For 14 years, Enterprise Nation CEO Emma Jones CBE has helped small businesses find their feet and grow. And in the past 12 months, her organisation has worked tirelessly to assist SME owners with facing the daunting uncertainties of the pandemic.
In a recent webinar for the Institute of Leadership & Management, Emma noted that SMEs have tackled Covid in two, main stages: i) an initial “dash for cash”, coupled with a focus on business rescue, and ii) a pivot last summer towards digital education, to build confidence around new working methods. Now, she said, SMEs are preparing to reopen in the spring and welcome customers back to physical premises.
Here are her tips for how SME owners should approach leadership going forward:
1. Focus on your core skills
“A huge piece of advice we provide is: do what you do best, and outsource the rest. If, as founder, you are great at marketing or selling your product, find people who are experts in the areas that aren’t your strong suit, and send that work out to them.”
2. Look to your peers
“Enterprise Nation has opened physical shops and filled them with goods from multiple SMEs who want to find out more about their customers. We’ve done this to crowdfund rent: a shop on Oxford Street, for example, is very expensive – but several firms working together can meet that cost. Think about your peers and ask, ‘How can I partner with you more to sell more?’”
3. Build a trusted brand
“SMEs like advisers who share specialist knowledge freely and upfront – whether through blogging, podcasts or hosting events. If you share your knowledge, that will build trust in your firm. Trust is a brand’s most critical element: it can convert advice-seekers into clients, who may stay with you for a long time.”
4. Be a good adviser
“When other SMEs seek your advice, put time into understanding them and recognising their needs. SMEs don’t know what they don’t know. So, a good adviser can help them see: if you do this to that part of the business, this is how it will help. Then, follow that up with practical delivery and execution.”