Myth debunked: Newcastle Startup Week isn’t just for startups. Every year, our event attracts entrepreneurs from all types of businesses. That’s why this year, in 2019, we introduced our Newcastle Scaleup Summit as part of the Startup Week. In this blog, we have outlined key lessons and insights of the summit.
#1 The region is innovating. Keep an eye on growth opportunities near you – Invest Newcastle
Our region is actively investing in growth. New innovation opportunities are constantly on the horizon as Day 4 of Startup Week showed. The day took place in the Urban Sciences Building, which is part of Newcastle Helix; a brand-new innovation complex. Matt Bratton, Senior Investment Manager at Invest Newcastle, joined us on stage to kick off the day, introduce us to the venue, and share his growth plans for the region.
#2 Lead your company with leadership, passion and vision – North East LEP
Most businesses are started by one or two entrepreneurs with a strong vision and passion. Their energy drives the business forward and helps challenge myths and barriers. However, as the business grows and founders take on employees, it can be difficult to share this vision with the whole team. That’s why Colin Bell, Business Growth Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP), advises entrepreneurs to work on their leadership skills. Strong leadership can inspire passion and motivation among employees, ensures your company values remain consistent, and encourages employees to take initiative.
#3 Scaling is not just about product. It is also about processes and people – RTC North
When scaling, it is tempting to focus on products or services. How can you sell more stock? How can you create more products more quickly and for less money? Although these are good questions, scaling is not just about your products or services. The RTC North Panel on day 4 advised the audience to also take processes and people into consideration. How can staff roles change to help you scale? What processes does your business need to put in place to do things more efficiently?
#4 Map your customer journey and strategise around it – Canvas Marketing
To grow your user base, map out your customer journeys and optimise their experiences, advises Geoff Phillips (Founder, Canvas Marketing). A good customer journey map will guide entrepreneurs through customer interaction and activation stages. This helps founders develop specific strategies that differentiate between growing initial customer awareness of the product versus converting interests into sales.
#5 Build a pipeline of quality leads – MostSensational
Don’t just sit and wait for clients to come to you. When you are looking to scale, structured lead generation can be crucial to identify and source new customers. Karen Weech, MD at MostSensational, advises entrepreneurs to use technology to develop new leads. Social media and email can be powerful tools to interact with key decision makers in organisations, alongside traditional phone calls. Do your research and learn who the best person in the organisation is to contact. For more tips on lead generation, visit Karen’s blog on our website.
#6 Play devil’s advocate & anticipate your risks – SEE Consulting
Alongside team energy, resilience is an important trait for successful businesses. Ian and Mignon Mapplebeck (Directors, SEE Consulting), advise entrepreneurs to anticipate their risks and plan accordingly. What if a competitor introduces the same service? What if your key supplier drops out? Or if your client pays late? Anticipating and planning for these questions can help you develop a more resilient and scalable business.
#7 Use the right channels to reach the right audiences – Sky AdSmart Local
Advertising can be a great tool to quickly reach a large audience. However, it can also be expensive, especially if your advert isn’t actually reaching your target market. In his talk, Chris Mace (Sky AdSmart Local) covered the topic of targeted TV advertising. Before launching a campaign, have a think about both the purpose of your campaign, as well as the target market. Would a TV advert serve your campaign purpose (What is the likelihood of viewers ‘taking action’ as result of your campaign)? Are the target audience watching the show you are advertising on?
#8 Before you commit to a brand name, do your clearance searches – Sintons
Pippa Aitken (Senior Associate, Sintons) advised the audience on legals and IP. Our favourite takeaway? Protect your IP early on. Make sure that your business name has not already been cleared, protected or trademarked by someone else. You can search for trademarks on the government website. Another trick is to check out CompaniesHouse and see if somebody else is already using the same name. Although this doesn’t necessarily mean the name is trademarked, it does highlight that someone else is already operating with the same brand.
#9 Build a great adviser network – Blu Sky & NEL
You can’t be an expert in everything. Build a network of advisers who you can rely upon when you need support. Don’t go into funding or investment without fully understanding the processes. Instead, get support from someone you can trust and who has your business interests at heart. We loved this advice from Dave Gibson (Co-Founder, Blu Sky) and Yvonne Gale (CEO, NEL Fund Managers).
#10 Build a culture focused on supporting employees – Guerrilla Working
Phil Jackman (Director, Guerilla Working), shared a manifesto with the audience, advocating the need to create a culture focused on empowering individuals. He advised founders to see employees not as tools, but as independent individuals who can thrive when given independence and freedom to be creative. Create the right culture that does not rely on micro-management, but which instead, harbours trust and initiative.
#11 Good leaders must be good servants – Bellebeck
Following on from Phil’s talk, Angie Main (Organisational Development Coach, Bellebeck) focuses on the concept of ‘servant leadership’. Good leaders will inspire employees by supporting them in their roles. Create an environment focused on helping each other thrive. Focus on how you can help employees achieve goals, rather than just dictate them on what to do. Be a servant leader.
