Susie Logan looks at the rise of the new economy – and how small can help big work wonders in the modern workplace.
Imagine telling someone 20 years ago that you could take a photo on your phone and in seconds, show it to everyone on the planet? The world has changed so much in the last few years. And the technology and social media that’s all around us hasn’t just affected the way we go about our everyday lives – it has given rise to a new economy.
Part of this is to do with the relationship between small enterprises and large corporations. We observe that the competitive landscape has levelled so much that small businesses can compete with established companies in very different ways. This is leading to more and more disruption in the way markets operate across all sectors of the economy.
Further advances in technology as well as rapidly changing consumer behaviours will only accelerate change in the coming years. This is an exciting dynamic – but one that requires large businesses to adapt: they can’t just rely solely on their scale and brand to maintain a competitive advantage and growth trajectory.
We think that small businesses are becoming increasingly attractive employers, as they tend to allow employees to innovate and be creative – a more appealing prospect than the traditional working life. This could mean a threat to the long-term success of larger businesses, unless they embrace this changing dynamic. So how can businesses adapt – and benefit?
It’s simple: by large businesses being willing to tap into the agility of small businesses and create new partnerships that benefit both companies. And by small businesses helping larger businesses to improve and deliver results more efficiently, by bringing a new solution to an existing business problem.
For this to happen, the larger organisation has to accept that not everything needs to be done in-house, and with existing resources. Likewise, it’s important to look beyond working with strategic partners, who may only reinforce existing outdated processes and methods of delivery.
Adapt to survive
At Standard Life we recognise just how important small businesses are to the future prosperity of society, which is why in July last year, we commissioned an independent research survey to find out more detail. We spoke to 500 business leaders – with job roles of director or above – alongside 1,000 employees – a crucial cross-section of UK enterprise (you can read the full report at businessandsome.co.uk).
The big themes that emerged in the report are the fundamental trends of collaboration, empowerment and adaptability, and these are identified as central to growth over the next five years. It’s clear an agile business approach is embedded in the psyche and practices of UK small businesses today, with 60 per cent of employers saying adaptability is the most important attribute for professional success.
It’s all change. Could it be that some larger companies are re-evaluating their strategies and their strategic partners, as well as their ways of working and culture? We think so – but of course, this doesn’t mean to say that large corporates aren’t important any more. They can bring vital strengths: more experience, stronger foundations and better financial backing – and by supporting the success of smaller businesses their own businesses can benefit too.
Sharing a photo instantly with everyone in the world is exciting stuff – but what’s going on in the background is even more thrilling, as the economic landscape continues to evolve so rapidly. And in this new environment, small really does help big work wonders. In other words, success for large organisations can mean they will have to support small businesses – and use their strengths to work with, not against, them to hopefully drive mutually beneficial growth.