Recognising innovation as a cornerstone of success for SMEs and entrepreneurs

Improving conditions have resulted in a return of confidence and growth at the end of last year, and 2015 is set to see small businesses in the UK fare much better, shifting their business plans to expansion and exploring new, innovative ways of streamlining their operations. 

Business in Britain, a bi-annual research survey of 1,500 SMEs released by Lex Autolease in January, evidences this, painting an encouraging picture for small business moving forward. It found that almost half of management teams plan to raise money to invest in their businesses in the first six months of this year – specifically in new vehicles, new plant and equipment purchase and employee training. 

With the tide seemingly turning, December’s 16th annual Growing Business Awards provided an excellent opportunity to celebrate small business success and innovation in 2014 and look positively to the year ahead. Created by Real Business, held in association with Lloyds Bank and supported by the CBI, the awards are the most established, respected national recognition of SME and entrepreneurial achievement.

The evening saw a collective 63-strong shortlist from a range of different sectors compete for 12 awards. The breadth of the field – 69 per cent of which are based outside of London – demonstrated how well businesses are faring away from the capital.

Winners included Peter Digby, managing director at transmission builder, Xtrac, who scooped Entrepreneur of the Year, and Simon Mellin, co-founder of Roaming Roosters, who picked up Young Entrepreneur of the Year for his work building a bistro, butchers and farm shop enterprise and founding Grass Roots, a venture allowing retailers to sell meat under their own brand name.

The Innovator of the Year award, sponsored by Lex Autolease, was awarded to Plumis, a home sprinkler manufacturer which has developed an innovative method of reducing household damage. The sprinkler system, to be fitted as a household appliance, uses 95 per cent less water than a standard system through a “misting technique”, developed from the fire service, which significantly decreases damage.

After attending the ceremony, Adam Tarrington, business development manager at Lex Autolease, commented: “Innovation is often seen as a revolutionary term that’s quite daunting, especially for small businesses, but it can just mean creating minor alterations to specific operations. It was great to see so many SMEs and entrepreneurs doing well and feeling positive about the future, many of whom have delivered innovations into their operational models to drive their success.”

Innovations in vehicle leasing by Lex Autolease can make a substantial difference

To quote the Business in Britain research, new vehicles were identified as a key area of spend by eight per cent of SMEs. They are seen as a particular priority for small firms in the construction and transport sectors, with 28 per cent and 20 per cent of respondents respectively planning to either invest in buying or leasing a company vehicle this year. 

While implementing innovation is a key focus area for these companies in achieving their success, Lex Autolease adopts the same approach for small businesses looking to invest in company vehicles – delivering key, sustainable changes to vehicle management that both streamline operations and save money. 

Although companies may be increasingly shifting into growth phase, their progress may be hindered by the £6.7bn they have locked up in depreciating vehicle assets. By altering the approach from purchasing to leasing, whether that be for one or 50 vehicles, companies can have access to choice that was not previously available to address this and various other specific challenges. 

Whether this is to remove assets from balance sheets to save money, become more attractive in the job market, adhere to environmental or safety regulations, have access to new vehicles they couldn’t previously afford or benefit from maintenance and breakdown packages, Lex Autolease provides a range of consultancy and tailored solutions to help small businesses find the right vehicle and management package for them.

Innovation is often at the heart of these solutions. As companies are looking to work towards a more sustainable future in terms of increased fuel efficiency and reduced carbon emissions – an issue that has become significantly important over the last two years – access to cleaner, new vehicle models with up to date engine technology through leasing is delivering the solution.

By offering a company car as an option within a remuneration package, companies can enhance their offering to reward current employees and to become more attractive in the job market. According to the 2014 Report on Motoring, recently released by Lex Autolease, six out of ten people who currently have a company car state that vehicle options are instrumental when considering a new role. In many cases, these strategies can prove a cost effective and manageable solution to address various company challenges, both long and short term. With the help of leasing, SMEs can better afford and access the latest and most efficient models every two, three or four years, but also avoid the significant upfront cost, high maintenance, depreciating value and the pitfalls of resale which are associated with owning or hire-purchasing a vehicle.

Image: Shutterstock

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