not having enough knowledge is the main barrier to young people getting into the technology sector. Skills can be built over time – passion, drive and a willingness to learn are the most important qualities to have. People from lots of different backgrounds and interests can get into the sector, and there are a whole host of roles aside from programming and software engineering.
“I offer programming courses and coding tutorials because I believe the sector should be accessible to anyone. I’m pleased to be partnering with QuickBooks to offer a tailormade course for anyone who is interested in getting into the industry and wants to learn more about programming.”
The Amigoscode x QuickBooks course is available here as a video, and here as a playlist. The 2.5 hour course and video playlist covers the basics of programming; the basics of Python and a project task (building a CV). Participants will also build a portfolio which could be the starting point of their tech journey/career.
Watch Nelson’s other tutorials on the Amigoscode YouTube channel here.
Case studies of young QuickBooks software engineers are available on request.
Five things to consider when organising a remote work Christmas party
By Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula
Christmas is usually a time of cheer and celebration, and the perfect way for employers to incorporate this in the workplace is by organising a Christmas party for their staff. However, things will have to be a little different this year due to the ongoing disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic. While the easiest, and cheapest, option for employers is to not go ahead with their annual festive plans, in the spirit of keeping Christmas alive some may choose to organise a remote party.
There are, however, some important things that employers should be aware of.
- The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need for employers to keep their employees’ wellbeing in mind, much more than ever before. This is why, even with something that can be considered a ‘treat’ for employees, people who are working carers, have been struggling with work-related stresses, may not want to partake in a Christmas party this year, however well-intentioned it may be on the employer’s part. It is therefore advisable that remote parties should be optional and not constrained to a certain timeframe in which staff must be in attendance.
- Employers should ensure that those in attendance do not feel excluded from any activities during the party. For example, if an employee does not drink alcohol and a virtual wine tasting activity makes up the bulk of the event, such a person would not be able to contribute to the fun and may therefore feel left out. Consequently, it may be better for employers to ensure that there is a wide range of activities available that cater to the individuals who are attending.
- When attendees and potential attendees, have been established and the activities have been finalised, it is in the best interest of the company to send out emails to them. It should detail what is expected of them at the event and highlight that the same conduct is expected of them at a remote party as it would be at an in-person event. It should also outline that the same disciplinary procedures would apply in a situation where an employee commits a form of misconduct during the event.
- Similarly, employees should be made aware that the same grievance produce applies – to ensure that if company rules are broken by an employee or a grievance with the company itself, the affected employee will be able to raise this with the company.
- Finally, while employees can use their social media accounts in their own personal time, including at work social gatherings, employers must ensure that the use of social media should be done in a manner that does not adversely affect the company’s reputation.
To conclude, remote parties are the perfect way to ensure that social distancing rules are adhered to and that employees are rewarded for their efforts, there should be a mutual sense of responsibility on the part of the company and its employees.
Reasons to remote manage in a socially distanced world
By Paul Routledge Country Manager D-Link UK and Ireland
As the world continues to adapt in varying degrees to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses and enterprises will find themselves adjusting to more permanent, new ways of working, problem-solving and service delivery. Governments and global leaders have already introduced new measures to support these adjustments, and as a result we have already seen many companies re-evaluate how they work as well as how teams are organized and provided for. As the pandemic remains a fixture of this year of which the impact will continue to be felt in the year ahead, it’s becoming clear that the role of technology and the innovation therein will be key to ensuring businesses can weather ongoing the crisis.
For many businesses, until recent years, the vast bulk of network management was conducted and carried out on location at the client site. However, the value of remote network management has fast become an asset to businesses in the 21st century – giving IT service providers more capacity to manage a larger number of customer sites at any given time.
In addition, remote network management solutions play an important role in increasing transparency across sites by providing a complete view of the status of different networks via comprehensive interactive dashboards and informative management systems. For example, Nuclias by D-Link offers an easy to set up network management solution that provides flexibility to make onboarding, studying, troubleshooting, and reporting network activity quick and easy.
For IT service providers, establishing new ways of working is particularly important. As they seek alternative methods of supporting customers in different locations, many will be looking to the advantages that remote network management has to offer.
Before the pandemic, D-Link Europe explored the state of play of network management and challenges its partners were facing in this space. The study found that, 75% of IT service providers in Europe were already using remote access tools to support or manage network infrastructure on customer sites, yet a quarter (25%) were still relying on in-person visits to resolve network issues for customers.
Interestingly, the findings show that the larger the number of clients a provider has, the less likely they are to use remote management tools. Only 22% of European IT service providers surveyed provide more than 50 customers with remote management services. Complete adoption of remote network management methods will be a gradual process, yet the pandemic and the government restrictions in place across much of Europe have a part to play in creating the circumstances where in-person visits occur much less often if at all.
As a result, it is likely we will see a more permanent adoption of remote networking management systems – as businesses work hard to adapt to a ‘new normal’ and an unpredicatable year ahead. The point of this will not only to provide network management services in a more efficient and less time-consuming way but also to uphold the safety measures now expected of most workplaces.
This is particularly pertinent in an environement where businesses are limiting contact in the workplace and adhering to safetymechanisms also seen more widely in society – including technologies such as group temperature screening cameras as well as track and trace systems. There is a clear opportunity for IT service providers to make the most of remote networking management tools’ benefits to uphold the safety and health of their own employees, as well as personnel at client sites by reducing unnecessary human contact.
An additional benefit to be reaped from remote network management is how IT service providers can economise on time spent travelling to and from client sites, in addition to time spent resolving issues on-site. D-Link research found that 60% of European IT service providers spend between four to six hours per week installing and configuring new wireless or wired networks at client sites. This additional time spent travelling to and from client sites puts employees at particular risk, especially as they often travel long distances to get there.
What’s more, in terms of the time technicians usually spend at client sites, when it comes to configuring a replacement wireless access point, only 31% of providers feel they can keep this service under one hour. Remote network management allows technicians to use this time more effectively. Nuclias by D-Link, for example, will enable administrators to stay on top of any management tasks like creating guest networks, adding Wi-Fi to additional locations, updating devices and upholding network security.
Furthermore, IT service providers will be able to offer their clients more benefits, by providing centralised management and more visibility of their network, allowing them to act on network disruptions and problems before they become pervasive issues. Nuclias Cloud is designed for smaller businesses who lack in-house IT skills, such as hospitality and retail chains. These companies can benefit from easy network expansion and implementation of updates without the need for additional training.
Remote management solutions, like Nuclias, are also well-placed to support the growth of IT service providers as they look to offer more managed services. Not only do they enable teams to provide deployments but also increased administration services and supervision of client networks; resulting in improved reactivity to issues and better quality of service. The added advantage of unlimited scalability, thanks to the use of cloud-enabled devices, means providers can also keep resources and costs low – generating a more significant return on investment.
Right now, it still feels like there is some way to go before normal life resumes – however, as the long-term impacts of COVID-19 become more apparent, companies worldwide will need to continue to relying on innovative technology to tackle workplace concerns. With solutions such as remote network management playing an important role in supporting service providers and their clients as they do.
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