Pedalling together toward growth

Tour de France

As summer fades, so too does the memory of this year’s Tour de France. Its legacy lives on, however; cycling in the UK is currently more popular than it has been for almost 20 years.

Largely inspired by British heroes Sir Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, around 7.6 million people now ride at least once a month, covering a distance 29 percent greater than that cycled in 1997.

Many of today’s cyclists will turn to popular apps such as Peloton and Strava as they aim to replicate their professional cycling heroes’ successes. Both apps share one thing in common: they each use the power of technology to create global sets and allow interactivity between individual users.

Dafydd Llewellyn Managing Director, EMEA SMB SAP Concur explains that pursuing their own competitive edge, the UK’s small businesses could take inspiration from such an approach. By creating an SME network, they could form a Peloton of their own and, with the greater efficiency, productivity and profitability this offers, gain ground on larger, traditionally more powerful organisations.

Unlocking potential

SMEs make up 99.9 percent of the private sector in the UK. They employ 60 percent of the workforce and generate more than half of the revenue. It’s no exaggeration, therefore, to claim that they are the driving force of the country’s economy.

But running an SME is far from straightforward. Their owners are required to wear a number of different hats or in cycling terms ‘casquettes’. They’re the company’s visionary, its manager, its salesperson, its ‘directeur sportif’ and its key rider. And, perhaps most importantly, they’re responsible for growing the business. Successfully scaling an SME when there’s so much else to so is a lot to ask of one person.

Just by making small improvements, however, owners of SMEs can make a huge impact to the efficiency, productivity, and profitability of their companies. And if they were to join forces, these businesses combined could become the most powerful buyers on the planet – and without many of the limitations that bigger companies have. Its similar to how cycling teams operate to get behind their leader and use their individual strengths to push them to the top of the podium.

Supercharged by the cloud

One of the most important improvements a business owner can consider is automating their expenses and invoice processing. Significantly improving efficiency, automation means SMEs are able to focus on the things that fundamentally matter to business growth, rather than having to spend time processing invoices, matching them with purchase orders, and chasing payments.

And it’s easier than many people think. A lot of SMEs believe the technology needed to automate their back-office processes is only available to larger companies. While that may have been the case a decade ago, the evolution and ubiquity of cloud technology now means it’s more widely available – and more cost-effective – than ever before.

Cohesive ecosystem

Smart technology can also further supercharge SMEs, allowing them to connect, interact and collaborate with their peers, sharing relevant data for mutual benefit. By unlocking a wealth of combined intelligence, such a collaboration can lead to the creation of a powerful business community made up of some of the biggest contributors to the country’s economy. Over time, as the ecosystem grows and SMEs join together to form a larger single entity, their combined buying power will allow them to enjoy an economy of scale previously unavailable to them.

Such a network could afford access to a cohesive ecosystem of B2B suppliers, whose various capabilities would serve the core needs of the SME community. With automatic interconnectivity between previously disparate applications, services and systems, these suppliers can pool data and insight to improve their offerings. With this, SMEs can benefit from more efficient, real-time reporting and analytics across different areas of their business, as well as the input of industry sector experts.

A joined-up approach means expenditure and cashflow will just be a dashboard away for finance teams, rather than the result of painstakingly analysing several individual reports. The expertise of third-party data analysts – the developers behind AI-powered analytics tools – can offer consultative intelligence that will help steer businesses toward actionable insights far more quickly than they could manage on their own.

Ultimately, by being able to afford previously unavailable solutions that address their core needs, SMEs will be able to eliminate wasted time, and enjoy increased efficiency and productivity.

Breaking away

As it stands, larger organisations hold much of the buying power in today’s business world. In terms of this year’s Tour de France, they are the top-ranking Movistar, Trek-Segafredo and Team Ineos. But the balance of power could soon shift in favour of smaller businesses.

By joining forces, the limitations these businesses currently face will be removed, and the road ahead will become clearer. They are already the driving force behind the economy. By sharing global data sets, and by interacting with a mutually beneficial network of peers and B2B suppliers, SMEs could soon break away to lead the pack.

Photo by VELOBAR+ on Unsplash