Mark West headshot

Mark West’s CV highlights //

2022 – Present // NED – Virtus Tech

2021 – Present // NED –

2018 – Present // NED – The Stanley Gibbons Group

2002 – Present // Founder – People Processes and Solutions LTD

2013 – 2017 // CEO – LLX Global Business Services SA

2000 – 2002 // Distribution Director – Harrods

The festive season is the busiest period of trading for the majority of businesses, but with it comes a number of challenges. Increased demand can lead to insufficient stock, manpower, and operational capacity, but it can also cause significant problems with digital processes. Given that almost every company now makes use of tech and digital software, we thought it prudent to explore how CEOs of SMEs can protect the virtual side of their businesses during peak trading. To facilitate this, we conferred with an expert in this field – our Volunteer Advisor, Mark West.

Mark founded the independent digital strategy and innovation consultancy, People Processes and Solutions Ltd, over two decades ago. Since then, he and his team have helped countless companies improve their processes with technology, including Primark, Burberry, Hamleys, and New Look. We asked Mark for his ‘Three Things’ advice on how SMEs should prepare their digital processes for the peak trading period:

number 1

Don’t be tempted to tinker.

“You should have all your fixes in place ahead of time”, Mark said. “That includes all your patching and anything else you need to do to your customer facing tech.” Making significant adjustments in the lead up to periods of high demand is never advisable according to Mark because they rarely work as intended on the first attempt.

Most importantly, if your front-end doesn’t function seamlessly – and requires downtime to refine your changes – customers will simply look elsewhere. We’re all in a rush during the festive period, and if you cannot offer a quick, smooth service, your competition will. “I’m not saying you can’t make changes if there’s an emergency”, Mark clarified, “…but don’t make them if you can avoid it.”

number 2

Stay in touch with your providers.

You must make sure you have – or can get – enough capacity to deal with exceptionally high traffic during the festive period. One viral TikTok or YouTube video, for instance, can make demand for a product surge to previously unthinkable levels, and if you aren’t prepared, that boosted traffic could make your website fail. “Staying in touch with providers, like AWS and Microsoft, to make sure they’re aware you might need extra bandwidth is crucial,” Mark claimed. “They’re accustomed to situations like this, but you still need to communicate with them to make sure they’re ready if needs be.”

number 3

Make sure you can follow through on what your front-end offers.

“If you do spike in sales – where all of a sudden, you’ve got the ‘it’ product – are you prepared?” asked Mark. There is no point in having a brilliant website if you don’t have the capacity to fulfil the orders it generates. You must be ready to scale your supply to match demand, and the best way to do that is through communication and preparation. “Anybody you rely on must be in on the plan because otherwise it will fracture,” he explained. “From your manufacturers to your transporters, they all need to be in the loop so that you don’t let customers down on your promise because, if you do, it can have catastrophic consequences.”

We’d like to thank Mark for providing us with such clear and actionable advice. Keep an eye out for the second part of Mark’s counsel, where he walks us through ways to protect your business from cybercriminals, coming next week.

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Is your business struggling with any of the issues presented in this article? Apply to All Together’s pro bono advisory platform today for up to five hours of invaluable advice and support from one of the UK’s leading CEOs.