V4B Ambassador Focus: Paulette Elliott on Collaboration and Thinking Big

Paulette Elliott is Managing Director at Huduma Limited, a young and ambitious emerging technology consultancy based at Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire.  Formed in 2011, Huduma provides collaborative commercial support for businesses and project consortium’s who are looking to take their innovative products and services to market. Paulette is currently working on a number of hugely interesting projects, ranging from commercial drones for parcel delivery through to connected and autonomous vehicles.

You may think that to work on high profile projects means that Huduma must be a large organisation themselves, but in fact they remain a small, flexible business, working in collaboration with other organisations, outsourcing and hiring specialist services wherever possible.

The V4B team met with Paulette following the recent South and Vale Business Breakfast to see what top tips she had to offer SMEs looking to scale up and work with large organisations.

Paulette Elliott
  • You’re passionate about SMEs being able to get involved in supply chains. What opportunities are there locally to supply large organisations?

This is partly the reason I helped to put together the “Thinking Big” event (taking place at Cornerstone, Didcot on 21 March). We have the centre of the UK’s space industry based on our doorstep at Harwell Campus. It’s important to know that you don’t need to be a scientist to supply the space and technology industry. Space agencies often need professional services, products and processes from local SMEs.

However to work with large organisations it’s important to have an idea of what they expect from suppliers. Often this will mean thinking like a big company yourself. This may mean offering service level agreements, providing professional quotes and having systems in place to reassure your potential clients that you can fulfill their contract.

The best way to find out what large organisations expect is to engage with them. At the Thinking Big event you can hear from Harwell Campus alongside the UK and European Space Agencies respectively. In terms of specific opportunities, Harwell Campus will be talking about their new £103m Rosalind Franklin Institute and the new headquarters for the Faraday Institution, and what opportunities will be available for local SMEs within these projects.

The UK Space Agency will present information about the government LaunchUK roadshow which visited a number of UK Cities in November and December 2017.  The roadshow brought together organisations which plan to operate satellites, launch vehicles, spaceports, ranges or related services in the UK, or that wish to participate in or support the supply chain for UK launch services.  A key strand of the government’s Industrial Strategy is for the UK to hold a greater share of the commercial spaceflight market, worth an estimated £25 billion over the next 20 years, by developing competitive, commercial and safe spaceflight proposals for UK-based satellite launch services and sub-orbital flights.  The UK Space Agency has made grants worth £10 million available to help develop the capability for spaceflight.

  • Is “thinking big” something that Huduma do particularly well? 

At Huduma, we know that great innovations need to be supported by even better business plans and service strategies in order to succeed in the marketplace. This is where our experience comes in. At the beginning of a project we make sure we set expectations. Ultimately fulfilling the service we have agreed helps us to build long term relationships with other businesses. Thinking big for Huduma means that we are putting the systems and processes in place that will allow us to grow quickly and efficiently.

  • What tips would you offer to other small businesses to help them grow?

Something that’s quite straightforward is to begin documenting processes that you use in your business on a daily basis. If you have a specific path that you follow to make a sale or fulfill a service, make sure it’s documented. Not only will this help you to become more efficient and productive, but ensure that you are prepared to pass the responsibilities on should you hire a new member of staff or bring in external help such as a contractor. It also ensures consistency when delivering the same service to an existing customer.

Have a clear understanding of the function or activities within your business.  At Huduma we have documented our business functions using a mindmap tool giving us visibility of where the gaps are in skills and people resources. It is easier to source the right staff when you have a better understanding of the skills and people needed for your business.

You should also be clear on the value of your time. Would your business be more efficient if you were to outsource certain tasks such as design, marketing or HR? There are a lot of demands on anyone starting a business, from pension auto-enrollment through to the forthcoming data regulation changes (GDPR). Business owners must have a good idea of how to maximise the time spent working on your business.

  • I know that you’re a big advocate of businesses collaborating. What’s behind this?

Collaboration should bring mutual benefits. For Huduma working in the science and tech industries, collaboration is standard practice and it really helps to accelerate growth. It means that we can get access to specialist skills and begin to build good relationships that may prove positive for future projects.

Business owners can be put off collaborating as they feel a need to be protective of their ideas, but if you want to grow, then there will come a time when your idea, product or service will need to be in the public eye. Don’t be afraid to collaborate, it can be inspiring, offer different perspectives and ultimately lead to more business opportunities.

Working on emerging technologies project such as, connected and autonomous vehicles, commercial drones delivering parcels, transferring space technologies into products and services we use every day on earth, is a massive task for a company.  Working in collaboration with others generates creative ideas, what seems impossible becomes possible.  Look at the incredible collaborative projects underway across UK, some of which we will cover on 21 March.

  • What tips would you offer businesses that want to scale up and work with larger organisations?

I have worked on both sides of the supply chain. As a solutions provider and a corporate customer, so have the benefit of understanding what large companies expect when looking for suppliers. Larger organisations are risk adverse, ultimately when they choose a supplier they want to ensure the service will be adequately provided. Setting expectations initially via service agreements and having the right processes in place is key to winning confidence and contracts. You can often get an understanding of what large organisations need from suppliers simply by asking them.