The importance of digital skills for SMEs – Sir Richard Branson talks

This week’s article is from Sir Richard Branson, who featured in the Media Planet supplement of The Guardian, 21/11/2014. Sir Branson gives advice to startups and small and medium-sized companies about the necessity of using technology to aid growth and enhance competitiveness. We at Stack & Jones would like to echo these words and express a personal keenness to help startups in this way.

When I look at the success of Virgin Atlantic, I remember it’s because we invested in technology right from the start and used it to dramatically improve the experience of air travel. We were the first airline to give each person their own mini TV and fast-forward to today and we’re still focussing on tech to improve air travel.

The internet has made it easier and less risky to start a business. I remember how a postal strike in the 1970s threatened to end Virgin Mail Order because we were unable to sell or receive orders for the records we had in stock. If we were launching the same business today, we could easily create a website and massively reduce our reliance on the Royal Mail to receive orders. In addition, we could better target the customers we know are searching for the records we sell through social media likes and shares.

Technology is constantly advancing, if you make sure your business is nimble and smart enough to adopt new ideas early, then it gives your startup a weapon that will allow you to compete with the market leaders.

Here in London, three black cab drivers and three internet entrepreneurs put their heads together to create Hailo in 2011. By 2013, the app, which allows users to book taxi’s from their smartphone, was operational in 30 cities across the world and raised over $50 million in funding. Jump to today and Hailo is facing serious competition as the industry is being disrupted all over again by Uber and its private car hire.

The key to success for both of these startups is they used technology to create a better customer experience for people who needed a taxi. By taking advantage of technology, they blossomed from an idea to a global brand and all within 5 years.

It’s having confidence like that to embrace technology which will help build the Virgin businesses of the future. This confidence comes through having the skills to make use of the technology at our fingertips and requires a whole new education in business.

There are many useful sources of information out there helping improve the less tech-savvy business owner’s digital literacy – our own Virgin Media Business has created a Digital Skills Hub.

The planet is bursting at the seams with technology that’s more intelligent and more accessible than ever before. Of course, nothing will ever beat making a face to face connection, but thanks to the technology that’s swirling all around us, building startups now is an awful lot easier. I’m excited to see what sector get’s disrupted next.

For more information please see the original article: Richard Branson: The importance of digital skills for SMEs. Media Planet, News, Sir Richard Branson, p.4. In: The Guardian, an independent supplement by Media Planet.

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