How technology gives you the freedom to explore new ideas
Perspective is everything. Sometimes, when you’re so close to your business, it’s hard to see the opportunities that come your way. Industries change, products come and go and customers are always exploring other options. Both big names and smaller players can be surprised by a loss of relevance, or by the emergence of a powerful new idea. “Disruptive innovators” have changed the business landscape and redefined existing models. For example, Airbnb owns no real estate, yet has become one of the largest holiday rental companies in the world.
By changing their outlook, business leaders can see challenges coming over the horizon or the potential of a fresh approach. This is as true of small businesses as it is of larger ones. In fact, smaller companies often have the advantage – it’s easier to move fast within a less rigid corporate structure.
However, this process isn’t always easy, especially when you’re caught up in the daily challenges of work. You need a chance to look at your business from a distance. Could new trends or new technology open the way to new products or business models? Could an existing product work in a market you hadn’t previously considered?
Mobile technology can help by giving you the freedom to step away from your desk, slip out of your routine and see your business with new eyes. Portable 2-in-1 devices, such as the Samsung Galaxy Book, enable you to tackle any business task while on the move – without losing access to data or your team. The Galaxy Book’s 11-hour battery life makes it an indispensable tool for fact-finding missions and discussing new ideas with employees or customers, while the S Pen allows you to take notes in an intuitive way.
This could be invaluable. Sometimes all it takes is a shift of focus to make a company a huge success. Starbucks began as a reseller of espresso makers and coffee beans, but it was only when Howard Schultz saw an alternative future in brewing and selling coffee in branded coffee houses that it became an international phenomenon. William Wrigley Jr was a soap and baking powder salesman who offered free chewing gum with every purchase, before he realised that his gum was becoming more popular than the cleaning products. These business leaders took the time to spot the potential of an idea and had the courage to run with it.
This ability to pivot can change everything. For example, the Manchester-based personalised clothing company, Clothes2order.com, found success by switching from imports to manufacturing and ecommerce – a move that has seen the company grow from four people to 150. “Understanding and responding to changes in the industry was key to knowing when to pivot and ensure a successful transformation,” said the company’s managing director Michael Conway. “You know it’s the right time when you can no longer differentiate yourself from your competitors. We decided to reposition the business through ecommerce and personalisation. We haven’t looked back since.”
Perspective can help you spot the signs that it’s time to change. Are there clear and immovable obstacles that prevent you from making further progress? Do your products or services align with customer needs and industry trends? Are you constantly playing catch-up with your competitors? Could you be doing more to support products as they gain traction? How are new companies going to disrupt your industry?
There may be scope to find new revenue streams within the existing business. Claudia Dreier-Poepperl is the CEO and founder of Calldorado, a mobile advertising technology firm. “In my business, we let app developers make money by serving ads in their apps. Doing this with our own apps helped us understand the model better,” she said. “In fact, it led us to build a tool that helps developers re-invest their ad revenue into growth – and even an app investor club that lets them raise new funds. So that internal insight has really changed the direction of the company.”
Of course, shifting focus takes work. You need clear, collective leadership and a company culture that embraces change. You need clarity over what that change will achieve and why, so that you can present a narrative that brings the whole team together. You need the patience to move steadily, so that you don’t spoil the existing business, but also the courage and persistence to try new ideas and keep pursuing them – even if they don’t immediately take off.
Mobile technology isn’t just about working anywhere, but what that can do for your perspective and your ability to see the bigger picture. Shake things up and take a break from your routine, and gain the freedom to breathe life into your best ideas.
As a business, you should always keep an open mind, respond proactively to change and explore the many opportunities that mobile technology offers. As William Wrigley Jr found out, a brave shift in focus can set you on a new, far more successful path.
Samsung and The Supper Club
Michael Conway, Claudia Dreier-Poepperl, Simon Hill and Peter Rear are members of The Supper Club – an elite network of business owners and small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) founders who, in partnership with Samsung, are sharing their knowledge and insight, inspiring more small businesses to go out there and grab success. At a recent event, we spoke to them and other members to find out how they’ve taken on new ideas and used them to evolve their businesses.
Q. How have you pivoted within your own business?
Peter Rear, founder and CEO, Filmatography: It’s important to never stand still and to look at new and interesting ways of evolving and presenting your product. At Filmatography, we have given a totally new way for clients to enjoy their imagery in a luxury screening and editing facility in the Middle East, where the sharing of imagery online is typically restricted for cultural privacy concerns. The entrance into our Dubai Cinema Studio has 11 Samsung 55in screens, which surround you in a stunning panoramic display. Clients can enjoy their photography with friends, family and guests, then enjoy their films in our private cinema. The concept of luxury today is about the experience, not just the product, and we aim to deliver exactly that in a truly immersive way.
