It’s a challenging time to start, run and grow a business – and small business owners know this better than anybody. Here, three such owners across three industries tell us about a challenge they experienced during the new hybrid work era, how they overcame it, and look at how the right tech from HP can take them even further.
Self-build living solutions company U-Build designs flat-packed systems like IKEA furniture to customers’ specifications across the UK. The team works with customers to learn about what kind of living solutions they desire, offering an affordable, eco-friendly alternative to buying your own home following a Zoom consultation. ‘We think of it sometimes as a meal kit,’ says Nick Newman, the company’s founder. ‘We’re sourcing all the ingredients, and someone else is putting it together on our instructions.’
The challenge. Business picked up for UK self-build company U-Build during the pandemic as people reconsidered their homes. ‘The U-Build project is about democratizing architecture and making it more accessible,’ says Nick Newman, the company’s founder. Yet it’s still costly.
The solution. Convincing people to invest in a U-Build flat-packed system for their home is a challenge. ‘How do you give someone confidence?’ asks Nick. ‘How do you support them?’ The answer came in media-rich Zoom calls, which are also useful for managing staff.
How to go further. Make Zoom calls simple with the lightweight HP EliteBook 840 Aero G8, with its ability to connect from almost anywhere through gigabit-class 5G, plus a world-facing microphone and advanced noise reduction.
Clear directions to and from clients, and the ability to envisage what a finished project will look like on video calls is key to U-Build’s success – even as it’s physically remote. ‘It’s much more hands-on in a technically hands-off way,’ says Nick.
The hybrid model of customer communication also extends to U-Build’s staff collaboration, too. ‘We’re never going to go back to physical only,’ says Nick. ‘Even custom work for commercial clients, where we offer a turnkey service, we’ll do everything remotely, then meet on site and become the assembler.’
Bristol University economics student Simmy Dhillon set up Rice n Spice, a direct-to-consumer pre-prepared meal delivery service, in 2017 for his fellow students. ‘I saw there was a lot of potential there in ready-to-eat food that’s healthy,’ he explains. The business quickly expanded from time-poor students to time-poor professionals. A base in Hitchin, outside London, quickly was established, and the team moved from a home kitchen to the professional premises in 2018. The business is now based in a premises that’s three times the original size, with monthly recurring revenue in 2021 600% more than the year before.
The challenge. Simmy Dhillon had run his direct-to-consumer meal service Rice n Spice remotely since his university days. Covid made it even more important that he was able to do so. ‘I run the business off my laptop,’ says Simmy. But it has to be a powerful laptop, because the business is highly automated.
The solution. ‘The challenge was: how do we go from a handful of customers to thousands of customers a day?’ says Simmy. Remote meetings have helped, requiring high-spec, lightweight but secure laptops to allow Simmy to transact business easily on the move.
How to go further. Starting under 1kg3, the HP Dragonfly G2 laptop is suited to businesses that need to be mobile. Its privacy screen with optional HP Sure View reflect keeps balance sheets secret, and HP Sure Shutter preserves privacy with an integrated physical shutter.
‘Tech has enabled us to recruit,’ says Simmy. ‘If your laptop is slow, it slows down the entire business. You can’t do video calls, you can’t work with the users. A good piece of equipment is key to scaling your business. We see tech as an investment – and we invest in tech that will make a difference.’
Twelve-strong creative recruitment agency Represent has been running since 2003. ‘We’re one of the best respected creative recruiters out there,’ says managing director Mike Radcliffe. ‘We try to do everything with integrity and honesty, and work with some amazing clients.’ Growth in the business has been deliberately managed – Mike wants to keep the business at a small, manageable size, rather than a big beast – and means employees are Jacks of all trades. Rather than splitting out the process of recruitment into different departments, consultants handle all aspects of it. That comes with its challenges.
The challenge. Even though creative recruitment agency Represent comprises a small team of 12, it was a challenge to keep colleagues abreast of developments as they worked from home. Motivating staff was tough, says Mike. ‘You don’t have water-cooler moments,’ he says.
The solution. Represent tried weekly catch-up meetings, but found colleagues switched off when listening. ‘We’re trying to make those online meetings a lot smarter,’ says Mike.
How to go further. Represent replicates social conversations with a dedicated Slack channel for informal chat. With its 11th Gen Intel Core processor, the HP EliteBook is a powerful laptop that allows Slack and other applications to run smoothly alongside each other.
It’s all designed to help the team collaborate with confidence as they continue to work remotely. ‘As a leader, I’m trying to adjust my style and what we do,’ says Mike. ‘Because we’re not having those face-to-face meetings very often, it’s a challenge trying to keep people motivated and understand how they’re doing, feeling and getting on.’ He’s managed to keep his business running through tech. ‘What the business has done is grab the tech we had and engaged with it more, but it’s also highlighted that we do need proper human interaction.’ That’s achievable in a hybrid work future.
With the new HP Elite series, you don’t need to waste hours managing your team from afar, or get a headache handling hardware issues. Your staff don’t need to feel that slog, either. You can just get on with what you do best – managing your business – and let staff get on with their jobs with ease. Reliable, responsive tech puts paid to hands-on management.