Without a doubt, Britain is the best place in developed economies if you’re a start-up. But Nesta places the UK only 13th for scaling-up these small businesses. Daniel Callaghan asks: could the inherent flexibility of the so-called ‘gig economy’ help Britain improve the odds and put the UK on the map for growing businesses, as well as starting them?
Scaling a business comes with a wide variety of challenges; expanding into new markets, structuring of funding and finance, or developing new ideas, products and services. At each of these crucial stages in the growth of a scale-up, different skills and types of expertise are needed.
To achieve a high-level of growth, retaining agility is critical. Businesses need to adapt, and be able to work nimbly and at short notice. New technology created for the gig economy allows both employers and employees to operate with independence, and the opportunities are endless.
Today, the modern workforce is all about dynamism. Young people can expect to move between jobs frequently throughout their career. Traditional working hours are out of the window – at the touch of a button, workers can become cab drivers or host a family’s holiday. In the ‘gig economy’, employees can choose where they work, how long they work for, and what they’re doing – all with great ease.
The emergence of this new pattern of work could put Britain in prime position when it comes to facilitating the growth of new businesses.
Whether a scale-up needs an executive who has been operating at the cutting edge of their market for the past decade, or who a consultant who knows investment and funding trends like the back of their hand, it isn’t always easy to find the right person.
The traditional process of hiring external talent can be expensive and time consuming. Interviewing a wide range of applicants, writing up of long-term contracts, finding somebody who seems the right fit for your company – whittling your shortlist down to one can take months.
It needn’t be this way, however. Flexible working practices aren’t just valuable for the mobile-driven consumer face of the gig economy. There’s a huge pool of business talent at the disposal of the scale-ups who want to hire them. Attracted to the gig economy by the freedom working for themselves brings, many consultants, analysts and business executives are available on a flexible basis – when you need them, for how long you need them, for whatever project. Sophisticated technology has made it much easier for experts to connect with growing businesses who are looking to expand to the next level.
This is an incredible opportunity for Britain’s new scale-ups. At the critical periods of a new company’s development, they are able to hire independent freelance talent to come in to their business and help them to adapt and grow with the UK’s dynamic business culture. This is exactly the kind of opportunity young companies need to exploit if they are going to succeed and scale up effectively in such a competitive environment.
The pivotal role that technology plays in modern businesses, coupled with the growing tendency for employees to choose their own hours with flexible working practices, has been conducive to Britain’s emergence as Europe’s start-up hub. However, if these start-ups are going to scale up to their full potential, it is crucial that they bear in mind how the gig economy can serve to help them remain agile and adaptive as they grow.
Daniel Callaghan is Founder and CEO of Talmix.