Charlie Mullins: Think Netflix and Burger King, not cocktails by the pool

The environment is certainly changing, the number of cranes across the skyline of London is always a good indication of how things are going – and if you want number-driven economic facts, unemployment is at a six-year low, wages are up 2.1 per cent and the public finances enjoyed a very favourable January as the tax receipts flowed in.

All of those indicators share a common theme – business. It is business that creates the jobs, pays the wages and a decent chunk of taxes too. 

But it’s not time to start sipping cocktails by the pool; we have to maintain the mind-set that the economy hasn’t returned to full health and needs continual rehabilitation to ensure its ongoing recovery.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s not a slight on the efforts of chancellor George Osborne or the 5.2m small and medium-sized businesses that are the power that drives UK plc’s engine room. It’s just, if we take our foot off the gas, there is the prospect that things might start to go south – especially if we end up with the nightmare situation of having to also battle against Labour’s anti-enterprise agenda.

Which is why we can’t rest on our laurels and businesses have to be creative to keep their offering fresh for both existing and potential new customers.

In simplistic terms, at opposite ends of the business spectrum there are those always looking to create the next big thing, while there are those happy to stand still. Ambition is great and stability is fantastic, but never following through on your dreams or kidding yourself that things will be fine if you stick with what you are doing are both incredibly dangerous. 

There are plenty of stories of businesses that didn’t move with the times or spot how their markets were changing. From Woolworths to MFI, recent history is littered with casualties of complacency.

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However, for every Blockbuster there’s a Netflix. Having already out-manoeuvred the video store market with its DVD home delivery rental option and then taking advantage of the internet revolution to offer movie downloads, Netflix has kept evolving. And now, with its instant access video streaming and original programme making, the company has gone from being just a movie rental business to a strong player in the pay-TV industry.

And just look at Burger King. Although it’s an established name on the high street, shopping centres and at motorway services up and down the county, the company is now dipping its toe in the delivery market. 

British people spend £29.4bn on takeaways every year and Burger King reckons it can grab some of that cash by announcing last week that its trialling a home delivery service for people that live near eight of its restaurants. If it proves successful it will go national with the idea. 

At Pimlico Plumbers we’re no stranger to driving business evolution. Last year we entered the plumbing merchant market, originally as a way of better controlling costs for our army of tradespeople, but we soon realised that the service would be in demand from London’s independent plumbers and building contractors. 

After just five months our strictly trade-only counter operation is expanding rapidly, increasing its workforce and generating a decent revenue stream. 

So the message is clear. Reinvention is not just for pop stars and political parties. Businesses have to be agile and innovative otherwise they’ll be consigned to the scrap heap of history and impact on the country’s ambition for ongoing economic success.

Image: Shutterstock

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