Blog

Keep taking the tablets 2!

With today’s UK launch of Apple’s iPad2, I couldn’t resist updating my blog of just one year ago. I’ve colored new text in blue.

The idea of a Tablet PC emerged in 2001 when Microsoft used the term to describe a flat mobile computer, which the user interacted with through a touchscreen or stylus. Microsoft’s Window XP operating system was offered in a Tablet PC edition to support manufacturers in providing these new devices. They had the advantage of mobility and simplicity of interface. Bill Gates is reported to have said, in 2003, that “If you go out five years from now, and look at portable computers, virtually all of those will have this tablet capability.” By this stage, Microsoft had reportedly spent $400 million to build a tablet PC for Windows XP.

However, in spite of key manufacturer support, they were slow to take off – particularly in consumer markets. Hewlett-Packard developed a number of devices over an extended period. Including, the HP TouchSmart series of tablet PCs and the HP Slate. Clearly, both Microsoft and HP had confidence in a market emerging for these Tablet PC devices. However, they proved relatively expensive to produce and perhaps understandably sold to specialist customers, such as in logistics and medical environments. By the end of 2009, competition centred on just one operating system, Windows 7 and a few manufacturers (including Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, Panasonic and Toshiba). Customers tended to be in specialised areas and limited in number.

Perhaps not a particularly attractive market for new entrants?

In April 2010, Apple computers launched their iPad starting from $499. Described as, “A large, high-resolution LED-backlit IPS display … An incredibly responsive Multi-Touch screen … Scroll through a page just by flicking your finger up or down on the screen … pinch to zoom in or out on a photo.” (www.apple.com/uk/ipad).

The Apple iPad was supplied with a number of popular applications, including: web browser (Safari), mail, photos, music (iPod and iTunes), videos (YouTube), books (iBooks) and the App Store. Like many computer devices, the iPad is both a product and a service. This light and thin product capabilities centred on the large multi-touch screen, long battery life, powerful processor and wireless and 3G technologies for connectivity.

A winning formula? The service element of the offering draws on two unique features which competitors found difficult to replicate: firstly, iTunes the proprietary music and video platform operated by Apple, the service that originated with the iPod range and was extended to include the iPhone and iPad devices, subsequently dominating the online music sales. By March 2010, Apple had sold 10 billion iTunes. Ensuring the iPad had access to iTunes provided instant content.

Secondly, the App Store provided access to over 150,000 applications written by a rapidly growing independent community of programmers and service providers. These applications were originally designed for the iPhone. However, even before the launch of the iPad in March 2010 Apple were providing support to these developers with SDK 3.2 beta, iPad simulator and developer community programme.

It might be interesting to reflect on the portable music market dominated by the Sony Walkman before the launch of the Apple iPod and the mobile smartphone market dominated by Nokia before the launch of the Apple iPhone. Clearly, Microsoft and the large laptop manufacturers dominated the mobile computing market at the beginning of 2010. But then … enter the iPad.

I think Apple might just be onto something. For the original iPad Apple sold 300,000 on the first day and started to impact of the sales for devices. Some are predicting sales of 500,00 for the first day of iPad2 sales in the UK.

Prof Nigel Lockett FRSA

Professor of Enterprise, Leeds Enterprise Centre, University of Leeds
President of the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship
www.nigellockett.com

Ever decreasing circles

In writing a blog about blogs (well social media to be more precise) I’m very conscious this is a ‘wheel within a wheel’. However, I can’t let the opportunity of a new book on ‘Why You Can’t Ignore Social Media in Business’ and the approval of new ‘Social Networking for Enterprise’ module at the University of Leeds in the same week, go by without comment.

It is self-evident to new graduates that their social lives at university have been shaped, buffeted, driven, disrupted and generally invigorated by social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogging and online chatting). But, why would this be important to their working lives or business more generally?

What makes social media different from existing communication channels is not what is being said (or promoted) but the very nature of the channel – the speed of delivery and the opportunity for interaction, recommendation and ‘buzz’. Imagine you could introduce that energy to your business communications strategy.

As Victoria Tomlinson, author of ‘Why You Can’t Ignore Social Media in Business’ and Chief Executive of Northern Lights PR, puts it … “social media is important because:
•    Brings your business to life
•    Gives you credibility
•    Provides rich, current content for Google ranking
•    Gives your business a personality
•    Portrays your expertise to your customers and clients
•    Helps you find and build [new] relationships
•    Leads to new business”

Victoria’s book if full of case studies.

And according to Susan Gunelius in The Entrepreneur, there are even 10 laws of social media marketing.

