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Business Hive Live: Tackling big data and empowering people

THE importance of big data and ensuring every employee is hard-wired to a business’s ethos was the fusion for future success that emerged from Business Hive Live.

Business Hive Live: Tackling big data and empowering people

E-Factor’s annual expo returned to Grimsby Auditorium for a third year, with keynote speakers providing advice, digital workshops giving know-how and more than 70 stands outlining the diversity of the area’s thriving small business community.

And more than 150 delegates were treated to insights from highly experienced national figures brought into the town for the event.

Andrew Dixon, Barclays’ regional digital expert was back for a successive year, downloading big data tips this time round after covering cyber security in 2016.

He said: “It is not just about growing and expanding your business, it is about improving operations in your business.

“Businesses have always been powered by data, there has always been information there, we just need to know what we are doing with it and how the digital revolution has changed what is now possible with data.

“The volume of data through normal channels is difficult to interpret. We already own quite a lot of information about our customers, we own information about our financials and about our websites, and there is also publicly available data and data others own. There is then social, be it applications, locations and the internet of things.”

Mr Dixon told how Starbucks had created a programme feeding in a variety of metrics to find new places to open outlets, while Tesco was using data from sensors to manage energy efficiency in refrigeration and reduce malfunction costs.

“Using data will provide an accurate insight into what is really going on in a business,” he said. “For years we have built businesses on a gut feeling. We can now take it to the next step now by using the big data available.

“Play to your strengths. Smaller business always have an advantage over big companies when it comes to knowing your customers. We can extend that further with accurate insights.”

Self-confessed technophobe Geoff Burch followed, arriving on stage in surreal fashion on a gleaming white motorcycle, as he looked to rev delegates up about their workforces.

Explaining his credentials, the respected authority on customers, sales, leadership and change, said: “I was expelled from school, told I was a disruptive influence. Where do you go from there? Alcoholism? Drug abuse? Living on the streets, sleeping in a cardboard box? - There was only one place left to go, into sales. I did and I loved it.”

He told how it “doesn’t take much to transform a business from doing all right to doing fantastically”, and compared many British businesses’ resources in such areas to a dodo’s wings.

“They are the sales function of most British businesses, so shrivelled it can no longer lift the fat thing off the ground,” he said. “Look at a seagull, every bit of it is poised to fly. It represents the entrepreneurial culture, every single person involved realises where the business is going.”

He touched on appointing on attitude rather than skills, with a caveat that they must know what they are doing.

“Everybody who works with you has a very simple choice, they can be an ambassador or an assassin,” he said.

“Whatever your business is, there needs to be a theme at the heart. You need to sell that to your people so they can deliver that.

“If you get everyone involved, buy the coffees and the donuts, get everyone together, you will be amazed at how much money your van driver can bring in.”

He urged confidence and a professional approach to business, adding: “You can be an assassin of your own business by not valuing it properly or showing the right level of professionalism.”

Becky Boyd from Google gave a presentation on digital skills roll-out, while Dan Riley, managing director of Spearhead Interactive, introduced his Middlesbrough-based imaging technology agency as a glimpse of the near future was given in augmented and virtual reality business tools.

The event closed with a networking evening after the former head of Porsche, BMW and Lamborghini, Kevin Gaskell – recognised as a top 40 businessman - had delivered the final inspirational talk. 

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