throuGh the

A GuiDe to pLAiN sAiLiNG

rise of the super sme

recessioN

SURVIVAL

WTH GRO

N PLAN ING

coNteNts
foreWorD 2 iNtroDuctioN 3 iNsiGhts – stark reality 4 reGioNAL remeDy 5 Who is riDiNG the storm? 6 iNsiGhts – planning and strategy 7 cAse stuDy – teleproducts limited 8 iNsiGhts – mobility and it 9 cAse stuDy – energy brands 10 iNsiGhts – winning behaviour 11 cAse stuDy – paddy and scotts 12 bLuepriNt for the super sme 13 coNcLusioN 15 About pLANtroNics 16 About the reseArch 17

We live in strange and unpredictable times. the headlines are of crisis and depression – yet there is also a feeling of hope, springing from what many believe is a healthy drive towards natural economic correction and a desire for social change that is crashing through global politics. within this unfolding story, small to medium sized businesses have become the centre of attention. they are the most vulnerable; the businesses most likely to feel the pressure. at the same time they are being championed and protected – suddenly celebrated as our nation’s economic lifeblood by front-page media campaigns and powerful business lobbying groups.

NoW is the time to Get fitter. to thiNk fresh. to tAke WhAt

now is not the time to panic. certainly not to capitulate.

opportuNities exist NoW – AND to pLAN for those to come.

within these pages we get under the skin of the modern small to medium sized enterprise (sme) to find out what is working, and what isn’t. by passing on the learnings gathered from those that are bucking the downturn we have produced a report that is both optimistic and actionable – something that we can all learn from as we work through difficult times and look forward to a future of full economic recovery. we hope it proves useful, even inspirational. if you have any comments, or ideas for future plantronics research projects, please write to me at sme.emea@plantronics.com. phiLip VANhoutte, emeA mANAGiNG Director of pLANtroNics

foreWorD

2

iNtroDuctioN to the reseArch
bill Gates is on record as saying that the future of business lies with small, knowledge-based enterprises that are able to react quickly to shifting global markets. nowhere is this trend from large to small more evident than in the uk. since the 1980s, big employers such as in ship building, steel and coalmining have given way to ever increasing numbers of smes involved in media, information and communications technology and tourism. today, according to the Federation of small businesses, there are 4.7 million small businesses in britain, employing 13.5 million people (58% of the private sector workforce) and contributing more than half of the uk turnover. the uk workforce has apparently been enjoying the ride. a vodafone survey recently discovered that the happiest and most fulfilled staff in the country work for post start-up businesses employing between 10 and 50 staff. countless other surveys have found similar satisfaction levels with life in a small business, with many workers glad that they swapped the security of corporate perks and pensions for the cutting edge.

peopLe WANt to Work for them.
the tiDe is With smes. poLiticiANs chAmpioN them.
but could this feel-good factor be lost in the space of a few short months, taken away with one fell swoop of the financial markets? not necessarily. this study is a detailed portrait of the realities of trading as a small or medium sized enterprise in a radically altering marketplace – and, crucially, finds hope in those businesses that are managing to stay one step ahead of the slowdown. through analysing their make-up and behaviour, whilst also reflecting on the larger number of businesses that are feeling considerable pain, we are able to pinpoint both the ingredients for success and the pitfalls to avoid in a changing economy. this research, conducted amongst 1,096 sme owner/managers and directors in october and November 2008, provides unique insight and actionable advice – straight from the engine-room of british business and entrepreneurship.

iNtroDuctioN

3

iNsiGhts

stArk reALity
there is little point in denying that reality is biting for the majority. our research shows that 79% of all smes have felt negative impacts for their business as a result of the current economic slowdown, with almost one quarter (22%) citing that impact as ‘significant’. in the construction industry, perhaps the hardest hit of all, 47% say they have experienced significant negative impacts (six out of ten have seen turnover fall in the last six months) and just one in ten remain unaffected by the slowdown. a startling three out of ten smes trading currently have serious concerns that they will not be trading by autumn 2009. 7% believe they may not even last beyond the spring.

