How to thrive and grow during the recession – what UKITA members are doing to survive the recession
With the majority of UKita members based in the West Midlands, it is clear that the region’s SME technology company priorities are currently centred on cost cutting, generating new business and staying in business.
As the CEO of UKita and Chairman of an IT Support company (ADECS Ltd) that has been operating profitably in the West Midlands since 1992, I have the privileged view of the region’s technology businesses – both as a founder and leader of an organisation set up to generate more business for its members and also from the point of view of a member company that is looking for new ways to prosper and grow revenue.
When times are hard, UKita is encouraging SME technology companies in the region to find strength in numbers. Savvy companies are already joining up to deliver complementary services. No longer can companies survive by being inward looking and viewing other companies in the same sectors as competitors. Instead, we are hearing from our members that by working together there is a higher chance of securing a contract, especially against mid and larger sized organisations.
There is a general feeling among our members of growing but slightly cautious optimism as it seems that the worst of the recession is over. In 2008, we generated at least £1 million of revenue for our members, with much of this being member to member business. We are on course to do the same in 2009 in spite of the economic climate. We are continuing to receive requests to identify quality suppliers for many different IT services – our website alone gained 120,000 unique visits in 2008, with the majority of visitors looking for IT services. We see 2009 as a time for opportunity, where businesses that are agile and have identified a niche or a specialist sector and continue marketing themselves can thrive.
While budgets are being squeezed, now is not the time to shy away from sales and marketing activity which is crucial to generating business. The Enterprise Fund has started to release funding for some of our members; however, the delay in receiving it has led to companies seeking out other opportunities through UKITA members that offer member-to-member professional services at discounted rates. Services include legal advice, discounted insurance and low-cost technology PR.
Good quality support networks are pivotal to the success of UKita members, with strong branch activity throughout the West and East Midlands. By regularly meeting up with other professionals in the technology industry, members can discuss business issues with people who are facing the same challenges. One of the main advantages of being an SME is that we are able to react much more quickly to any given situation than the large corporate organisation. SME technology companies that network are more likely to be visible when another company needs to refer a job.
The many public sector support organisations that exist in the Midlands are also potential sources of business or at minimum they will offer business advice. Keeping abreast of grants, tenders and quality requirements stipulated by the public sector can often overwhelm small companies, therefore we recommend investing time to decide which organisations to follow and join. Organisations include the West Midlands Collaborative Commerce Network, Manufacturing Advisory Service, BCS and iCentrum. The key to deciding which organisation to join is in identifying what benefits each provide; for instance does networking with the other members enable a company to share knowledge and gain invaluable business contacts.