Yes, I know that business people have heard all the hype about Internet-related services – from e-mail to websites and from e-commerce to online marketplaces. But, for me social media provides relatively low-cost opportunities for businesses to expand their profile. The technology is not complicated or expensive. It’s the content that is difficult generate – it requires a change in mindset to recognise this ‘online chatter’ can be managed, targeted and orchestrated for business benefit. You could got of course call on the help of your customers. Loving Outdoors are building a new online shopping experience. Not for their customer but by their customers. See Loving Outdoors Facebook – Like?

If a new ‘Social Networking for Enterprise’ module is being developed as part of the employability agenda for final year undergraduates at a leading university perhaps social media has come of age.

Not so much, ‘ever decreasing circles’ as ever expanding horizons.

Prof Nigel Lockett FRSA

Professor of Enterprise, Leeds Enterprise Centre, University of Leeds
President of the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship

www.nigellockett.com

A long standing love affair

The seemingly ever increasing love affair with or passion for chocolate dates back centuries and takes many forms. Today, the industry is dominated by large companies, such as Mars, Kraft and Nestlé yet supports a range of more specialist chocolate confectioners, such as Green & Black’s, now owned by Kraft (www.greenandblacks.com), Thorntons (www.thorntons.co.uk) and Hotel Chocolat (www.hotelchocolat.co.uk).

In such a well established and crowded market it might seem difficult to create a new way of exploiting our passion for chocolate. Hotel Chocolat (formally ChocExpress) was founded by in 1993 as a catalogue-based company in the UK. The company provides an excellent example of creativity for business idea generation (the tasting club), opportunity recognition (used to support its existing catalogue-based sales) and exploitation in an enterprise (developing a complimentary brand and new income stream within the main business operation). But what was the big innovation? Yes mail order was new but to achieve this the packaging had to redeveloped to fit through the average letterbox and arrive safe and sound on the doormat!

Is there no end to the courting? Last year’s £11bn acquisition of Cadburys by Kraft would suggest not (http://bit.ly/dSMBM0).

I wonder which existing UK-based company will emerge to take on the mantel of Rowntrees or Cadburys? Thorntons, Hotel Chocolate or even Helen and Simon Pattinson’s Montezuma (www.montezumas.co.uk)  founded in 2010.

But remember it’s our passion for chocolate that is fueling this competition!

Prof Nigel Lockett FRSA

Professor of Enterprise
President of the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship
www.leeds.ac.uk/lec
www.nigellockett.com

Business growth: Policy, practice or just wishful thinking?

We all know the official line that given the financial crisis, public cuts are a necessary evil. And that whilst this will result in public sector job losses the ‘private sector’ will create the jobs to replace these. However, there are growing concerns about achieving this.

In terms of creating new jobs, when we say the ‘private sector’ we mean small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). So, what is the government going to do to support growing businesses?

The BIS ‘Bigger, better business’ proposal to help small firms start, grow and prosper was published last week suggesting eight points (Download a PDF of the report).

  1. Online help – tailored to each business
  2. Telephone contact centre – to support one service
  3. Helping start ups – the new Enterprise Allowance Scheme
  4. Business mentors – practical advise from experienced business people
  5. Business coaching fro growth
  6. Manufacturing advisory service
  7. Tailored help – women, BAME and service personnel
  8. Other Government funded help – revised ‘Solutions for Business’ for strategic advice, reaching international markets and supporting innovation

But will this be enough to support the creation of 100,000s of new jobs?

STOP PRESS

11/01/11 There are some early signs of US small businesses creating jobs

Prof Nigel Lockett FRSA

Professor of Enterprise
President of the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship
www.leeds.ac.uk/lec

www.nigellockett.com

New Year’s resolution 2011: Time to get closer to your suppliers?

Last year, customers were the focus of my New Year’s resolution. With the big freeze hitting retail sales and the increase in VAT to 20%, this is still very appropriate. However, I think it is now time to look back, not on last year but supply chains.

Of course, one way to increase profit is to get more sales and one way to improve cash flow is to collect money from customers sooner. But reducing cost and extending supplier payment terms can be equally productive.

There are two ways to approach this – aggressively or constructively. It would be counter productive to extend payment times without the supplier’s consent. Just look at the reaction to Invensys Rail recent announcement. For products  – they could simply stop supply and leave you to pick up the cost of stockouts and lower customer service levels. For services – they could keep you waiting or under deliver. However, many will be prepared to negotiate on both price and payment terms for larger, guaranteed or call-off orders, new business and promotional activities. There is always room for negotiation with suppliers – existing and new. Perhaps there are alternative suppliers who would be keen for new business.

