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How Tech Can Help Your Food & Beverage Business Grow

The Food & Beverage sector is experiencing a major surge. The best performers are seeing strong demand and solid cash flows — and a real opportunity to scale up significantly in the coming months.

This can be a permanent change. If they do it right, Food & Beverage companies will see a consistent increase in market profile, profits, and company value.

But it won’t stick unless they get their IT right. If your Food & Beverage company is to grow and thrive, you need to improve IT, systems and digital strategies.

In our experience, there are 5 areas to focus on:

  1. Streamline processes.
    Often this means simply ensuring that existing ERP systems are fully exploited:
    a. Reduce time wasted on manual processes like rekeying and tinkering in Excel
    b. Rollout unused or underused features (you may already have paid for!)
    c. Retrain staff to ensure tech is properly used and processes followed
  2. Reduce product wastage – especially for perishables.
    But maintain quality and quick response to retail demand by:
    a. Improving demand forecasting and business intelligence
    b. Enabling intelligent trend analysis
    c. Efficiently controlling inventory, production, and warehousing processes
    d. Utilising AI and machine-learning where practical
  3. Take an agile approach to online direct-to-customer sales.
    Focus on flexibility and foresight:
    a. Look for simple, low-cost entry points, perhaps based on Amazon as well as your own website, with minimal capital outlay
    b. When cost-effective, integrate to ERP system to minimize rekeying and to provide accurate stock availability
    c. Create a roadmap for warehousing and delivery options as the online business grows
  4. Optimize promotions and ramp up marketing.
    Improve promotion ROI and establish brand with:
    a. Wider use of marketing tools like social media and an email database
    b. Better analysis tools to optimize planning, execution and analysis of promotions (investments in retail price reductions)
    c. Improved integration and sharing between tech and marketing
    d. Well-implemented CRM and data-driven marketing systems
  5. Seize new opportunities.
    Keep testing new products and new markets!
    a. Combine new and existing data to identify capacity and market demands
    b. Combine costs and sales forecasts to model ROI

Our Principals are often asked to help scale up companies in the food and beverage sector, they’ve got the commercial and tech experience to help your company grow. If you’d like to know more about what we do, or even if you just have questions about Food & Beverage and IT, get in touch!

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) CIOs and CTOs. We work exclusively with ambitious organizations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Learning from Travelex

Due to a cyberattack, Travelex, the world’s largest foreign exchange bureau, has been paralyzed for weeks. The reputational and financial impact on the company and its senior leaders will be severe. New laws and regulations, like GDPR and NY Shield, mean that such breaches can no longer be swept under the carpet, and the business losses will be compounded by huge fines.

Travelex is a wake-up call to all businesses. In today’s cyber-risk environment, maintenance of your basic IT infrastructure and services is critical to remaining profitable and even staying alive. You may be concerned that if a giant like Travelex gets hacked, how can a mid-market company protect itself? It’s actually pretty straightforward.

When we engage with clients, we talk about “getting the basics right.” A fundamental part of that is making sure the IT infrastructure and services are fit-for-purpose and up to date. If the basics aren’t right, then there’s no hope of looking at ways to use technology to grow the business and get ahead of the competition.

To provide you with a head-start, here are your first nine priorities:

  1. Prioritize systems maintenance. All systems and services, particularly those that are connected to the outside world, must be kept up to date with the latest software patches. The IT team or your Service Provider must review and update systems in a regular, controlled manner.
  2. Review your backups. Many malware infections encrypt your data and hold it for ransom. Frequent backups mitigate the chance of you losing everything. A regular complete backup of data stored somewhere with no connection to your systems – what’s called an air-gap – will greatly limit the damage of an attack.
  3. Get a penetration test. Get a reputable security company to undertake an external penetration test of your systems and services. Resolve all the concerns raised in the results. Find your vulnerabilities and patch them before hackers find them for you!
  4. Get certified. Spend some money, usually less than $12k on earning the Cyber Essentials Plus certification. The process involves making your technology secure, and we’ve seen clients win new business after being certified.
  5. Lock down your data. Each individual in your business should only have access to the data they need to do their job. This minimizes the risk of data loss should they leave with it or accidentally click a malware link. Allowing employees wide-ranging access to data is asking for trouble.
  6. Invest in protection. Keep the bad guys out with well-configured firewalls, anti-spam email systems, malware detection software, and pro-active Day-0 protection systems.
  7. Get some insurance. Cyber insurance covers the losses resulting from a cyberattack. It can also aid with the management of the incident itself, particularly reputational damage and regulatory enforcement. Crime insurance covers the loss of money due to theft, fraud or dishonesty and includes theft of money by hackers. Add cyber insurance and crime insurance to your portfolio as separate policies, not just add-ons to existing business insurance.
  8. Train your staff. Your employees are the most vulnerable security point in your business. The more they know what to look for and what to do, the better your chances of avoiding an attack. Training is essential for all new staff, and it needs regular refreshing for the whole business – including you!
  9. Plan for the worst. Even with all the above nailed down, you still need to be ready for the worst. Sit down with your top team and discuss potential disasters and plan your way out of them. Who would be in charge? Who is authorised to make major decisions on the spot?

