Time to take on 2015

With killer business growth insights from superstar entrepreneurs Will King, Edwina Dunn, James Murphy and Tony Goodwin

You can’t predict the future. But what you can do is listen to the wise words of some of the UK’s top entrepreneurs, who have overcome huge challenges and lived to tell the tale.

The Entrepreneurs Panel at our inaugural Dynamic Enterprise Summit talked about what they thought businesses should be focussing on in the year ahead.

Here’s their top advice:

Will King, founder and CEO, King of Shaves

Will King, founder, King of Shaves

The popular entrepreneur told the audience at the Dynamic Enterprise Summit that a lot of people lost trust in brands during the recession. People have become a lot less loyal to faceless corporations.

The good news (particularly for SMEs)? That allows businesses with personality to succeed.

“It’s about having that humanity and believability,” he said.

He said consumers are becoming the boss – relying less on retailers and marketers and more on the internet to make purchasing decisions.

Adapting to what customers want was absolutely crucial, he added, because mediums such as Facebook allow people to find honest reviews and comments about products.

“These days, it’s not what you say about you, it’s what other people say about you.”

James Murphy, founder and CEO, adam&eveDDB

The head of award-winning advertising agency adam&eveDDB said the political landscape would be changing next near, no matter which party is in power.

“2015 is going to be the most uncertain election for years,” said the man behind the John Lewis Christmas ads. Businesses will be caught between two “hairy” options – the less pro-business Labour party and the possibility of an anti-Europe UKIP and Conservative coalition.

He advised businesses: “Keep the focus on the core product and add value.

“There’s a huge amount of clutter and wasted energy in the digital space, which sounds a bit brutal, but I call it ‘digital landfill’.

“The trick is to come up with reductive messages,” he said, telling the audience not to get to try to do everything on every possible platform, but rather to focus.

Edwina Dunn, co-founder, Dunnhumby

Edwina Dunn, founder, Dunnhumby

The woman who developed Tesco’s innovative Clubcard data analytics said business survival was all about understanding customers.

“If you follow your customers and understand them, you can work out how to adapt your business to anything,” she said.

In the retail space, the recession has meant customers cannot be as easily pigeon-holed as they previously were. For example, more wealthy customers are shopping at Aldi and Lidl as well as Waitrose and Marks & Spencer. “People are no longer put into nice neat boxes – it’s much more difficult to predict them.”

But focusing on the customer and understanding them, and most importantly listening to them, can help overcome this, she said.

“Any organisation can get a huge competitive advantage by focusing on the customer. People don’t always want to know that they wasted money on something that wasn’t successful, and they insulate themselves from this kind of feedback.”

She urged business leaders to tlisten as much as possible to what isn’t working, as that enables you to focus your efforts and so become more efficient and effective.

Then, you have to be innovative to move forwards.

“Have the bravery to try things – it’s not always pretty and it takes great courage.”

Tony Goodwin, founder and CEO, Antal International

Tony Goodwin

Tony Goodwin

The recruitment boss and winner of the London Loves Excellence Awards Entrepreneur of the Year said businesses needed to focus on leadership and forget about politics.

Part of his success was down to “flying in the face of political change” by doing business in countries where there had been civil unrest – such as Russia in the early 1990s. That was proof, he said, that it was possible to do business in almost any environment.

The crucial factor for whether businesses do well in a market is understanding it – something the person in charge of a business needs to do personally.

“You need to have high people contact and get in there and see for yourself [when you’re expanding in new markets]. Many entrepreneurs or managers wouldn’t do that.”

He also noted that “many entrepreneurs aren’t leaders”. You have to be obsessed with your industry to stay at the helm of the business, he said, but don’t be shy about getting in more operational-focused people to handle the management side so you can focus on expansion, trends and staying ahead.

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