For more information see:

* Business Link have a practical guide to negotiating.

* Growing Business have 8 top tips – practice makes perfect!

* CHIPS offer training courses.

Last August’s blog highlighted the emergence of the ‘Networked Entrepreneur’. These networked entrepreneurs not only use their networks to gain new business but to deliver new services often to existing customers. So, reconfiguring your supply chain can result in new product or service offerings.

Remember to act responsibly with suppliers. In terms of payments,  you won’t go far wrong by following the ‘Doing Business Together‘ principles.

Perhaps 2011 is the year in which to renegotiate with both existing and new suppliers and to reconfigure your supplier network in order to reduce costs and innovate your customer offering.

Prof Nigel Lockett FRSA

Professor of Enterprise
President of the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship
www.leeds.ac.uk/lec
www.nigellockett.com

What makes a good conference?

Well, the obvious answer is … it depends on who it’s for. But, for researchers, teachers, practitioners and policymakers interested in entrepreneurship and small business development this is a matter of some concern.

With ever shrinking budgets, the prospect of only attending one professional conference a year is very real. So, what makes a good conference? On my shortlist would be:

  1. FOCUS on quality contributions, which are based on rigorous research conducted by leading researchers and help provide real insight.
  2. FREQUENT opportunities to network with researchers, practitioners and policymakers in order to build strong professional networks and grow the community.
  3. FIT for purpose venue but not ‘over the top’. Providing value for money is in everyone’s best interests.

Having said this, I do acknowledge any conference must serve its community and also include opportunities for new researchers and practitioners to join in.

So, why am I concerned about this right now? Perhaps not surprisingly as the President of ISBE I’m particularly concerned that we get our annual conference right. This year we are in the Grand Connaught Rooms, London on 3rd and 4th November.

With over 200 presentation selected from over 400 submissions, I’m confident we have got the balance between quality and quantity right. This year we have designed the networking space to be at the centre of activities – including the food! The venue is impressive but still good value – at least by London standards.

But, the real acid test will be delegate feedback!

STOP PRESS 22nd November 2010

The delegates said

  1. Networking was the main reason for attending and delegates were very satisfied (over 70% fully).
  2. Access to the latest research was almost as important and again delegates were happy with quantity and quality – always a difficult balance to strike (over 70% fully).
  3. The venue delivered!

But would they attend again or recommend it to a colleague? Over 95% said yes to both!

And finally, why not see what the conference was actually like …

ISBE Conference Video 2010

Prof Nigel Lockett FRSA

Professor of Enterprise
President of the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship
www.leeds.ac.uk/lec
www.nigellockett.com

Can you teach enterprise?

Here in lies an age-old question.

Well, according to Enterprise Educators UK, it’s a resounding YES. But, then again they would say this, they are the UK’s largest network for enterprise educators representing more than 600 enterprise education professionals. Their purpose is to support their members to “increase the scale, scope and effectiveness of enterprise and entrepreneurship teaching within their organisations.”

Again, Babson College, probably the world’s leading proponent of entrepreneurship education, says YES. In fact, they have made a business out of educating the educators! They provide annual Symposia for Entrepreneurship Educators, held for the first time in Europe in 2008. I should know – I joined the international cohort at University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. On graduation, we joined the 1,500 alumni of educators.

Perhaps not surprisingly, in the past the UK Government has been strong supporter of enterprise education – both at schools and universities. The previous administration founded the National Council of Graduate Entrepreneurship, who provide a range of programmes to support and encourage enterprise in universities. More recently, students have taken matters into their own hands. The inspirational Victoria Lennox founded the National Consortium of University Entrepreneurs in 2008 as a national organisation to support and represent university enterprise societies and student entrepreneurs in the UK.

So, can you teach enterprise?

Yes, I think you can! Closer to home, in Leeds, we have developed a university-wide initiative to do just this. The Leeds Enterprise Centre, is the focal point for enterprise education on the university campus. Our aim is to provide exceptional research-led enterprise teaching and related activities from our staff, associates, enterprise ambassadors, student interns and visitors. Launched last week, on 7th October 2010, it will provide enterprise modules ranging from ‘Creativity & Innovation in Business’ through ‘Financing for Social Enterprise’ to ‘Social Networking for Enterprise Creation’, to both undergraduate and postgraduate students. It will also provide access to new venture creation support, like the award winning SPARK.