busiNesses thAt beLieVe the curreNt ecoNomic cLimAte is hAViNG A siGNificANt NeGAtiVe effect oN them

47.2% 33.6% 26.9%
LEGAL

CONSTRUCTION MANUFACTURING/ENGINEERING

24.1% 22.6%
HR

PUBLIC SECTOR

22.2% 19.8% 19.1% 18.0% 17.2% 14.6% 13.0%
FINANCE

TRAVEL/TRANSPORT

SALES/MEDIA/MARKETING RETAIL/CATERING/LEISURE EDUCATION HEALTHCARE IT/TELECOMS

of smes iN the retAiL & cAteriNG sector feAr they mAy Not surViVe ANother fuLL yeAr, ALoNGsiDe

45%

construction, retail and catering are also expecting to see the biggest decreases in staffing levels over the next six months. more than half of businesses in these sectors expect to see staff levels reduce. the slowdown is not restricted to these ‘worst affected’ sectors however; 43% of all smes expect to reduce headcount over the next six months. likewise, 6 out of 10 smes expect to see a reduction in financial turnover in the next six months, with just 21% expecting to see increases. 67% also expect to see their cashflow weakened in the next six months. in all, just 16% of smes say that they have not felt any ill-effects of the slowdown, whilst one in twenty businesses say that they are actually booming. WhAt Are these firms DoiNG riGht? the research for this report has been designed to identify and tag these high-performing businesses and chart their respective difference in character, type and strategy. it is these differences that we will turn the magnifying glass onto in the following pages.

38%

of coNstructioN compANies

iNsiGhts

4

Do you hAVe coNcerNs About your short or LoNG term surViVAL As A busiNess?

7.2% 22.8 %

7.0 %

remeDy
the impacts on business are being felt on a local level in varying degrees and the study helps to provide a regional sme confidence barometer. businesses in the east of england display the greatest concern for their long (and short) term survival but those in the midlands, the south west and scotland have the greatest confidence in their ability to survive the economic storm (around 45% have few or no concerns about long term survival). the global economic powerhouse of london could even lose its lustre as 28% of smes in the capital have real concerns over their survival chances.
North West NortherN ireLAND scotLAND south eAst south West

reGioNAL

33.4 % 29.6 %

reGioNAL breAkDoWN eAst LoNDoN North miDLANDs eAst WALes yorkshire

15.3% 22.0% 51.7% 6.8 % 4.2%

42.6 % 23.1% 20.7% 6.0 % 7.6%

29.5 % 36.8 % 18.4% 8.4% 6.8 %

32.5 % 30.0% 20.0 % 7.5 % 10.0 %

29.9% 25.3% 29.9% 3.4% 11.5 %

46.2% 23.1% 23.1% – 7.7%

32.1% 37.7% 11.3% 7.5 % 11.3%

39.0 % 29.9% 14.0 % 10.4% 6.7%

33.3% 38.7% 17.3% 8.0% 2.7%

37.9% 31.0% 17.2% 10.3% 3.4%

27.0% 36.5 % 23.8 % 6.3% 6.3%

yes, there is A chANce We WiLL Not surViVe iN the LoNG term No, i Am compLeteLy coNfiDeNt About the surViVAL of the busiNess

No, i hAVe LittLe coNcerNs About the surViVAL of the busiNess yes, i Am coNcerNeD We WiLL Not surViVe the Next 6 moNths

yes, i Am coNcerNeD We WiLL Not surViVe tNe Next 12 moNths+

one of the areas showing the greatest cause for concern is the east of england. while 66% of smes overall say that they expect profits to fall in the next six months, in the east the figure rises to 79%. 55% of those business fear they may not survive for another 12 months. but help is at hand should businesses be prepared to look for it. the east of england Development Agency’s takeiton campaign is aiming to raise awareness of the benefits of improved it among businesses, providing them with a package of support measures that will help boost productivity and ensure their businesses are fit to ride out the storm. “a strong it infrastructure has the ability to drive business success. if we can encourage businesses across the region to adopt improved it practices, they will reap the rewards in productivity and efficiency which, in turn, will benefit the economic prosperity of the region as a whole.” JAN piNkertoN, heAD of busiNess ict AND iNteLLiGeNce At the eAst of eNGLAND DeVeLopmeNt AGeNcy

