Switching the lightbulb on: How to grow a disruptive business

Businesses that disrupt need to do so for the right reasons, a panel of experts agreed.

Ashwin Kumaraswamy, Fund Manager at Mercia Equity Team, NPIF, Naomi Timperley, co-founder, Tech North Advocates and Jonathan Thompson, CEO, Bank North spoke at a session exploring how to grow a disruptive business during the Disruptors North conference this week.

Asked if there was a huge difference between companies that have a disruptive idea, and companies that are disruptive, Timperley said too often the term is ‘thrown about.’

She said: “Some people think that they should just come up with disruptive ideas and actually, they should be thinking about what customers want and asking what’s needed in the market.

“I think that a lot of businesses are terrified to disrupt. Most businesses now are just trying to survive because of the last 18 months. So, to answer your question, I do think that this is a term that is thrown around too much and I do think you should have disruption in your business, but it’s got to be for the right reasons.”

Thompson said often larger businesses can lose sight of their purpose and it becomes more difficult to retain “purity and clarity of focus” around the customer.

“It’s what presented an opportunity for Bank North and now we’re walking into a market which is dominated by very big incumbent banks that have become almost too big and have lost clarity of purpose and purity of focus on customers and have become more focused on the bottom line and on short term agendas driven by stock market listings and reporting cycles.

“And so, they don’t have the luxury of being able to step back or step out of that sort of limelight and do some proper medium term, reimagining and re-envisioning of their business to get that customer centricity back.

“So, we’ve got that lucky position of being out of the limelight and therefore have been able to design our business from scratch with that pure focus around the customer journey and therefore put something back into the market that is in a way no longer there and we can overlay that with a technology advantage as well.”

He added: “I completely agree that the customer focus is absolutely at the heart of our business, and a great reference point for validating the business model as well.”

Kumaraswamy said being disruptive often has a negative connotation and he would like to see it as an “enabler of real impact” in the around.

“We get a lot of entrepreneurs who come to us with bright ideas and often ideas are just one aspect of it,” he said.

“Do they have the vision and the mission which I’m always talking about because that’s the most important aspect of follow through but as long as they recognise that or are open to getting some help from others is a good starting point for us to work and shape propositions.

“The way we look at businesses is key. Coming back to Naomi’s point, what is the problem the business is going to solve and how big is that problem? What’s the dynamic of that industry?

“And then the customer journey is something worth understanding.

“It all comes down to its mission and what problem that they’re trying to solve and are their people up for the challenge.”