And finally, what is the new coalition government saying? I simply don’t know. There is nothing on the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) or Cabinet Office web sites. Perhaps we will know more after the ‘Comprehensive Spending Review’ on Wednesday 20 October or maybe not …

STOP PRESS 15th October 2010

Seems that Goldman Sachs think you can teach enterprise  too. But not just to students but entrepreneurs as well. It’s good to be involved in this innovative business growth programme and have already met the fabulous 25 people on the first cohort. Programme starts in earnest today. What this space …

Prof Nigel Lockett FRSA

Professor of Enterprise
President of the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship
www.leeds.ac.uk/lec

www.nigellockett.com

Is the emergence of the ‘Networked Entrepreneur’ anecdotal or really significant?

I meet more and more successful entrepreneurs who seem to be able to create real entrepreneurial opportunities and exploit them by using their networks. Interestingly, they are so good at this they create new networks if their existing ones can’t deliver. Combine this with the intrinsic ‘network power’ of the Internet and things could get very interesting!

I can think of three good examples of the former and hundreds of people who might get the latter.

So, what do I mean by the ‘Networked Entrepreneur’? They build innovative companies around core service offerings, which in addition to using ‘in house’ assets, integrate with their business networks. At first glance they seem ‘conventional’ but their ability to deliver is based on developing and managing these networks. No opportunity becomes too big and they can emerge in unexpected areas and win new business. The ability to manage or orchestrate these networks becomes a key skill.

Examples [pictures!] speak louder than words:

  1. Jonathan Hick, founding director of The Directorbank Group. He recognises opportunities across multiple sectors and knows the right people to exploit them. If you don’t believe me just look at his portfolio.
  2. Victoria Tomlinson, founder and Chief Executive of Northern Lights PR. She is establishing a new way of doing ‘PR’, which is based on her company being at the centre of a highly skilled and specialised network of service providers and senior business leaders. Of course Victoria builds a reputation in existing sectors but seems to be able to ‘leap frog’ into new ones.
  3. Tim Lockett, founding director of Deliver Net. (Yes, I know blood is thicker than water!) He is building a market leading company in a specialist sector by working in partnership with group customers, suppliers and technology providers to take costs out of the supply chain and empower the customer to really manage ‘cost in use’. Tim has probably forgotten the last time he talked to a customer about the price of a product.

And, who are the ‘hundreds of people’ who might understand the power of the Internet?

Many of my students instinctively see this way of working and that the Internet can be a key tool in achieving success. Well, of course they are the ‘Internet generation’. What they often lack is the market knowledge. However, all they have to do … is just find the right partner!

And, by the way, what are you doing to develop your ability to orchestrate networks better than your competitors?

Dr Nigel Lockett
Director of Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management (CEIM)
www.bradford.ac.uk/ceim
www.nigellockett.com

What would it take to make Santander a serious contender in the small business banking sector?

Until their acquisition of Abbey National in 2004 Santander was practically unheard of on the British high street. This has all changed. Not least because of their purchase and rebranding of the Alliance & Leicester and Bradford & Bingley branches but perhaps mostly because of their Formula 1 sponsorship deal with Lewis Hamilton! We may not own a single major car manufacturer but that doesn’t seem to diminish our ‘Top Gear’ obsession with fast cars and winning at sport.

In the UK, Santander is 2nd in terms of mortgages, 3rd in terms of deposits and 5th in terms of branches operated. It has over 25 million customers.

But how can Santander turn this impressive performance on the racetrack and high street into a winning formula for small business banking? The competition is tough. There are already many strong incumbents such as Barclays. But would a Spanish bank have a better chance than anyone else?

There are a few of factors that might influence the outcome.

  1. The relationship between Spanish and British people is largely positive. Our last serious direct conflict was centuries ago and we have an interest in each other’s cultures and climates! Of course, there are issues around Gibraltar and the number of British citizens residing in Andalucía. Did you know that in 2008, 590,000 people left the UK and 430,000 arrived? And, after Australia, where did the British citizens leaving go? Yet, the Spanish remain largely positive about the British.
  2. UK banks and bankers have a somewhat tarnished public image, which extends into the business sector. This might just be a ‘window of opportunity’ for a new non-UK contender to enter the market. Of course, small businesses might be slow to move their banking. However, over 1 million of them don’t seem to be too happy (http://bit.ly/abAgQh).
  3. The most taught foreign language in Spanish secondary schools is English. In the UK all secondary schools offer French and 76% offer Spanish, more than German. French is declining at GCSE level yet Spanish is increasingly popular.