Will Travelex survive this attack? Who knows – the reputational and financial damage may be terminal. But by following these nine steps, you can avoid that fate for your own company.

For more information see our Knowledge Center about Cybersecurity.

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organizations, and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

The 6 Must-Haves for Hiring the Best CTO

Freeman Clarke has decades of experience in hiring the best CIOs and CTOs. In several years of refining our screening process, we’ve discovered that good CTOs always have six essential qualities.

  1. Technical Expertise. CTOs must have an extensive understanding of technology, security and engineering, and preferably years of experience in the industry. They need to understand infrastructure, business systems and online technology. And since no field changes more rapidly than IT, they need up-to-date and detailed experience of practices, products and vendors. The best CTOs don’t just follow the field, they’re leaders — active at events and in online discussions.
  2. People Skills. Of course, all of business is about people. And all software is built by people, for people. Teamwork is at the heart of any successful venture. So the CTO needs to be a coach and mentor to his team, and to ensure that communication needs flows easily upwards, downwards and sideways. Plus a CTO needs to engage with all the stakeholders, be a source of energy and good-humor, and needs to fit in.
  3. Entrepreneurship. The CTO needs to be passionate about driving growth and fully committed to the ambitions of the business. This means understanding funding and valuation mechanisms, business plans, and disciplines like marketing and legal. Of course, any complex project has issues, and the CTO needs to be creative, agile and proactive to rapidly recognize when changes are necessary to stay on track.
  4. Business Management Skills. Running an IT team requires good planning, communication skills, and a careful attention to detail. As CTOs are often responsible for compliance issues, they need to be aware of the implications of contractual and regulatory frameworks too. They must know how to monitor their budgets, manage contracts, and negotiate prices. Since so much of IT involves external suppliers, CTOs need to maintain good relationships and long-term commitments while keeping costs under control.
  5. Strategic Thinking Skills. Technical discussions are often painfully detailed. Custom digital technology is complex and intricate. A good CTO both understands the details and the bigger picture — meaning, how the technology will be part of the business strategy. A CTO should also understand that board-level discussions can be vague; key questions are often about the art of the possible. CTOs need to be comfortable with this and strive for strategies that are creative, sensible, useful and flexible.
  6. Compelling Leadership. The CTO forms part of the senior team. Thus he or she needs to lead from the front — contribute to decision-making, be bold and visionary, and hold others to account. As the business grows, the stakes become higher; the CTO must be able to handle the pressure. Where there are external investors, partners or other stakeholders the CTO needs to represent the business to them. External investors, in particular, need to draw confidence from the CTO, as his or her role is so critical to success.

We devote a huge part of our management effort to the recruitment, screening and selection of CTOs and CIOs. And, because we work in the mid-market, we only select CTOs who can fit in with dynamic businesses, rather than needing the comfort of the corporate environment.

Visit our Knowledge Center which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. For an informal conversation, contact us and we’ll be in touch.

How Mid-Market Companies Can Recruit a First-Class CTO

Ambitious mid-market or externally funded start-ups are increasingly investing in custom software. They want to seize new opportunities, to disrupt their markets, and to amplify their value.

This is driving the requirement for more commercially focused, flexible, experienced Chief Technology Officers (CTOs). Recruiter Martin Davis spoke to Graeme Freeman, Co-Founder and Director of Freeman Clarke, to find out what CTOs are, and why so many mid-market businesses require them.

Graeme Freeman: So, Martin, can we just start by defining what a CTO does in the mid-market?
Martin Davis: Well, the role varies a lot depending on what the company needs. But the key point is that a high-quality CTO is more than just the person who is accountable for the delivery of the tech. Of course that’s vital, but a proper CTO is widely experienced in business and new ventures and properly contributes on an executive level.

