It’s not often that a small business owner gets to meet the Managing Director of a FTSE250 who could turn out to be a potential client, but this is exactly what happened when Royal Navy Veteran Kevin Bath joined X-Forces Big Business supporting Small Business campaign.
This introduction between a small business and the bigger industry players encapsulates what Big Business supporting Small Business means, and was the driving force behind Lord Young’s, Ren Kapur’s and X-Forces initiative that was launched on the 9th May.
X-Forces has proven that businesses from the Armed Forces community will play a significant role in this country’s economy. They have supported the launch of 1000 business that have shown to have over a 90% success rate which is far beyond the national average.
Each year between 12,000 to 15,000 individuals leave the Armed Forces taking with them a set of skills including leadership, entrepreneurialism, innovation and a serious work ethic which can be applied to the commercial world. Recent research from the House of Commons has shown that one in seven of these will be self-employed during their careers. Ian Heath, Director of UKI Alliances for Dell EMC, who supported the launch said: “Our nation’s military leavers are a rich and untapped vain of resource for British industry. It’s not about an obligation to those who make huge sacrifices in the defence of the realm, it’s about educated, capable and industrious people who are hungry to succeed in civilian life.”
The mutual benefit is clear, Big Business can benefit from these SME’s adaptability and the leadership ingrained within their management, whilst Small Business gains the commercial experience, industry knowledge and reach of large corporate organisations.
Dell EMC, Cisco, RBS and Balfour Beatty are amongst the organisations backing X-Forces’ Big Business Supporting Small Business Initiative. They have seen the value of the hand-up approach that supporting small businesses from the Armed Forces community can offer, not just to small business owners but crucially to their own bottom line.
X-Forces proposed this new initiative as a challenge, putting the concepts and ideas to big business without a guarantee that these would be embraced, CEO Ren Kapur said; “I was proud and touched by the enthusiasm and real commitments being made at the House of Lords, we saw something incredibly powerful take shape, and we don’t see that every day. Big business really understanding that doing business with small business from the armed forces is a good business decision, not just CSR. Small businesses* make up 75% of UK GDP, and they can become big businesses, the launch saw focussed and meaningful support from senior individuals and the organisations they represent”
So, what is this Big Business supporting Small Business campaign?
Simply put it is identifying those policies and activities that are of mutual benefit for both big and small business. Then ensuring the veteran owned start-ups and scale-ups within the X-Forces community are able to work with like-minded big business leaders to make things happen.
Three activities that have been topical this year were discussed during the event:
Knowledge exchange is the sharing of best practices, industry expertise and professional experience. This support can bridge the gap for small business owners from the armed forces community, and give corporate employees the innovative edge that SMEs are fuelled by.
Scot Gardner, Chief Executive, Cisco, UK & Ireland, said: “These individuals have a developed skill set that will be crucial in helping the UK achieve its goals for growth, and we are delighted to be in a position where we can use not only our technology, but the skills and diversity of people in our organisation to help them and this in turn develops our staffs skills.”
Supply Chain Diversity
Changing the landscape of procurement spending by Big Business and capitalising on dynamic, innovative small businesses.
Aaron Reid, Sustainable Supply Chain Manager, Balfour Beatty, said: “Balfour Beatty encourages supplier diversity and currently has a supply chain that consists of a large proportion of SME and minority owned businesses having spent £1.4bn with SME’s last year. We see reaching out to ex-military owned businesses as the next logical step in improving diversity in our supply chain.”
Business owners from the Armed Forces community enter the commercial world without the network that other businesses build up over years in the civilian world, big business can support these SMEs to fulfil their operational potential by making links and connections that benefit their own business through efficiencies and continuity.
Ren added to the debate, “I couldn’t last six months without my black book of business, it is the fuel behind my prospects, sales pipeline and new business.”
In each of these areas, these well-known brands are leading the way on how the armed forces community can be the best in business, and crucially that it makes good business sense to engage with them. The importance of these networks and strategies cannot be underestimated, especially in the new commercial world ahead; Alison Rose, CEO Commercial and Private Banking, RBS said: “This support will be of particular relevance throughout the Brexit process where the only certainty is uncertainty. We are using this time to urge our customers to take time to strengthen brands, bolster marketing strategies, fine-tune products and most importantly understand clearly the needs of their customers.”
In closing the Roundtable discussions, Lord Young of Graffham, the Launch’s host, said: “The help and support of Big Business is imperative to the continued success of X-Forces in its active bid to ensure start-ups and scale ups within the military community get all the help and support they require to succeed. Let’s take this enthusiasm and forward thinking into action”
If you or your organisation would like to get involved in the Big Business supporting Small Business initiative, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0800 307 7545.