I’m writing this blog mid-way through teaching (fortunately for me in English!) entrepreneurship to a group of MBA students at the University of Salamanca. I’m also receiving Spanish tuition at one of the many language colleges in this beautiful city. Interestingly, Santander recently sponsored a major programme of Spanish business school professorships and an entrepreneurship programme for researchers and faculty with Babson College – a recognised global leader in this field.

Oh, by the way Santander has just made a significant move. They are the only bidder for the RBS branches, which serve some 2 million small businesses in the UK (http://bit.ly/b79YJV). It looks like they have just shifted into second gear!

I wonder if one of their next steps will be to get involved in university based enterprise programmes in order to influence the graduate entrepreneurs of the future.

Dr Nigel Lockett
Director of Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management (CEIM)
www.bradford.ac.uk/ceim
www.nigellockett.com

Is the new coalition government going to be good for small business?

With all the talk of hung parliaments, national interest and stable government it is easy to forget that the ‘enterprise show’ must go on! Small businesses provide nearly 60% of private sector jobs and over 50% of UK turnover. Over half a million people start their own business each year. We are clearly an enterprising nation. So, what might the new Conservative – Lib Dem coalition mean for small businesses and entrepreneurship?

If we had to use one word to describe each party’s approach to enterprise what would it be?

  • Conservative = the Markets. Tends towards supporting the City, reducing the national deficit quickly, reducing regulation for businesses and reducing NI and tax. Going greener.
  • Lib Dem = the Individual. Tends towards local accountability, splitting banks and creating a Post Bank, reducing the national deficit, reducing regulation for businesses, supporting social enterprise and reversing NI increase. Gone green.

But, what do small businesses and entrepreneurs want?

Simply, anything that will free them to be more enterprising and create jobs. That means reduced regulation and bureaucracy, access to finance and fairer taxation. As well as, wider recognition of the role they have in innovating and creating the jobs and wealth that fund public services.

With George Osborne as Chancellor and Vince Cable in the Treasury with responsibility for business and banks, what are my ‘top ten’ predictions?

  1. Banks: Legislation to split investment from retail banking. New bank levy. Formation of Post Bank delivered through the Post Office network;
  2. Business rates: Automatic business rates relief for small businesses;
  3. Business support: Reduced role for Regional Development Agencies. Business mentor networks;
  4. Economy: Attempts to rapidly reduce national debt in order to increase financial stability;
  5. Finance: Increased access to funds from state-owned banks and government schemes;
  6. Green: New low-carbon schemes for small businesses;
  7. Public procurement: Increase access to contracts for SMEs;
  8. Red tape: Reduced regulation and bureaucracy;
  9. Tax: Reduced NI and simplification of Corporation Tax. Review of IR35;
  10. Training and higher education: Increased apprenticeships and work-based training. Increased university enterprise and collaboration with industry.

So, with George Osborne focusing on macro-economic and market issues and Vince Cable supporting businesses we can expect enterprise to matter. With politicians calling for responsibility, compromise and stability there is no doubt in my mind that, given the right environment, small businesses and entrepreneurs can deliver more than their fair share of new jobs and wealth generation.

Dr Nigel Lockett

Director of Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management
www.bradford.ac.uk/ceim
www.nigellockett.com

STOP PRESS

I have just reviewed the ‘coalition agreement’ to see how my ‘top ten’ fared. Still in the charts are:

  1. Banks: New bank levy [Yes] and legislation to split investment from retail banking [Almost – independent commission to investigate];
  2. Business rates: Automatic business rates relief for small businesses [Partly – cancelling some backdated demands];
  3. Economy: Attempts to rapidly reduce national debt in order to increase financial stability [Yes – significantly accelerated reduction. £6 billion in 2010-11];
  4. Finance: Increased access to funds from state-owned banks and government schemes [Yes – to viable SMEs. Major loan guarantee scheme and using nationalised banks];
  5. Green: New low-carbon schemes for small businesses [Partly – creation of green investment bank];
  6. Tax: Reduced NI [Yes];
  7. Training and higher education: Increased apprenticeships and work-based training [Yes – work programmes].

Out of the charts [well at least no news yet] are:

  1. Banks: Formation of Post Bank delivered through the Post Office network;
  2. Business support:  Reduced role for Regional Development Agencies. Business mentor networks;
  3. Public procurement: Increase access to contracts;
  4. Tax: Simplification of Corporation Tax. Review of IR35;
  5. Training and higher education: Increased university enterprise and collaboration with industry.

Now we just have to wait for the emergency budget in 50 days …