reGioNAL remeDy

5

Who is

riDiNG the storm?
the research pinpoints the types of businesses more likely to be riding the storm rather than being swamped by the waves. so who is riding the storm? • smes with mobile workforces – they are 10% less likely to have been hit by the slowdown • smes with older, more experienced ‘captains’ – more than half of directors/owners aged over 55 are unconcerned about long term survival while just 31% of 35-44 year olds share this confidence • smes who had a ‘worst case scenario’ strategy in place – confident, booming businesses were three times more likely to have had this in place • smes investing more in training, it & telecoms, marketing – all are more likely to be riding the storm • smes with a woman at the helm – female-run businesses are 30% more likely to be riding the storm

WomeN oN top?
kAreN GiLL, co-fouNDer, eVeryWomAN women on top? of the 16% of smes that said they have not felt any ill-effects, the research indicates that it is 30% more likely that those businesses have a female at the helm. i was naturally interested though not necessarily surprised to see that female-run businesses are more likely to be thriving through the downturn than their male-led counterparts. indeed our own studies suggest a newfound optimism and ambition amongst women in business demonstrating that women business owners are increasingly well equipped to handle toughened trading conditions. it is a sign of a maturing sector where female entrepreneurs are investing increasingly heavily in marketing and optimising their workforces for success. however, it would be naive to suggest the outlook is rosy for all and there are certain actions that any business needs to address immediately if they haven’t already done so. as co-founder of the leading provider of training, resources and support for women in business, i have seen the real-world economic and personal impacts of businesses that haven’t got their cashflow in order, through tough times and there’s nothing more depressing than a visionary concept strangled by a lack of financial nous. in this current climate it is imperative to understand your business finances – our own research shows this is an area where women in business are still lagging behind. my call to action to all business owners, irrespective of gender, is to not let a great idea be killed by financial ignorance or procrastination.

Who is riDiNG the storm?

6

iNsiGhts

pLANNiNG AND strAteGy
the message is clear. businesses that review their business plans monthly are most likely to be riding the economic storm. according to our research, they are 42% more likely to be unaffected or booming during the slowdown. businesses who are confident about the future are also three times more likely to have had a strategy in place for a worsened economic climate than those who fear for their survival. one in twenty smes admitted that they don’t really have a business plan of any description (never mind a revised strategy for a global slowdown) while 17% said that their business plan only gets reviewed and revised once a year. at the root of this problem is the fact that 62% of all smes have never had to face a slowdown before. they never really needed a plan when times were good, and never anticipated that they would need one for the future. six out of ten smes did not have a plan or strategy in place for a worsened economic climate. a worrying trend for the wider economy, and indeed the future, is that the ‘young guns’ who have thrived for the past decade or more through good economic conditions were least likely to have put a strategy in place for bleaker times. two thirds did not have a plan ready for harsher times, compared to 40% of 55 year olds, who by virtue of their age and experience, have seen something similar (if even vaguely) before. the younger working nation have much to learn from mentors of previous slowdowns and recession.

47.9%
SLIGHTLY AGREE

30.1%

SLIGHTLY DISAGREE

of ALL smes hAVe NeVer hAD to fAce A sLoWDoWN before.

62% 42%

12.3%

STRONGLY DISAGREE

9.7%

STRONGLY AGREE

smes thAt reVieW their busiNess pLANs moNthLy Are

more LikeLy to be riDiNG the storm
hoW fAr Do you AGree With the foLLoWiNG stAtemeNts? my curreNt busiNess DiD Not hAVe A busiNess strAteGy iN pLAce for A WorseNeD ecoNomic cLimAte

