Questions and Answers at BLN Growth Forum

I don’t think that I’m unusual in finding life sometimes fairly lonely running an SME. The environment is in a constant state of flux and there are fewer people with the specialist knowledge and experience to turn to when I want answers to questions.

Those questions might be: how do we scale an international business; what is the most appropriate organisational structure; and, should the sales function be treated any differently to the rest of the business?

This is why I am a big fan of events such as the Business Leaders Network, run by Mark Littlewood and his team over in Cambridge.

Eminent Speakers and CEOs

Attending the recent annual BLN Growth Forum, I was able to hear from a range of eminent speakers such as the CEOs of ARM and Pace Technologies, who addressed the question of “Making it Big”. The main messages that stood out for me from ARM was the importance of not being too greedy and working more closely with partners. From PACE it was the impact of having a corporate structure, which encouraged and motivated their teams to deliver excellent performance.

This was followed by a session on “Building a Successful Sales Culture,” delivered by the excellent Paul Kenny from Ocean Learning and Andy Leaver from Workday.

As I don’t come from a traditional sales background I’ve never bought into the concept of a heavily commissioned sales model. In my view, this approach is damaging to the team ethos that we are looking to create. So we don’t do it for that reason. I’m not, however, unreceptive to other ideas on incentivising and motivating sales teams and there were a number of useful points that came out of the presentations which I will be following up.

Enlightening and candid

The theme of managing people was carried on after lunch where Martin Leuw, previously CEO at Iris Software ran through a number of HR related questions in a session entitled Putting People First.  Areas such as succession planning, management teams, share options and culture were discussed in a very enlightening and candid round-table.

Getting the people part of the business right is a major challenge for any business – and one that certainly dominates a significant part of my thoughts every day.

The event concluded with a section on strategies for maximising value.

All in all I found it a really useful day spent out of the office. Along with excellent and thought-provoking presentations, there were some great conversations with a growing network of similar fast-growth companies. These businesses included Rivo Software and Red Gate, who all have fantastic experience and knowledge that we can share, plus a few new contacts who I will be tapping into in future to help make life at the top a little less lonely.