Importance of Getting Started

I've just come back from presenting the "Commercialisation and Marketing Strategies" session at Energy YES event in Edinburgh. This is the first for this topic area of Young Enterpreneur Scheme which also covers the themes of Biotechnology, Environment and Engineering. It is one of the excellent ways that Postgraduates can learn about business during their studies and research.

I firmly believe that this is an experience that all postgraduate researchers should be exposed to. The world today requires a better understanding of IP (especially non-patent IP) and how that can benefit pure research and a better understanding of how business works.

And it is fun. I regularly meet students who have never considered jobs outside of academia who have their eyes opened by this type of experience. To explore what marketing is, why potential customers ought to be interested in your "idea" and to be forced to put themselves into the mind of investors who wish only to maximise their ROI can be a brain melting but enlightening experience.

Better still to find that they enjoy it and may wish to pursure a career in technical sales helping to improve the success rate of start-ups based around specialist technologies.

That is what the Knowledge Economy needs, that is what could really make a difference.

And I get the priviledge of being part of that process.

Roll on November and Biotechnology/Environment YES.

Inspiring Carpets

I'm always watching and observing how the business world around me uses marketing techniques and how non-technical businesses adapt and respond to change and challenges.

One company that impresses me every time I step into their premises is Stevens & Graham, a family owned business established 1947. An unlikely candidate from the outside for they exist in a downtrodden area of Glasgow with an old warehouse with no remaining windows directly opposite – but definitely not an organisation to judge by the cover.

Inside their emporium of carpet is Sandy Graham, a gentleman who understands his market, his product, his competition and his customers to the nth degree....a man who I enjoy listening to and continually learn from.

He has guided his company into the internet age by picking out a high-value niche product from their range and ensuring front page Google search engine rankings on a global basis. How?? By going after Tartan. And that is no mean feat. He courts the overseas, ex-pat and corporate markets incredibly successfully, providing high quality acres of delightfully patriotic floor coverings. Check it out at

He also courts his customers wonderfully well. An encyclopedic knowledge of his stock and his immediate ability to calculate discount/profit margins helps, but outstanding is his manner. He always has a positive story to tell – an exciting encounter about American golf enthusiasts wanting to get a few rugs for their summer house “back home” or the lucky-chance opportunity to carpet the Prince's Trust show-house at the Ideal Home exhibition. No hard luck stories here – up beat, up tempo...customer service all the way.

Importantly this message, this approach, is found echoed in all the front-line staff.

His simple answer to the economic downturn – a sensible increase in his sales and marketing budget. After all they are not only about Tartan, but all floor coverings for all requirements, a message which they are taking firmly to the world through their website, their impeccable staff and their new outlet in East Kilbride.

As Sandy himself frequently says “Very Good”.

Strategic growth

Much has been mentioned in the press recently about a desire for a new political agenda to support growth. Tax breaks, an end to austerity and more support for all kinds of options depending on who is writing the article are all put forward as the ultimate solutions.

But is that really the answer?

Innovation, the creation of new things that can capture imagination, customer appeal or plain old necessity isn't always best served through making things easy.

This is a time of massive change. There is a need for acceptance that at a national level we have been spending beyond our means and that many of us have done that at a local and household level as well. Perhaps there will be new policies that will assist your company, your industry or your geographic area. Perhaps there won't.

Whilst the politicians and bankers decide, companies can't stand still.

There is a need to look hard at what your company does and what it could do, what skills you think your team has and the reality of what they can actually do. There are hidden gems in all organisations, ideas and knowledge that have remained hidden simply because no-one asked.

How well does what you offer fit the needs of the market place? Where is your market today and where will it be in the future? What are your competition doing? Do you agree with their strategies or do you think that your approach is better and provides an edge that customers and potential customers will respond to?

There are no guarantees that there will be hand-outs or beneficial policies to come. If your, or my, company is going to succeed it will be because you are offering something that world wants and you are letting the world know where and how to obtain it.