iNsiGhts

7

pLANNiNG
to

GroW

chArLey DoWNey, GeNerAL mANAGer, teLe proDucts LimiteD planning is vital, but plans must also be reviewed regularly and rigorously. our management team sat down and risk-assessed the economic downturn on a scale of one-to-ten. we make products which help companies keep legal compliance with health and safety legislation, but which save the companies money by allowing them to carry out for themselves what they would normally need to pay a contractor a substantial sum for. we felt that this made us a relatively low-risk industry. in addition, we have a lot of smaller customers, with no individual customer contributing more than 4% of our total revenue. we also felt that this spread the risk. we then looked at ancillary risks. we felt that our main threats were from bad debt and an increase in purchasing costs. we scaled our key vertical markets on the one-to-ten risk scale and looked at credit limits accordingly. as a result we’ve now reduced credit limits on industries or businesses we perceived to be high risk in the current climate, such as leisure, haulage, luxury consumer goods, construction and hospitality. Finally, we’ve made sure we stick to our budget and ironed out any possible overspends to keep costs low. so far, it’s working. We’ve grown the business 15% in the last 6-12 months and increased our profitability substantially. i would challenge any business leader to accept that it’s not too late and to carry out their own assessment. so far, we think it’s saved us thousands.

cAse stuDy

8

iNsiGhts

mobiLity AND it
one of the more striking findings of the research is that businesses that have invested strongly in it infrastructure are currently showing the highest levels of performance. in particular, investment in mobility, thus optimising individual productivity in a climate where staffing levels are being reduced, appears to be emblematic of the ability to plan strategically and weather the vagaries of the economy. businesses that are fully enabled for remote and mobile working said that they are more than twice as likely to review their business plan on a monthly basis compared to those firms that have enabled none of their staff for mobile working (34% compared to 16%).

fuLLy ‘mobiLe’
Workforces Are 10% Less LikeLy to hAVe beeN hit by the sLoWDoWN AND Are ALso 60% more LikeLy to forecAst turNoVer GroWth compAreD to smes thAt Do Not eNAbLe mobiLe WorkiNG. these figures are symptomatic of the fact that smes are all too often overlooking the valuable asset of all – their employees. the upshot is that 45% of smes do not believe they have equipped their workforce with the technology to reach their full potential. only 37% of smes say that their workforce are fully equipped to work where and when they want, while just 4 out of 10 smes say that they provide the training and career development to maximise their workforce’s potential.

iN GeNerAL, We fouND ALso thAt smes thAt hAVe

hoW ofteN Do you formALLy reVieW/reVise your busiNess pLAN? – by mobiLe eNAbLeD

40%

30%

20%

10%

0% ALL STAFF ARE ABLE TO WORK REMOTELY MOST STAFF ARE SOME OF MY ABLE TO WORK STAFF ARE ABLE REMOTELY TO WORK REMOTELY NONE OF MY STAFF ARE ABLE TO WORK REMOTELY

QUARTERLY HALF-YEARLY MONTHLY

ANNUALLY NO BUSINESS PLAN LESS THAN ANNUALLY

in a recent survey for communications company avaya, 92% of uk workers said they would find it attractive to work for a company that offered flexible working and 78% said they would consider changing jobs for the chance to work flexibly. without the requisite tools, understanding and investment to thrive or survive, smes ignoring these sentiments risk losing their most unique proposition – the human talent that had previously been attracted away from the corporate world to seek a more exciting and fulfilling working life.

iNsiGhts

9

to stAy

iNVestiNG

oNe

step AheAD

JAmie pLumsteAD, sALes Director, eNerGy brANDs As a three year old business, this is the first slowdown we’ve had to encounter but we feel we’re riding the storm well. we provide integrated sales and marketing solutions for domestic and international clients. we have placed a real focus on one of our core offerings that ultimately helps companies increase sales in new markets while reducing costs. in a slowdown it’s all about increasing efficiencies for us and for our clients. in this kind of environment the whole idea of investing in our sales staff by enabling them to work where and when they can, is also very important to us. after all, the market we work in is extremely competitive and we have to show real results quickly to our clients. this has definitely been the single biggest shift – making sure that the people leading the business forward are out there in the real world, developing new leads, nurturing existing relationships and making more noise than our competitors.

