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Winning in a small business

I’ve been running my own Access Control and Visitor Management business for over 15 years now and am delighted to say things are pretty good, despite economic uncertainty and political changes here in the UK. But it isn’t plain sailing, as all SMEs will testify to.

As we grow, new challenges and opportunities present themselves…. it’s part of the fun and frustration of managing a business.

These last few months though, we have taken a few notable steps forward:

1) We’ve hired additional administrative support in the form of an excellent project and office manager who will keep our operations and processes on track

2) We’ve collaborated with a local App developer to produce a new Visitor Management App on the Android platform

3) And finally, we’ve moved into manufacture, commissioning a UK-based circuit board manufacturer to produce Semieta’s very own Control box – a nifty device that speaks from software to door or barrier to open and close access points when a valid fob, card or fingerprint is presented.

This all takes management time of course, and money. Thanks to a few longer-term deals with good clients, we continue to re-invest in the business, and I’ve been able to work with installers, developers and manufacturers in a way that I could not have envisioned two or three years ago.

So, what have I learned from the process?

1) Additional admin and project management support can pay back fast

While it takes more time to properly on-board new members of staff, it pays dividends quickly and I would urge any manager who is still managing too much of the day to day running of the business to look at this option. Our project and office manager has already revised our stock management process, got to grips with operational processes and project management, and even started to manage some of my team with deadlines and milestones – all of which I just didn’t have the time to attend to as much as I’d like. Leaving me to focus on strategy, new business and clients.

2) App development - collaboration is key

Everyone wants an App. For us it made sense because our Self Registration visitor management module needed a locked down, user-proof experience with direct-to-printer capabilities from a tablet. And more and more customers are asking for Cloud based tablet sign-in functions. Our App partners, The Boffin Lab, also based in Tring and just across the corridor, have been great partners to work with, and I’ve had to trust my growing team to manage this process effectively. It culminates in our first live client deployment this month.

3) Manufacturing our own hardware puts me in control

We tend to run an agnostic hardware install for access control – meaning we can work with other ‘off the shelf’ hardware, giving clients greater flexibility and cost savings. However, ensuring a consistent supply of controllers that are cost effective for clients, isn't always easy. That's why we have taken direct control of the manufacture of our own controllers, the Semieta Door Controller (SDC), made in the UK to our own specification and with firmware we write and own. It gives us a degree of security and supply consistency we just didn’t have before. Now we can manage our end to end processes and deployment of services with a just-in-time mentality, ordering new supplies when required with guaranteed lead times and supply. That way we can be more assured that SLAs with clients are met, product quality remains consistently high, and new developments can be accommodated more quickly, rather than waiting for a third-party supplier to ‘catch up’.

Overall then, I feel more on the front foot with the business than ever before, which means clients should be benefiting as a result.

As we expand, I’m more focused than ever on client needs, market developments and ensuring our partnerships with installers remain strong and effective.

There’s more to do of course.

We are completing a rebuild of the development framework of our core Access Control software (more on that later), and are working towards some industry accreditations. I’m looking harder at how we can make our business greener, and we are reviewing again our info security processes and systems.

There’s always more to do - but that’s how businesses develop and grow.

Here’s to a successful 2020 for all SMEs!



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