An exhibition of vintage Ferraris, Bugattis and Jaguars provided a unique backdrop for Evolution Capital’s presentation, Unlocking Intrinsic Value, on June 6, 2019. We welcomed a select gathering of TMT entrepreneurs at the headquarters of the Honorable Artillery Company, in the City of London, to discuss the art of unlocking the hidden value that is present in many businesses.
The main subject of the discussion, the ‘intrinsic value’ of a business (versus traditional valuation techniques) was debated with valuable contributions from the group. Lunchtime heralded the cessation of the formal proceedings and our guests returned to our table to continue the dialogue ‘al fresco’ in the Artillery Garden of the HAC.
The route to our table was lined by many of the 80 vehicles on display – perhaps some of the strongest brands in the world – automotive or otherwise. Catalysed by these automotive icons, all around us, talk inevitably turned to the evolution of these iconic brands and the process of creating them.
So what part of intrinsic value can be unlocked through developing a strong brand and how do our entrepreneurs go about creating one?
Evolution’s expertise lies within the mid-market and we had had a fair representation of that demographic around our table. Creating a recognisable brand without the vintage legacy of Jaguar or the resources of Ferrari is always going to be challenging. However, and as testified by many of our guests, creating a brand with finite resources is well within the bounds of possibility given a decent plan.
Successful organisations in the £5-50 million turnover space tend to have leaner multi-purpose teams running on tighter marketing budgets and every effort expended is held accountable. Does this limit the ability to develop a brand? Not at all. Indeed, these limitations often make the team more hungry to win and collaboration is much easier across all functions than when a single team is responsible for single functions.
Another factor in their favour is that companies in this range tend to have flatter organisational structures, fewer internal processes to follow and more nimble supply chains. This allows a far quicker response to changing consumer needs and in a rapidly evolving landscape speed to market is vitally important.
Stephen Thurston, co-founder of Business Systems UK, says: “Our brand is built on consistency and we have worked hard to establish a reputation as ‘trusted supplier’ to all our customers – organisations like Standard Life, The Home Office and Eurotunnel. They expect reliability and consistency of support from us and that’s what they get. Technology is always changing. For example in the early days, the voice recording market evolved quickly from analogue to digital and our customer support had to be consistently reliable throughout a changeable landscape.”
With finite resources, companies like Business Systems have to focus their marketing resources in more concentrated areas and, by putting more wood behind fewer arrows, aim their brand strategy at a well-segmented audience.
Thurston continues: “We know exactly where the buyers are and we take a highly focused approach in reaching them through trade shows, events, webinars and influencers. Focusing all our marketing activity through well-known channels reinforces our brand message for consistency.”
Critical to the success of companies creating effective brands is good decision making; but for those in the mid-market, this criticality can mean the difference between success and failure. Everyday operational and long term strategic decisions have to be made using the best available data and it is important that fundamental decisions are made using the best available.
Martin Doyle, of data experts DQ Global, says: “Strong brands all use high-quality data and information. Organisations can only make good decisions if they can trust their data. From trusted data comes reliable information and this forms the bedrock of dependable decision-making. Better information results in fewer mistakes, which adds to the reliability of your brand.”
Someone who knows all about creating a brand in both the enterprise and the mid-market is Kevin Timms, CEO of IT services provider EACS. He enjoyed a prominent career as IT Director for both the Ford Motor Company and Jaguar Land Rover before establishing his credentials in the B2B marketplace.
Timms says: “It was a huge culture shock moving marketplaces but once I realised that I was in charge of my own destiny I never looked back. In percentage terms, EACS spend a fraction of what either Land Rover or Ford spend on marketing but we do expect to get a bigger ‘bang for our buck’. I spend about 15% of my time on developing our brand. As a B2B supplier, we have to be very careful not to over-communicate on the marketing front as our customers might not appreciate too many bells and whistles.
Our brand is all about creating clarity and consistency and we strive to achieve this. In the mid-market the message is simple – be big, be niche or get out. Mid-market brands need to be relevant and dependable, both internally and externally. They need to use the right set of tools and deliver with excellence. Does our brand deliver intrinsic value? Absolutely, it is key to achieving our growth potential.”