smArter WorkiNG – Not Just for the GooD times
peter thomsoN, Director, Work Wise LtD AND fouNDer, future Work forum, heNLey busiNess schooL as times get tougher the temptation is for smes to cut back on the implementation of new working practices because they see them as employee benefits that were introduced during the good times to attract and retain the best people. as unemployment rises and employees find it more difficult to move on it is easy for employers to revert to older work practices – whether their people like it or not.

this ApproAch totALLy misses the poiNt. NeW fLexibLe WAys of WorkiNG Are Not Just GooD for empLoyees, they Are GooD for busiNess.
there is a significant body of research showing that flexible workers are more productive than their non-flexible counterparts. allowing people to manage their work-life balance and trusting them not to abuse this privilege provides a boost to morale that pays dividends on the bottom line. For an sme to stand out from its competition it also needs to have people who are prepared to ‘go the extra mile’, because they are treated like adults and trusted to get on with the job without close supervision. managers who have flexible workers under them have to be able to empower people and trust them to manage their own time and place of work. a recession is a time for showing faith in the workforce and appealing to their dedication to the company, not a time for constraining their freedom and threatening them with redundancy. smarter working practices can also save costs as well as improve efficiency. technology solutions can make fewer individuals more productive, virtual meetings save travel and flexible contracts can produce a better match between supply and demand for human effort. the smes that are more agile and can adapt to the market quickly are the ones that are most likely to survive the downturn.

cAse stuDy

10

iNsiGhts

WiNNiNG behAViour
it is not just lack of investment in technology that characterises underperformance in smes. our research found that smes are also more likely to have reduced rather than increased training budgets over the past 12 months (37% have reduced training budgets compared to 24% who have increased them). in a direct reversal, however, we also identified a new breed of ‘super smes’ (those that are actually booming through the slowdown) which are more likely to have increased (rather than decreased) training investment (39% have spent more on their training in the past 12 months while 28% reduced their training spend). similarly, while overall sme investment in marketing fell in the past 12 months (36% reduced marketing spend while 32% increased it), amongst our super smes, 43% increased their marketing spend, compared to less than one in five who reduced it. there was also a net decrease overall in it infrastructure spend. 29% spent less on this, while 27% spent more. amongst super smes, 47% spent more on it infrastructure and just 16% spent less. the trends remain the same for employee benefits, flexible working and communication technology and new product development. in each instance the general trend amongst smes was to reduce spend. however amongst those smes which are currently experiencing growth, or have greater confidence in their long-term future, spend was up across the board. What do these companies, that are going against the grain and defying the odds, look and feel like? in the following pages we discover the dna of their business success and pass on some of their learnings.

iNsiGhts

11

Without compromise
pADDy bishopp, co-fouNDer, pADDy AND scotts many consumers continue to see a great cup of coffee as their ‘everyday affordable treat’. maybe now they only have one cup a day, but as a brand we need to ensure they choose ours. Quality is king. supported by our ethical sourcing and environmental credentials, this focus remains fundamental to our future success. we used the downturn as an opportunity to ‘kick the tyres’ and make sure our business is robust enough to survive. we have deleted our slow moving lines, reduced our inventory levels and tightened our controls on costs. every penny invested must show a return. marketing is a crucial tool for surviving a recession, but not necessarily through expensive pr and advertising campaigns. innovative concepts such as our signature club (www.signatureclub.co.uk) and highly targeted sponsorship activity have been key to maintaining and growing our brand awareness.

streAmLiNiNG

focus or DiVersify?
DAViD moLiAN, crANfieLD uNiVersity schooL of mANAGemeNt bettANy ceNtre for eNtrepreNeuriAL performANce AND ecoNomics nearly half of all respondents (42%) said that they were less likely to diversify into new markets than they were a year ago. it’s the classic dilemma facing the owner-managed business in a downturn; should i diversify, or stick to the knitting? the data gathered by cranfield over many years strongly suggests that long-term sustainable growth is linked to core business development. most high-flyers succeed by identifying a profitable niche, building a strong position and selling more of their core products and services to their existing customers and others who are like them. Does thAt meAN NeVer creAtiNG NeW proDucts AND NeVer eNteriNG NeW mArkets?

