Real business story

An easier way

Outdoor provisions make all natural energy bars in plastic-free compostable wrappers for people who love to get outdoors. As a young start-up, they use technology to help them move quickly and punch above their weight

We spoke to Outdoor Provisions co-founders, Christian Smith and Luke Douglas, about their experiences using technology to accelerate the growth of their business

I was quite keen to go and do this quick before someone else does, and I don't think that would've been possible without all the tech we use

Christian Smith - Outdoor Provisions

Setting your objective

Technology is at the heart of Outdoor Provisions' business model. It allows the business to scale quickly, maintain its agility and keep costs down. It's at the heart of what enables them to manufacture their products in a sustainable way. It also helps Christian and Luke run the business in the way they want to, maintaining a lifestyle where they can protect family time and still have the opportunity to get out into the countryside themselves.

I don't think we'd have gotten to where we are so quickly without using these carefully selected bits of tech, because we would have ended up bogged down in more day to day tasks

Luke Douglas - Outdoor Provisions

Justifying your budget

Using technology has allowed Outdoor Provisions to quickly establish a stable foundation which they can use to scale. It saves them time, keeps costs low and removes complexity. A key early example was the platform they used when they were looking for legal support for their first funding round. The platform enabled them to avoid the cost and complexity of other approaches, using a fully online approach with templates they could easily complete, and chat or phone support when they needed it.

Christian and Luke ensure they get a return on their technology investments by focusing on investments that enable them to avoid wasted time and move more quickly. These efficiency gains should set them up for scalable growth.

A lot of the time we'll be faced with a problem and it's like, there's got to be an easier way to do this!

Christian Smith - Outdoor Provisions

Creating your shopping list

Christian and Luke maintain a tight focus on things that make their lives easier, give them flexibility and help them operate like a business with more resources. For example, the tool they use for scheduling social media posts and managing content allows Luke to automate things so his content goes up at the right time, even if he is working on something else or is busy changing a nappy.

They also focus on whether or not a system is really right for their particular needs business. They recently changed to a different CRM system after realising that the product they started out with, which had great features and would be perfect for many other businesses, just didn't meet their specific needs.

They also consider their requirements with a view to where they want the business to be in the future. They have put in place some systems which offer functionality that is beyond what they need right now, but these systems should give them a good foundation for future growth.

WIth our CRM, I used one that in my head was the pinnacle of CRMs, but actually it was built for much bigger businesses so within 5 months we switched to another one which was way better for what we needed to do. It comes back to thinking "there must be an easier way to do this"

Christian Smith - Outdoor Provisions

Buying with confidence

Once they've identified an area where they think technology can help, Christian and Luke do a simple Google search to see what products are available and then ask their network if anyone has used similar systems and is able to give them advice. They emphasise the need to have a clear focus on the features you really need, and then find the right balance between the cost of a system and the extent to which it meets these requirements.

Outdoor Provisions exploit their small size and agility to test and learn very quickly. They move fast to test potential systems to see how they could work in practice, taking advantage of free trials and short subscriptions to select the best one for them.

My main tip would be just to give it a go, as long as you're not locked into a long contract and its not high cost, then use it and see if it works for you. In three to six months you'll have a good idea

Christian Smith - Outdoor Provisions

Making it work for the team

Implementation is not a huge problem for Outdoor Provisions because of their size. Ultimately if Christian and Luke both think the software works for them then they are all set. Yet the high bar they set for any technology, ensuring that it does what they need it to do for them and makes their lives easier rather than more complex is a key part of what makes this so straightforward. They come to every technology implementation process with the perspective of users.

If it doesn't do what you need then just don't use it...It should be relieving stress...and if it isn't then it probably isn't working right!

Christian Smith - Outdoor Provisions

Getting your money's worth

Outdoor Provisions frequently look at the technology they have in place and ask whether it is appropriate, considering whether they are maximising the value of the systems they have in place, and replacing those which don't meet their needs.

Their ability to be this flexible comes from the fact they are a start up, and they are conscious that as they grow their ability to move quickly between systems will change. As a result they are doing as much as they can to use systems which can continue to benefit them when the business is larger and more complex.

When you've got a piece of software that's not doing what you want to do, call the provider, say "can it do this, does it do this?" and if not, find one that does. It's got to work for you

Christian Smith - Outdoor Provisions

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Watch the full video

Listen to the full discussion

We carried on our discussion with Christian and Luke once the cameras stopped rolling. You can listen to the rest of the discussion here.

Christian and Luke's top takeaways

Use technology to work the way you want to work. For Outdoor Provisions tehcnology et's them move quickly, punch above the weight, and maintain the kind of lifestyles that Christian and Luke want to have. If a system isn't helping with that then they get rid of it.

With free trials and short subscriptions you can often test how a system can actually perform in your business without the need to make a large financial commitment. This can let you figure out very quickly whether it's right for you

Don't lose sight of why you are putting a new system in place. It should be making your business better and supporting you. If it isn't making your life easier and delivering the benefits that you wanted, then get rid of it.

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