Business challenges in 2023: How are UK firms tackling them?

Business leaders took to the stage at Oracle NetSuite’s user conference in London to discuss the obstacles ahead – and how they’re battling them headfirst

Business challenges in 2023: How are UK firms tackling them?

Business leaders took to the stage at Oracle NetSuite’s user conference in London to discuss the obstacles ahead – and how they’re battling them headfirst

Despite widespread optimism in the UK business landscape, rising interest rates, inflation and a cost-of-living crisis are forcing businesses to strategise and mitigate the challenges ahead in 2023. Established UK names including Charlotte Tilbury, Deliciously Ella & Guinness World Records recently took to the stage at Oracle NetSuite’s user conference, SuiteConnect London, to discuss the current climate – and how technology is giving them a competitive advantage in their pursuit of productivity and growth.

Nicky Tozer, NetSuite’s EMEA senior vice president, opened the keynote by addressing some of the common issues businesses are currently facing, including supply chain issues as well as changing habits of workers and customers, the rise in remote working and an increase in online shopping. Tozer stressed how important it is for businesses to get a really good hold on their data, allowing them to have better financial forecasts so that they can double down on productivity and efficiency in the current climate.

NetSuite’s EVP and founder, Evan Goldberg highlighted how NetSuite continues to empower business owners, providing them with a system to help businesses manage their companies, staff and finances, while gaining a 360-degree view across the business. Goldberg announced new NetSuite features across data analytics, planning and budgeting tools, along with new native integrations to popular e-commerce and point-of-sale platform Shopify and third-party logistics provider ShipStation. Other capabilities on display covered HR, inventory management, customer self-service account management, and subscription billing. 

Andy Wood, the finance director of Guinness World Records, took to the stage to speak about the company’s journey into e-commerce – and how NetSuite has helped in that transition. 

“Guinness World Records has been on a journey in the past decade,” Wood said. “The publishing industry has had a lot of challenges in the past 10 or 20 years. Even though our book is doing exceptionally well, we had to diversify to survive and grow into the future. We created two new business units – consultancy and digital content. Consultancy is an in-house creative agency where we use our expertise in record-breaking and we sell our brand to other businesses and other organisations that want to weave record-breaking into their PR and marketing campaigns. 

Wood explained how NetSuite has helped the business transition and diversify its brand and the products it offered, creating an automated system that allowed them to easily share data across other departments. He said: “It gave us the flexibility. We have a wide ecosystem and NetSuite helps us communicate and connects with different parts of our business so we can share that valuable customer data. And finally, automation. As our businesses become more complex, we needed to introduce automation so that we could keep up with the business again without having extra headcount.” 

Charlotte Tilbury has utilised NetSuite OneWorld and its cloud-based services since 2015. Aman Deep, Head of Business Systems at Charlotte Tilbury Beauty, said the platform has enabled the brand to gather data into one portal, especially since the brand boomed in e-commerce with multiple retailers across the world. He said: “We get 50 orders a minute on the website, we have hundreds of stores and retailers. All of that information is coming into NetSuite. Getting all of that into a central hub both from a finance and industry point of view is super important for us. NetSuite is the hub for us. E-commerce was about a third of our revenue but when Covid happened we had to pivot very rapidly to a model that was more online-driven. We were successfully able to do that, we managed a majority of sales online, and we were able to meet all our requirements and forecasts… without NetSuite, we would have struggled.” 

Georgina Pattison, Financial and Commercial Director of Deliciously Ella spoke about the challenges of the pandemic, Covid-19 and the cost-of-living crisis on the business. She said: “We went into the pandemic with a high level of stock. So, we faced stock wastage. We faced lots of challenges with our suppliers, labour shortages and staff absences from covid. Launching new products during the pandemic when we were working from home was a real challenge. Our restaurant suffered and had to close our doors. As a team we had to think, how do we pivot our strategy to grow at the rate we wanted to. We launched a webshop to sell direct to consumers. We doubled down on our efforts in forecasting and planning. We continued to innovate. Even though it was hard, we continued to bring out new product ranges and launched to new customers in new markets. We also invested heavily in our app.” 

Pattison highlighted NetSuite’s role in helping Deliciously Ella create better financial forecasts, reduce human error and integrate their planning and budgeting tool to develop a solid strategy for the business. She said: “Our growth has brought a lot of complexity in our business, and we really wanted a system that could help us still forecast at a very granular level because that’s the way you have to operate… Forecast enables us to update regularly, manage our PL and best deploy our spend. How is NetSuite different? Over time we launched more products, more complexity, and more markets. We ended up with 20-30 different spreadsheets. We had human errors in the forecast. We wanted to have a sophisticated system and make it more accurate for our business. 

“The implications of getting your forecast wrong isn’t great from a finance perspective. Integrating our performance along with planning and budgeting tool gives us a live view of how we’re going to end the year so we can develop a strategy. Not overspend or underspend. What does our forecast look like to what we’re seeing in reality? 

Ella Mills, the founder of Deliciously Ella, took the stage, giving advice to business leaders on how to evolve as a leader and cultivate a driving force in your employees despite the challenges ahead. “Staying true to the brand is important,” Ella explained. “It’s easy to want to pivot the brand because it might be quick success in the next few months, but I don’t think it would help us 10 years later. It’s about knowing your ‘why’. It’s incredibly difficult to scale up a business. You have amazing highs and extraordinary lows… We all have strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to hire people that complement your skillsets, so that will strengthen your business. Get rid of any sense of ego. That’s absolutely critical.”

Latifa Yedroudj
Latifa Yedroudj

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