AbsoLuteLy Not.

but it does imply constantly seeking new opportunities in the areas the business knows and understands before migrating to pastures new. in a sunset industry it’s true that radical strategies are often needed. but for most businesses, most of the time, diverting focus too early from the core, risks alienating existing customers while not properly serving new ones.

cAse stuDy

12

super sme
reAsoN to beLieVe according to the Federation of small businesses, 2,000 shops close on the high street each year, 27 pubs close a week and 40 businesses close each day. but at the same time, the Fsb also has figures that show over 500,000 people are sufficiently encouraged and motivated to start up their own business every year. this constant input of fresh blood is one of the principal reasons why the Fsb can also claim, on the upside, that approximately 64% of all commercial innovations come from small firms. Wherever possible, this is not a time for smes to lose faith in themselves. sir ronald cohen, one of the founding fathers of the european venture capital industry, believes that times such as these are just right for the bold entrepreneur. in his latest book ‘the second bounce of the ball’, cohen argues that everyone can see the ‘first bounce’ of the ball, usually when times are good. it is the ‘second bounce’, when both the times and the needs of your customers change simultaneously, that is uncertain. the challenge for smes is to take advantage of that uncertainty; for it is only in situations of uncertainty that substantial gain can be made. ActioNs to succeeD in the final phase of our research we asked all smes, who are currently thriving or remain unaffected by the slowdown to tell us one business priority they believe has kept them one step ahead of the competition. not to tell other businesses what they ‘should have done’, but to offer guidance to businesses on what they can start doing to improve from today – not least those 500,000 new businesses that the Fsb says are still starting up every year. the open responses are compiled here into a top ten critical business priority list of actionable advice for those businesses currently facing up to difficult trading conditions. most tellingly, by examining the collective character of these successful businesses it is clear that they are not overly cautious. if anything, they are seeing uncertainty as an opportunity to get the biggest increase in value from taking the right decisions at the right time. they are looking to investment, even though credit is hard to come by, to steal a march on the competition – confident that any gains could be worth a great deal more than if they had been achieved at other times.

bLuepriNt

for the

super smes

13

1

top teN
criticAL busiNess priorities

provide excellent customer service. we can’t survive without customers, so don’t forget them. listen and respond to their needs, demonstrate the value you place in them. review customer and client feedback formally – this will be the litmus test of what you are delivering (and how) and will help to inform positive changes where necessary. always go the extra mile for your most profitable and loyal customers. innovate. develop new unique products and services to distinguish you from the competition. Focus on those that add tangible value or reduce costs for your customers and clients. invest in people. offer customer-focused training and reward high performers. the most talented and valuable members of your workforce are those most able to move on during a slowdown. introduce simple, cost-effective recognition programmes and allow them the flexibility to work where or when they need to. maintain quality. if you trade on quality, do not cut costs that are visible to the customer in the short term, compromising your reputation in the long term. reduce debt and manage cashflow. tighten internal financial procedures immediately and look to secure longer term contracts where possible. the single biggest regret of struggling businesses was that they did this too late, or not at all, which speaks volumes. respond to the market quickly. be flexible. capitalise on your size and ability to change direction quickly. carry out detailed risk assessments on all areas of your business and customer base – identify ‘safe’ areas to focus on. prioritise marketing. do not cut budgets or stop advertising as a knee-jerk reaction to challenging trading conditions. the most successful businesses use slowdowns as an opportunity to grow, share and broadcast their message louder than the competition. crucially, you need to remind your customers that you’re still in business and instil confidence in your existing clients. slowdowns also offer greater scope for canny businesses to negotiate for favourable deals. forecasting accurately and plan realistically. super smes tended to have a ‘slowdown plan’ in place. if you haven’t written one, start now. encourage open and honest communication with your teams on what is realistic. revisit old order-books to ensure no opportunities are being missed. know your market. increase market knowledge and insight. be seen as the thought-leader in your field and enable your workforce to become experts through sharing information. use readily available free research online to boost your expertise. invest in technologies to help your people. the need to work more efficiently has never been higher up the agenda. invest wisely in it solutions focused on optimising your workforce productivity, reducing wastage and enabling smarter (not necessarily harder or longer) working.

