With industry competition and Brexit uncertainty, how do businesses successfully reach turnover goals?
There is a very good reason why Malcolm Brock set up Brovanture with fellow South African Marc van Kan. “We’d been working for other companies that weren’t really interested in their people or customers. It was just a numbers game to them,” he explains. “We felt we could do it better and we started our business on the premise that we would do it better.”
And theory has indeed been turned into practice. The company now has an eighty-strong customer base, something of a “broad church” ranging from SMEs to Selfridges, Virgin Media, English Heritage, Ted Baker, to central and local government bodies.
Brovanture specialise in the provision of financial software to provide solutions for planning, budgeting, forecasting, financial reporting (consolidation and statutory) and ERP analysis processes and are a leading Oracle and NetSuite cloud partner.
Planning for growth
The intention is to double Brovanture’s £2.5million turnover, but growth will be organic. “We’re prudent and don’t take what we would consider to be unknown or wild risks” explains Brock. “We wouldn’t want to take on debt to grow something we know we can grow organically ourselves. We’re also very conscious of the uncertainty in the prevailing business climate in the UK. We know what the trends are and how they will affect the business, but growth is difficult because of conditions which are outside of your control.”
He is referring primarily to Brexit. With about a quarter of his staff complement of some thirty being EU citizens, Brock worries for the future. “Our sector and our business is all about forecasting and planning and budgeting, but if the government can’t see three years ahead, how on earth can businesses be expected to see into the future?
“We have two revenue streams: public sector and commercial. It’s increasingly hard to plan for the latter because of the uncertainty around Brexit which is making companies a lot more cautious and prudent. We have had to discuss a lot of ‘what if’ scenarios. One of them is what if there is a possibility that businesses stop investing, should we be looking to focus just on the public sector? There could come a point where external circumstances could make it difficult for any company to grow organically.”
In theory, UK businesses post Brexit will have a better chance of being selected for tenders for projects in this country. Brock points out that it could be at the cost of being able to tender for EU-wide projects. “And all that talk about how we’re going to be able to sell to Australia and the US instead is meaningless,” he asserts. “You can’t sell there as a service provider unless you are located there. It’s just too cost intensive for a company of our size to have premises or people there – but the EU is just across the channel.”
Looking to the future
“The environment for businesses is unnecessarily very difficult. I don’t have the confidence that politicians are capable of addressing this. Unless they do, the UK will become a demoralising place to do business.”
“Small and medium businesses are not seen as part of the actual fabric of the country,” muses Brock. “We feel we are just an income generation source that the government taps into to deliver its social responsibilities. They see us as cash machines.
“And that will only get worse because they don’t fully understand the role that we play in the economy of the country. They need to come up with a working plan that will provide impetus for small businesses to develop, to provide more work for graduates, which in turn will provide more tax and NI.
“Politicians can bleat on about corporate tax being reduced but that doesn’t make much difference to SMEs if their other outgoings to government are increasing anyway, with costs like the apprenticeship levy and auto-enrolment.”
There is another key battleground. “As the UK is the home to many financial software companies, there’s plenty of competition for staff and there’s a cost to that,” says Brock. “We spend a lot of time and money on training. We will pay for industry exams for those who want to take them. There are also opportunities for foreign trips to conferences, not just for target-driven sales people but also for our consultants, because it’s collaborative sales and consultancy that closes a deal.
“Although we are badged as a technology company, we are really a people company. We deal with customer’s staff who are under pressure put upon them by statutory and also business requirements. We need people who can work with them in an empathetic manner that enables their organisations to function efficiently and effectively.”
Every year for the past seven years, Brovanture have hired a new graduate, many of them from next-door Surrey University. Brock likes maths graduates in particular, as he finds them good at logic and problem solving. The USP to prospective employees is the calibre of work they will be engaged in at Brovanture. And having a good work-life balance. “At a multi-national they would find themselves working eighty-hour weeks but get nowhere near the amount of responsibility we are prepared to give them,” says Brock.
“But it’s still a battle to recruit the right staff. We look for people who will strive to get ahead,” he says. “Our people are all ambitious and so our job is to keep them that way. Furthermore, we ensure they retain an appetite for what they are doing. Once employee ambition starts to fade, a company begins to slip backwards.”
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