Former Dragon Den’s star Piers Linney explains why digital is the way forward in a post-pandemic world as he teamed up with Vodafone’s V-Hub Support platform to help small businesses get back on their feet
Piers Linney explained why connectivity and technology are the “oxygen” for businesses to thrive, encouraging them to embrace digital platforms in a wave of change amid the coronavirus pandemic
“When it comes to speeding up digital transformation you’ve got to think about how you reach out and how you serve customers. Then, you’ve got to think about your product. If you’re a small company, cyber-attacks can destroy your business very quickly, andif you’re a supplier to a large company, it can be collateral damage. Across industries everyone is working from home, using mobile devices and video conference calls. Your customer data and company data are now stored online, so you have to think carefully about how you manage data and how you protect it. Cyber-security is becoming much more of a key issue for businesses of all sizes and sectors.”
Piers Linney, former Dragon Den’s star and entrepreneur, who is currently a non-executive director of the British Business Bank, teamed up with Vodafone Business for the launch of its V-hub business support platform, which aims to help small businesses become more effective online, especially during the pandemic. Piers joined V-Hub's one-to-one business guidance team on July 24, where he spoke to small business owners over the phone and addressed their concerns about the potential impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. He also provided valuable advice and information to dozens of small businesses on how to make the switch to digital and build up their e-commerce platform amid the worldwide shutdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Piers encouraged small businesses to embrace technology and reach customers in new ways through digital platforms, by using the online world to their advantage. He also warned businesses to up their cybersecurity capabilities to de-escalate the risks of technology and protect themselvesfrom cyber-attacks. As more people work remotely, this can be a time for businesses to diversify their staff and hire people elsewhere, importing new skills and knowledge into their teams. “Embrace the fact that things will be difficult,” Piers said. “De-risk your business. Make sure you have the correct financing in place to see you through and embrace technology. Businesses need to reach customers in new ways. If you can’t go out to events and meet people, you need to be looking at digital marketing.
“Businesses can also look at new technology to reduce additional costs as well as hiring new talent to work remotely without the restriction of your postcode, which will give you a competitive advantage. This will also add to your company’s diversity, allowing you to reach out and hire people based on their expertise and capabilities rather than where they live. Companies need to up their cyber capabilities to protect their business from risk, including the known risks and unknown risks in many ways. The next 18 months will definitely be a difficult period. If your business is growing as a result of the changes brought on by Covid-19, making sure you’re well placed, you’ve got the right people, the right structure and the right plan, then you ensure you can respond to your customers and come out the other side.”
According to research conducted by Vodafone, 77% of small businesses feel they need to make better use of digital tools to grow their business, and 82% need to expand their presence online. 40% felt that the lack of online sales knowledge has held them back during the Covid-19 crisis, and one in four felt they didn’t know enough about online security threats. The research was based on responses from 310 UK small and medium-sized businesses with 1-150 employees. The new V-Hub platform aims to help businesses bounce back from the challenges brought on by the pandemic, providing valuable advice and guidance from a team of advisers for one-on-one support.
Speaking about V-Hub, Anne Sheehan, Director of Business at Vodafone UK, said: “It is so important to the UK that the small business community makes it through this crisis. We’ve made broadband and Microsoft 365 free for six months, and now we’re providing free access to guidance that can help businesses build their online presence, or get online for the first time. We’ve helped our customers through plenty of change over three decades at Vodafone, but never has the pace of change been so rapid and so vital to staying afloat. We are here to help you navigate these changes, and make the most of new opportunities.”
Speaking about his experience as an advisor on V-Hub's platform, Piers, who has over 15 years of experience in running and guiding successful businesses, said: “I was taking calls from people calling the V-Hub Support Platform, which provides excellent guidance on digital marketing and advice on how to best use the network’s connectivity. The main concern for people ringing in was how Covid-19 would change how business is done. Access to the network is important and many businesses didn’t have the right connectivity. They asked about digital marketing, video conferencing, and how to pivot their business to deal with Covid-19. Many businesses cited worries about the oncoming recession. Some asked about ways they could reduce costs, get online and start their digital platforms. From what I noticed, there was a generational gap. If you’re a millennial, you understand this, but if you’re older, embracing technology can feel more daunting. People are worried about dipping their toes in it. Now, V-Hub's platform will provide small business customers access to a team of expert advisors who will provide one-on-one support on how to build an online presence, from creating a website and enabling online sales to managing online security risks and digital marketing.”
In a few final words of advice to small businesses, Piers said: “If you’ve got a small business or a tech company, now is absolutely the time to embrace technology. Get online, make sure your business has a digital strategy and networks, which is why I’ve been working with Vodafone’s V-hub. Go out and utilise digital platforms. Connectivity and cybersecurity are the oxygen for new businesses.”