2 3

4 5

6 7

8

9 10

super smes

14

coNcLusioN
by

DAViD moLiAN
this research confirms what we have seen for some time now: the progressive build-up of pressure on the sme sector of the uk economy. much of this has been reported anecdotally, so a national survey is a welcome addition to the evidence base. the overall picture presented is even more serious than i, for one, would have predicted. the crisis of confidence that originated in the financial sector has now clearly infected the economy in general. certain sectors, such as construction and retail, are notorious bellwethers of the economy, and it is no surprise that these are experiencing the sharpest downturns. as evidenced by the survey, those firms which are prudently managed will have anticipated problems by: • investing in sales and marketing, especially with their core customers • investing in their greatest asset – their staff – to maximise productivity and flexibility

crANfieLD uNiVersity schooL of mANAGemeNt, bettANy ceNtre for eNtrepreNeuriAL performANce AND ecoNomics

on both counts this increasingly means resourcing it and telecommunications – especially mobility solutions – to ensure the highest levels of customer service. customer service, i believe is the key battleground where smes will ensure their long-term survival. most interestingly, the survey correctly identifies the ‘gazelles’, the small minority of super-performers which are the engine of growth in advanced economies. these businesses will buck the trend. it is characteristic of these firms to over-invest in sales, marketing and technology by comparison with their peers. these high-achieving businesses are to be found in different economic sectors up and down the country, but they share a common management philosophy: they invest in their staff. they are also focused on maintaining the highest quality of customer service, and investing, if necessary, to achieve this. the ability to innovate is also identified as being important, but that needn’t mean technical breakthroughs or radical new designs. many very successful high-performers build their businesses through constantly improving the design and quality of their core products and services – and making sure that they communicate those benefits clearly and persuasively to their customers. overall, i believe that the advice offered within this report by these businesses amounts to an excellent recipe for survival, and indeed, success for when conditions improve.

coNcLusioN

15

pLANtroNics –

Why

DiD We commissioN this reseArch?

in true american tradition, plantronics began in a garage in a littleknown beach town of santa cruz, california, in 1961. the founders – two pilots named keith larkin and courtney graham – took it upon themselves to create a lightweight headset to be used by commercial pilots. in fact, this is where the company name comes from – a meld of ‘plane’ and ‘electronics’. a short while after supplying their first headset to united airlines, keith and courtney persuaded nasa to try them out. the rest, as they say, is history. in 1969 neil armstrong, stepping from the lunar module eagle 1, uttered those immortal words through his plantronics headset: “that’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” the uk office opened in 1986 – and in true british tradition, this was in a spare bedroom of a house in swindon. today in the uk we employ just under 100 employees with an annual turnover of over £30m. like all the smes participating in this survey, we too are taking actions to weather the current storm. we’re reviewing costs, cashflow and pipeline orders. we’re cost-saving where we can, and continuing to invest where it makes sense.

to fLexibLe AND mobiLe WorkiNG.
One of the gems unearthed through this research proves that SMEs with fully mobile-enabled workforces are 60% more likely to forecast turnover growth despite the current economic downturn. And one piece of kit that can help achieve this is an office headset – proven to increase productivity by as much as 24%. We’re dedicated to helping companies like yours enjoy the benefits associated with better flexible working – that’s why we’re offering a no-risk trial on our most popular wireless office headsets. 8 out of 10 people who try our headsets go on to purchase them – find out why with your own no-risk trial, visit smes With fuLLy mobiLe eNAbLeD Workforces Are

AND We’re stAyiNG committeD

WWW.ourbetterWAy.com

more LikeLy to forecAst turNoVer GroWth.

60%

pLANtroNics

16

the

reseArch
the independent survey of 1,096 owner/managers and directors of uk smes was carried out between october 24th and november 3rd 2008 by opinion matters, a full service market research company, using an online fieldwork methodology. all research carried out by opinion matters adheres to the latest mrs code of conduct. demographic detailing includes industry sector, business location, gender and age of respondent.

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