Michael Conway, managing director, Clothes2order.com: Our business has changed dramatically from being a garment importer in the early days to a manufacturing and ecommerce business today, from four people to a workforce of 150. Understanding and responding to changes in the industry was key to knowing when to pivot and ensure a successful transformation. You know it’s the right time when you can no longer differentiate yourself from your competitors. We decided to reposition the business through ecommerce and personalisation. We haven’t looked back since.
Q. How can companies generate new ideas?
Simon Hill, founder, Wazoku: At Wazoku, we work with some of the world’s biggest brands and companies to make ideas pervasive and innovation accessible to everyone. Our approach is to embrace the tools of crowdsourcing and innovation to bring an organisation’s creativity and expertise to co-create solutions to the innovation challenges and objectives that the company is interested in exploring. We believe that ideas and innovation should come from within, meaning the best place to source new ideas is by tapping into your current network – first and foremost your employees and customers.
Peter Rear: At Filmatography, we consider ourselves innovators who are working at the cutting edge of technology and we stay on the pulse of industry change. We’re very tech-driven and we use new developments in interesting ways. Keeping up with your sector’s evolution is vital and anticipating the next leap forward is very important. We are seeing a convergence of the film and photography world, where in the not-too-distant future you’ll see the widespread use of super-high resolution film cameras, from which stills will be taken instead of having two independent operators.
Q. How do you know if an idea is right for your business?
Peter Rear: It has to do with the values of your business and you need to make sure that each development you undertake is attuned to these core values. Every new development I undertake with Filmatography has to align with our core values and sit well within the wider luxury and cinematic sectors that we work in. If you don’t have these core values already, perhaps that’s the next step in your journey.
Simon Hill: Starting with a clearly defined problem statement focuses the creative inputs in line with the business strategy and goals. From there, having an approach that allows for rapid prototyping and testing of ideas allows for a fail-fast approach – and for a higher success rate for ideas you do take forward.
Q. How do you take your team with you when you’re trying to evolve your business?
Michael Conway: It’s about culture and values. I spend a significant amount of my time developing and communicating our core values, mission and purpose, and it’s time well spent. Everyone needs to understand your values and culture, to know where the business is going and what we are trying to achieve. If people are aligned to the vision, they will be with you on the journey – they’ll be able to adapt to change and the team spirit will be strong.
Simon Hill: Involve them in the process from the beginning. Being open, transparent and encouraging collaboration during the process drives greater engagement and means your people are invested and engaged in the change process throughout.
Peter Rear: If you involve your team in the innovation and development process, it will ensure that the team will be synonymous with company progression.
Q. What can you do to make your new idea a success with both existing customers and new ones?
Peter Rear: It’s really important to test new ideas with small groups before deploying them to the masses. Getting feedback from this and developing the idea further will really help its greater success. Communication is vital for clients to be able to fully engage with the product or service as you would wish them to. This is best done in a visual, video-based way, which will provide the highest level of interest and engagement.
Simon Hill: Keep innovating and make change and agile working a part of the ongoing process.
Michael Conway, managing director, Clothes2order.com
Clothes2order.com is an award-winning part of the Quayside Group, one of the UK’s fastest growing clothing distributors. Established in 1995, the Quayside Group has developed into one of the market’s leading suppliers of clothing for workwear, promotions and events.
Simon Hill, founder, Wazoku
Founded in 2011, Wazoku’s team of professionals share their knowledge to help their customers obtain the best results from innovation programmes, using a powerful idea management platform called Idea Spotlight.
Peter Rear, founder and CEO, Filmatography
Filmatography strives to achieve world-class commissioned cinema and photography, inspired by a collective desire to deliver the extraordinary. Established in 2003, this globally renowned production studio specialises in high-profile launches, fashion campaigns, lifestyle shoots, commercials and distinguished events.
Claudia Dreier-Poepperl, CEO and founder, Calldorado
Established by app developers for app developers, Calldorado solves two big problems: monetisation and re-engagement. The company, headquartered in Copenhagen but global in outlook, provides a freely available software development kit (SDK) that enables app owners to generate revenue and highlight app features at the same time.