Often singled out as a top town to live in the UK, it’s no secret that Harrogate is special. Drawing up a list of the reasons why isn’t difficult and at the top of mine sits one of the real gems in our collective crown – Harrogate’s thriving independent scene.
So what makes ‘indies’ so special? Having supported countless local businesses to grow and thrive over the past 30 years, it’s clear to me that the real secret lies not in the fantastic products and services on offer, but in the very DNA of these businesses – their structure and approach.
It’s essential that independents grasp what makes them special and put it at the centre of the way they operate. Whether you sell great coffee or offer outstanding legal or design services – do it, and do it consistently well. In maintaining this benchmark, a business earns the trust which compels customers keep coming back, regardless of trading conditions.
But that doesn’t mean standing still. What I love about indies is the agile, entrepreneurial nature which the majority embody. This must be a business component, as quickly and effectively responding to local developments not only means capitalising on an opportunity, but is also a way of differentiating from chains of businesses, which can be more unwieldy and may struggle with speedy, localised responses.
It means that independents needn’t look in awe at the marketing of corporates and chains. Effective use of great design and media – and understanding how to protect trademarks and other intellectual property – helps businesses stand out. That agility also extends to the advice they take – they don’t have to stick with big name advisers – we know (because we’re here) that there are talented advisers in our own district.
To respond and differentiate, a business must get to know its customers. Understanding what clients want and the best way of delivering it helps the best to stand out and show value. New entries to the market can often take the approach that because something succeeded elsewhere, it will work here. This is where an established Harrogate firm’s knowledge and experience tells – it’s a factor which is tough to beat.
Independent businesses are special and can compete by offering outstanding products and services and a first-rate customer experience. If we understand what we have,value our intellectual property and people – independents can become successful, growing businesses. Harrogate’s iconic firms have grown by understanding all of this.
Paul Berwin is Founder and Senior Partner of independent Harrogate law firm, Berwins