In April 2013 we were approached by RM Magazine to do a monthly slot, written by Kevin, sharing his experiences as a business person and entrepreneur. The first article was a Q&A. See the article in full here.
What was your inspiration for starting Annecto?
Well, Annecto means to connect and that is our entire philosophy. We want to make connections with businesses and to help them grow and thrive in a tough climate. Retailers are finding it more and more difficult to survive, never mind to upgrade technology and move forward when they are struggling to stay afloat. We want to make it easier for them to do this through strong advice and financial relief.
Retailers have been feeling the pinch since 2009; with a significant change in the way consumers now shop and ecommerce currently accounting for 15% of all retail sales, they need to stay ahead of the curve and that’s where we come in.
What is your own background in?
I’ve worked in the Credit Card industry for over 17 years, starting in 1995 with Barclaycard as a Sales Manager then progressing through the ranks before moving to Bank of Scotland in 2003. From there I moved into the world of Independent Sales Organisations in 2007 and specialised in building Sales Divisions and training them on how to work with SME’s.
This experience has given me a very rounded view of the Card Processing market in the UK and I have a deep understanding of the SME sector and what Independent businesses need from their suppliers.
Starting your own business is a daunting experience, what have been the main road-blocks for you?
Put very simply, money and advice. Getting hold of the funding for my business was a huge challenge when it shouldn’t have been. In my experience, unless you have equity invested in property for your bank to use as security, then you will struggle to access the funding you require. Surely, after all that’s happened in the last 5 years, this is the wrong attitude. We need to invest in great ideas and people who are willing to see them through.
My advice: It’s daunting going it alone, and I found that there was no-one to guide me through the minefield. You simply have to learn every step of the way and accept that you will make mistakes. The key is to learn from those mistakes and to not make them again. I bring this into my business advice and talk openly about the mistakes I made so that a new business owner doesn’t make them.
What do you think are the traits that every entrepreneur should have in order to be successful?
Drive, commitment and a total belief in what they are doing, These are needed to overcome the hurdles that you will undoubtedly face. However, I also believe that you should surround yourself with a network of successful business owners, listen to their experiences, and learn from the the things you hear
What do you think sets your business apart from others like it in the industry?
My personal experience in the industry has helped me to get a solid understanding of the needs of retailers in the UK and beyond. We know the struggles they face, we know they struggle to access funds and we want to give them the help they need. Our one-to-one business advisors are just that bit more personal than a telesales exec or a website. We assign a personal advisor to all of our clients, making sure they understand the processes, what they can do to improve, and where to turn. We then match the right products with our customer, provide real value for money and then do everything we can to provide outstanding service for them.
Where do you see the business a year down the line?
Since we launched in 2012 we have hired 60 agents & advisors and our team will continue to grow as our client base does.
We want to become the voice of the industry. Our goal is to grow and change the perception of the payments industry through great service, solid advice and true value for money.
We will provide products that help SME owners save money and products that will help businesses grow through capital investment and through schemes that help increase customer footfall & trade.
Where do you see the future of the industry?
As regards to retail, and payments specifically, we’ve seen a lot of buzz of late around both contactless payments and mobile wallets. Both are exciting developments, and although it may be some time before mobile wallets become anywhere near mainstream, contactless payments have already started to take off across the UK and Ireland. The convenience factor and time saving nature of this will become a major attraction for people making small purchases, specifically those who don’t like carrying cash around.
The challenge that faces both of these forms of payment is how many consumers view them with a kind of hesitation and have trouble trusting the technology. People particularly worry about mobile and the security factor. In time this will change, but as is the case with anything so innovative and life altering, it will have a settling period. How long that will be is anyone’s guess.
I recently wrote a blog post on this very topic. After experiencing contactless payments first hand for the first time, I wanted to share my thoughts and inform people about the technology, the security, and the underlying need. Hopefully I helped to quash some myths and discomfort on the subject.
What I do know is that the current climate is challenging but also exciting. Especially if you are prepared to understand the changes that are happening and embrace new technology. Your customers are changing the way they shop, are you changing with them?