Don’t sit back and let other people do the innovating

Ajaz Ahmed, chair of web technology agency Quba

By Ajaz Ahmed, chair of web technology agency, sponsors of Disruptors North.

The Pandemic and lockdown gave some companies a severe kick up the behind, and found they had little, or no money left in the till.

It was like scenes on TV hospital dramas when the doctor shouts “clear” and gives the patient an electric shock.

Covid totally stopped the hearts of some companies, but the ones that got an electric shock woke up again, changed and started to do things they had never dreamt of doing in the past. For instance, some companies have now discovered the cloud, VOIP, and how to do business using software like Zoom and MS Teams.

They should have been using these tools many years ago. When I’ve talked to people in the past about how they can improve their business using technology, I get the sense that they are thinking when I’m going to stop talking so they can move on to their next meeting.

“Companies like to observe and read about innovators and maybe try to respond
– often when it is too late.”

Some businesses have changed, but some will never let go of their old habit of sitting back and letting others do the innovating.

For example, this is from a Sunday Times article about a new player in the car market: “Compare these businesses. One sold 20,000 used cars in the 14 months to February, spending big sums on marketing and delivering them to customers’ doors. The other sold 200,000 new and used cars in 2019. It didn’t have high marketing costs, and customers came to pick them up on forecourts. The first, Cazoo, is set to be valued at $7bn in a New York listing. The second, Lookers, is unloved and valued at £213m.”

Most companies like to observe and read about innovators and maybe try to respond, often when it’s too late. I doubt any big car dealership group in the UK is in an advanced stage of planning to compete with Cazoo and its counterpart Cinch. “It’s not what people want” will be a standard answer if I talk to a big car dealer and ask them why they haven’t responded to Cazoo.

An example of one big retailer that once stood by and watched is Morrisons. The then chief executive Dalton Philips said this about internet shopping: “I don’t think it is awfully relevant. People like to smell and see their food before they buy it.”

On home delivery, he said: “I started my career doing that [on a bicycle] and I don’t intend to do it again.” I know Ken Morrison didn’t have many kind things to say about him. They did eventually change and could now be acquired for £7bn.

“Stop reading about and watching innovators changing the market.
Do not wait for innovators to move into your market.”

It’s funny that people talk to their friends about new apps on their smartphones that have made their lives simpler. But they never question if technology can make processes in their company more straightforward to do the same thing quicker or with fewer people. Both could lead to larger profits and happier customers.

The rate of change increases at an alarming rate, so stop reading about and watching innovators changing the market. Do not wait for innovators to move into your market. Innovate now and ask digital technologies agencies how they can use technology to improve your business.

Quba is one of the sponsors of the upcoming free virtual conference Disruptors North which will showcase the businesses already leading the charge and the next generation of entrepreneurs and companies that are aiming to transform the regional, national and global economy. To book your free ticket and find out more information simply visit