What UK SMEs can learn from Jaguar Land Rover’s business strategy

Meanwhile, Jaguar’s evolution wasn’t quite as seamless. Ian Callum, design director for Jaguar, added: “We’re a company of innovation and technology – if you look at Jaguar’s history, we created aluminium cars in the 1940s. Jaguar went through the fifties and sixties with very exciting and modern cars, but they became very traditional for about 30 years and didn’t move on – the style wasn’t there, and they weren’t telling the right story; they became the old man’s car.”

He went on to note that the company has spent the last ten years modernising and changing the brand, but most companies won’t have the luxury of falling into OAP status before finding the fountain of youth, so it’s a cautionary tale never to become complacent.

Real Business had some time to speak to Phil Simmons, studio director for the interior design department at Land Rover, who made a very good point about white space. “Some white space opportunities are white space for a good reason – when you combine some vehicle types, they turn into something ugly and lack the harmony a design needs to work properly.”

When it comes to internal innovation throughout the firm, Simmons said: “I think competition out there in the market means unless you’re able to innovate and stay one step ahead, you’ll very soon be swamped by everyone else who is trying to push forward and innovate. It’s a constant race to try and stay out there in front – if our products  are seen as lagging behind in any way, we’re going to lose that essential desirability which is absolutely key to getting customers to buy our products.”

Going back to what I said earlier, employees should be encouraged and supported to try new things and seemingly encouragement is the key that unlock’s Range Rover’s ability to enable innovation company-wide.

“I think a lot of it [innovation] is risk-free. People are able to try something out and if it fails, they’re not punished for the failure. It’s almost applauded as though it was worth a try. If you’re able to encourage people to take those kind of risks, they won’t all come to fruition but some will and that enables us to step out there in front,” Simmons said.

He was keen to highlight that one method in particular can be applied to all businesses when he said: “I think there are certain things that are shared between a business of our size and a smaller business. We put the customer first in all of our thinking and that translates into considering the impact on the customer when you’re making a big decision. I think for any business, if they’re not paying attention to that customer impact then they’re taking a risk. To ensure you’re doing the right things for the product and the business, you’re pleasing the customer – if not, it becomes risky.”

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