#11 Aim high and work with others to get there – Exolta Capital
You are not on your own. You can write to anyone to ask for help, so do it before it’s too late. Russell Dalgleish (Founder, Exolta Capital) travelled to Newcastle to share his experience of scaleups in Scotland. In his talk, he emphasized the importance of ecosystems and collaborations. Reach out to others when you need help. You’ve got one chance in life. Don’t be afraid to aim beyond your expectations and see where it takes you.
#12 Divide your team in tribes – The NBT Group and Swipii
Know those weekly team meetings that seem to just go around in circles? Toby Bridges (CEO, The NBT Group) and Janet Balneaves (Growth Director, Swipii) shared their experiences of dividing teams into ‘tribes’, working on different aspects of the business. Assigning teams to independent tribes or squads can help improve productivity, creativity and independence. Assign mentors to the tribes to help them get the most out of their ideas. Make sure the tribes are all working toward the same company mission and vision.
#13 The sound of teamwork must reflect the sheets in the business plan – Original Angel
Letting employees work in tribes can help spark creativity. However, make sure their goals and projects fit within your business plan. Richard Lennox (Founder, Original Angel) is an advocate of letting employees be amazing and add music to your business. He compares managing teamwork with an orchestra: If your business plan is a music sheet, employees must play the tunes from that sheet. If they don’t, they’re playing a different song. The role of the business manager is therefore one of an orchestra conductor.
#13 Team, team & team! – Visualsoft
Dean Benson, Founder of Visualsoft, shared his journey with us and highlighted the importance of team. Your staff are not your assets. They are your people. Make sure to treat them as such. Understand their passions, values and growth aspirations and, where relevant, help them develop these through your company journey. You can read more about Dean’s journey in our Q&A with him!
#14 Prepare your recruitment tactic – BMC Recruitment Group
As your team is so important, one of the biggest dangers to your business is wrong recruitment. To avoid this risk, Chris Milnes (MD, BMC Recruitment Group) advises entrepreneurs to draw up a profile of their ideal candidate. Where can you find these candidates? What are they doing? What motivates them? How much will they cost? What future are they looking for? What can you provide to them? What should you do to keep them on board? For more recruitment advice, check out our Q&A blog with BMC.
#15 There is support to help you export – UK Department for International Trade
Exporting can seem like a foreign land and it is advisable to get support and do your research. For example, to move goods outside the UK you have to apply for an ‘EORI number‘ for tax reasons. Alan Lowdon (Dealmaker, Department for International Trade (DIT), highlighted some of the support opportunities available to entrepreneurs. The ‘Exporting is Great’ programme from the Department of International Trade published a variety of online resources to support UK companies with their exports. The UK Department for International Trade also regularly hosts roadshows in the region.
#16 We are not an isolated island – Nordic panel
Our Nordic panel featuring Sophia Stovall (Head of Development, TWAM) and Hakon Junge (UK territory and brand manager, PLEO) highlighted the similarities between Nordic countries and the North East. The business etiquette is surprisingly familiar, there are many historical similarities, and both areas are generally open toward collaborations. Plus, flights are fairly cheap! (although from London). The panel inspired us, and other entrepreneurs in the audience, to consider ‘The Nordics’ as a potential destination for export and collaboration.
#17 Canada is a talent pool and a great country for export – High Commission of Canada in the UK
Nadine Storey (Senior Investment Officer & Trade Commissioner, High Commission of Canada in the UK) travelled to Newcastle to talk about export opportunities in Canada. She outlined how the nation supports small and international businesses with a history of collaborations and innovations. In particular, Canada attracts and supports international talent through a VISA scheme that automatically enables international graduates to stay within the country (for a reasonable time) to find work, leading to a rich pool of fresh talent.
#18 The North East has connections with China – China Panel
China can seem a long ‘way away’ from an exporting perspective, despite serving a huge potential market. However, the North East has close links to China. On our North East and China Panel, WeiTing Huang (Founder, Busy Backpack) reminded us of the presence of Tuspark Newcastle Eagle Labs in Newcastle. This hub connects innovation in England with innovation in places like Shenzen. Furthermore, to collaborate with companies in China, networks and direct referrals are key, making places like Tuspark Newcastle Eagle Labs incredibly resourceful for companies looking to scale.
#19 Keep focus – Ammar Mirza CBE
Ultimately, you are not going to scale a business when you are spinning thousands of plates at the same time. Ammar Mirza (Founder & Chair, Asian Business Connexions) closes day 4 by reminding the audience to keep focused whilst executing a growth strategy. Don’t chase distractions that don’t contribute to company sustainability or growth.
These were our key insights from Day 4. Do you have any other highlights? Share them on Twitter or in a comment below!
Tickets for Newcastle Startup Week 2020 are now available online. Check out our Eventbrite now for your early bird discount.