GF: So is this an internally facing role?
MD: Well again, that depends upon what the company needs. Sometimes it’s all about setting strategy and leading software development. A lot of time may be spent dealing with external suppliers. The CTO may negotiate with suppliers, partners or large customers if necessary.
But, importantly, a CTO should be someone who lends credibility to the venture. For example, if there are investors or bankers, the CTO has an important role in liaising with them. He or she needs to understand how they think and work.

GF: Why is it getting harder to find CTOs?
Martin Davis: It’s very hard to find great technicians who are also leaders and tuned into business and commercial issues. The market for good people is always very tight, but it’s getting more difficult because demand from companies, large and small, is increasing.
Areas like fintech, proptech, healthtech and edutech are expanding and sucking up lots of great people. And all kinds of businesses are investing in custom software to separate themselves from the market.

GF: So what options do business leaders in the mid-market have?
Martin Davis: There are really only three ways forward.
Option one is go to the market and recruit someone. This is expensive — of course agents or headhunters charge a very large fee, and the truth is it often goes wrong, because it’s very difficult to assess competence and technical talent. You have to ask yourself whether the best people are available on the market in this way.

Alternatively, companies use interim hires. But they are really just hired-guns, and their commitment lasts until they get a call offering them a higher day-rate. Their flexibility is very limited, if there is any lull or hiatus then they will move on.

But our offer is unique. We have built a team of outstanding people, and they work for our clients on a flexible part-time (we call it “fractional”) basis. So they can be heavily involved during busy periods, and when things are quieter, they can reduce their involvement. They all have first-class records, they’ve seen it and done it, and we have tested and screened their experience. For a CTO that can help a company grow, to work in that company’s best interest and not someone else’s, the best option is Freeman Clarke.

You may also find our ideas on CTOs for software and digital helpful.

Visit our Knowledge Center which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. For an informal conversation, contact us and we’ll be in touch.

Technology Roadmap for Growth – A CEOs Briefing

If you’re planning for significant growth — or better yet, your business is already seeing it — you need IT to match.

Freeman Clarke Principals provide clear leadership with a business-focused roadmap for IT and digital. We’ve found it’s the best way for our clients to drive and support growth, without getting way ahead, or falling behind.

A Roadmap Avoids Chaos

Growing businesses need to reconsider their IT infrastructure, business systems, and digital plans. Many businesses are additionally investing in apps, online initiatives, and artificial intelligence. Without a roadmap, all this new technology can lead to stress and chaos. Or there may be the opposite effect — without a clear plan there’s no investment in new technology or even a kind of IT paralysis. The easiest way to avoid so many potential problems is when an experienced senior IT professional creates a roadmap.

An IT Strategy That Supports Your Business Strategy

Our Principal create an IT roadmap to support a long-term business strategy. So now the leaders of the company understand where the business is headed and how IT will complement and enhance their plans.

We have the experience and authority to understand the issues involved with business, people, and technology.

Delivering a Comprehensive Vision

The roadmaps covers all aspects of IT including infrastructure, business systems, and digital plans. These may be simple improvements. Or they may be larger projects like custom software or complete replacement of back-office business systems.

Whatever your company’s particular IT needs, all aspects of the roadmap need to recognize your company’s unique processes, organization, and people issues, as well as its technology. Often clients rely on our Principal to clarify and restructure their ways if working to save money or improve customer service.

A clear roadmap ensures that senior management understands the vision and that the consensus feeds into budgets and plans across the business. Of course our Principal takes responsibility for the roadmap and its budget, ensuring, just like any member of the senior team, that all aspects are properly managed through to completion.

Roadmaps are the start of the story. But our Principals make the real difference by delivering them and being accountable for the outcomes.

Download the full CEO’s Briefing above which explains:


Watch this video where Graeme Freeman (Co-founder and Director) explains what a Technology Roadmap looks like, the benefits and how to start planning yours. or, visit our Knowledge Center which includes all content related to this topic.

If you’d like to discuss how Freeman Clarke could support your business contact us now for a no-strings conversation.

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Graeme Freeman
Co-Founder and Director

Subscribe to our Business Insights

Plain English board-level briefings focused on technology strategies to deliver competitive advantage and business success.

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Thank you.

You’ll now receive regular expert business insights.

Call us on 0203 020 1864 with any questions.