Changing the way we work

Changing the way we work

Jonathan Kini tells BQ Yorkshire editor Mike Hughes how communications giant Vodafone UK is helping Yorkshire SMEs.

Saying that new businesses need all the help they can get doesn’t detract from their drive and ambition.

They’ve come up with the idea that will change their lives and want to earn their living from it. But to do that well, and securely, they need to quickly build a structure of support and advice.

Organisations like Vodafone UK have a huge responsibility to help small companies become successful companies that grow and play an important part in the regional economy. That’s a commitment that is now led by Jonathan Kini – its Head of Small and SME Business for the last year – who says he ‘passionately believes that as communications converge the products and services that Vodafone UK are developing will help change the way Britain works’.

“We’re really starting to drive it now, with the products and services being developed for the market,” said Jonathan – known throughout the sector as JK. “I love the work - listening every day to entrepreneurs who have taken the risk and are running their own businesses. I find their stories and their drive and ambition fascinating and it gives me a lot of inspiration.

“There is a huge amount of confidence and ambition as well, with a recent survey saying eight out of ten new businesses believe they will grow in the next year. That will be a challenge with the economic growth rate at the moment, but to have that ambition is awesome.”

Vodafone UK is one of those instantly recognisable brands – a multi-national giant whose speechmark logo designed by Saatchi and Saatchi translates around the world. So building lasting and trusted relationships with very small regionally-focussed firms could be a challenge. But that’s where JK comes in.

“SMEs in the UK turn over £1.6trillion, which is about half the UK economy. That is brilliant for Britain, and includes a spend on communications and technology. But where to spend and on what is where the confusion and trepidation comes into the market. They are quite rightly asking ‘how will that help my business?’”.

“It is for us corporations to demonstrate how products and services can bring that growth, not only in reducing bills, but increasing productivity, lowering operating costs and improving their employee and customer engagement.”

This is all about having the right skills in the right places. BQ entrepreneurs know their goals, and have a clear vision of where they want to be. But that includes having the right people around them who have different skillsets to them, but make up one team.

“Unlike the corporates which have an IT department and a HR office, you have to be cautious as an SME because sometimes people want an extremely high level of detail in a lot of areas. We can provide that knowledge in a language that people understand and appreciate.

“But we also want to congratulate and celebrate so many businesses who are adopting the cloud and using communications in the best way. They are seeing incredible growth in their businesses and, of course, we want to show how they are using our products for that.”

Vodafone UK call these Ready Businesses because of their open-minded approach to ICT. To take them to the next stage Vodafone UK has to provide an organic product line which will grow with its clients’ needs. Top of the list for Jonathan is a group of systems called One Net, which integrates fixed and mobile communications. Not surprisingly, he’s a big fan, describing it as ‘a hero product’.

“One Net can help small companies achieve business goals, bringing their systems together and converging them on the cloud so they never miss a call and get full productivity benefits.

“For the SOHO (small office/ home office) businesses and really fledgling ideas, we have an express version that allows a landline to be put on a mobile so they can market themselves with a geographically local number.

“But these businesses can scale up and scale down very quickly, so we have a full portfolio of products to bring in whatever stage a business is at.”

This early investment to future-proof a business is important enough to at least consider, so it’s worth a little bit of self-promotion if at least adds to an entrepreneur’s knowledge and perhaps triggers an enquiry that pays off down the line.

“Vodafone UK has always aligned itself with enterprise, and we know SMEs are a massive growth area, so want to be the brand of choice for them, and know they need a different set of services and operate around different regions.

“We have a team based in Leeds, focusing only on the city and the surrounding area. Partnering with groups like Yorkshire Mafia and events like Leeds Business Week helps us as part of that business community.

“We’re not taking part just to hit commercial targets, we want to tell our story to the markets and are offering bootcamps teaching business how to reap the opportunities in digital at very little cost and how to utilise social media.

“We see Leeds as a place where we are going to do a lot of innovation, with trials and pilot schemes, including working with the council and the chamber of commerce and hopefully with the universities. It can’t be a one size fits all approach when there are so many different entrepreneurs here.”

Jonathan Kini is an influential man with game-changing ideas, part of a global company with a focus on Leeds - a Yorkshire powerhouse. That’s a potent combination.

Watch this space.