I was delighted to be involved in the Access the Buyer event. It was truly inspiring to be surrounded by so many entrepreneurs and feel that I could in some small way help them with their business growth aspirations. It was also a great event for the Santander brand to be associated with.”
Rachel Baynes, Santander UK
We were pleased to be recently invited by Business in the Community (BITC) to co-faciliate an Access the Buyer Launch Event for the Creative & Digital Sector, building on our experience of connecting large and small companies and helping them work together collaboratively and profitably.
Supported by Santander, the programme helps SMEs access large business supply opportunities by bringing buyers and suppliers together. I arrived at the Hub Westminster and felt right at home in the super studio for the new economy. As I was practicing my curveballs for the workshop a steady trickle of entrepreneurial SMEs began to fill the space with expectation. All waiting patiently and anxiously to exchange their ‘money can’t buy’ ticket to access top marketing professionals from IBM, Santander, Ogilvy Group UK and Odeon/UCI Cinemas.
“Initiatives like Access the Buyer are an invaluable way of us helping and advising SMEs how to navigate their way through our procurement processes. But they are also a great way to remind organisations like ours of what’s out there and enabling that first point of contact.”
Bill Sullivan, IBM
Each of these buyers were offering exclusive insights into how SMEs can find the right door to knock on, get their foot in the door and then convert those “let’s meet for a coffee” meetings into commercial opportunities within their respective organisations. I say exclusive insights, because as Stephen Howard (CEO, BITC) aptly put it, “Large companies seem to go out of their way to keep SMEs out of their supply chain!”.
Before the main event commenced, I took stage as the un-signed act to run a creative ice-breaker called the ‘3 minute Joint Venture’. Giving participants the opportunity to speed network in pairs to create simple unexpected partnerships in just 3 minutes. After all, connecting capabilities make more compelling propositions to wet the Buyers’ appetites. Then following the courteous introductions each Buyer presented a ‘Live Innovation Brief’ to seed proposals responding to a key unmet need their organisation was seeking to fulfil. This provided an immediate opportunity for interested SMEs to connect with the Buyers and present their fresh and innovative solutions in response to the following interesting questions:
We have a philosophy here at 100%Open, ‘Conversations first, then relationships, then transactions’. To help SMEs make sure they execute that philosophy in the right order, I ran an Open Innovation clinic throughout the event, offering SMEs a 15 minute speed coaching session prior to brokering introductions to the Buyers they wanted to access. I ended up being oversubscribed after 10 sessions and apologise to those I was unable to speak to on the day. By way of compensating for the disappointment here is my cheat sheet for accessing buyers:
It was a very engaging event and to be able to meet so many SMEs in one space brimming with positive energy and thinking was fascinating. I look forward to taking some ideas to actions.”
Andy Edge, Odeon/UCI Cinemas
With around 60 small businesses attending the event, the Open Innovation clinic and subsequent offline requests resulted in 20 responses to the ‘Live Innovation Briefs’ and a total of 37 unique introductions brokered between the ‘Davids’ and the ‘Goliaths. These stats are on top of the countless micro-connections, exchanges of ideas, solutions and business cards that resulted from the roundtable discussions and the breaks. The bee hive was definitely buzzing!
I left the event feeling as energised and enthused as much as the participants did. Thanks to the BITC team for hosting a great gig and to the Buyers for supporting the event and sharing their insights and unmet needs. Also a special thanks to Lance Younger for co-faciliating the day alongside me. I hope the conversations keep going, the relationships keep building, and the transactions start happening.