Santander’s Breakthrough Live arrived at the London Film Museum in December 2011. The initiative offers leaders of some of the UK’s most dynamic fast-growth SMEs the chance to exchange views and receive valuable advice from a host of experts who have either founded or are helping to develop some of the world’s most successful businesses. Attendees came together to forge new contacts and exchange business insights based on real-life experience.
Stephen Dury, Director of Strategy & Market Development, Santander Corporate, Commercial and Business Banking, welcomed delegates before introducing Ana Botín, Chief Executive of Santander UK, who explained that Santander’s Breakthrough programme will invest up to £200 million in fast-growth SMEs. These businesses will be among the most successful in the UK and the so-called ‘Growth Champions’ of the Breakthrough programme. Ana concluded by stating that Santander aimed to become the bank of choice among SMEs.
Keynote speeches and breakout sessions
Next Steve Pateman, Executive Director, Corporate & Commercial Banking, took to the stage to address one of the key challenges for SMEs: raising funds and resources without ceding significant equity. However, he stressed that realising growth is about more than money.
He outlined the Breakthrough programme’s Masterclasses initiative, which gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to spend time learning from some of the most iconic businesses in the world. Steve also shared video footage of 10 fast-growth businesses whom Santander recently took to Brazil as part of the Breakthrough programme’s Trade Missions initiative, which is designed to explore export opportunities all over the world. Steve finished by outlining the Breakthrough Enternship initiative, for which Santander will fund three month ‘Entern’ placements in order to help growing businesses engage early on with the best students and graduates.
Next on stage was Alastair Lukies,
Alastair explained how he struggled to get financing but is now working with some of the world’s biggest banks, mobile operators and payment companies. In 2011, Monitise hit five million customers and received investment from Visa Europe. Alastair’s tips included accepting feedback and criticism on ideas, being prepared to dilute equity, and surrounding yourself with people smarter than you.
The first session was led by Natalie Bagnall, Head of Acquisition at Google UK. She offered some insights into Google’s culture of innovation, including how the company has created an inspiring working environment, how it gives employees responsibility, and how its ‘Google Ideas’ forum enables employees to share and rate gathered ideas. Natalie’s insights gave food for thought to SMEs looking to create a similarly fruitful culture of innovation.
Another session was led by entrepreneur Lara Morgan, founder of Pacific Direct, which supplies cosmetic products and toiletries to international five-star hotels. Lara sold the business for £20 million in 2009 after 18 years at the helm. Lara’s no-nonsense approach covered motivation, researching new markets, who to ask for help, defining and achieving a vision, customer relationship management, and motivating employees.
Chris Fieldhouse, Hewlett Packard PSG UK SMB Sales Manager, led a session looking at technology trends and how SMEs can benefit. He talked about cloud computing, which enables businesses to access and share data wherever they are. He also talked about effective communication, such as web conferencing, and how it can provide a cost-effective way for SMEs to communicate. Chris added that the business-to-business sector is beginning to embrace popular social media in a big way.
David Barrand, BT Global Account Director at Intel led the final session, talking about the evolution of technology. Following a brief overview of the history of computing, David went on to look at the birth of the internet and the popularity of social media. The key trends he highlighted were context awareness (i.e. where you are and what device you are using), augmented reality, and cloud computing.
The day wrapped with an intensive Q&A session, where assembled business leaders pitched questions directly at the event’s speakers. These covered how to attract and hire the best people, and speed of growth.
Standout advice from the session included Alastair Lukies’s assertion that hiring experienced, quality employees early-on is key to growing a company, while Lara Morgan underlined her ‘innovate or die’ mantra, and urged companies to listen to their employees’ ideas.
Delegates variously described the sessions as “useful”, “inspirational” and “stimulating”. Breakthrough Live will travel to other major cities around the UK, equipping entrepreneurs with the tools required to enhance the running of their businesses.