Press Release | 10 Nov 2023

Steven Bartlett partners with Vodafone Business on new documentary series helping SMEs embrace digital technology

Following new research from Vodafone Business revealing 36% of UK SMEs fear going out of business over next two years which could lead to a £49bn hit to the economy.

  • ‘Diary of a CEO’ star Steven Bartlett launches new three-part documentary series in partnership with Vodafone Business to help SMEs better embrace digital technology and supercharge their business
  • The release of the Digital SOS campaign follows new Vodafone research which reveals that one in three SMEs fear they will go out of business over the next two years which could lead to a £49.5 billion deficit in the UK economy
  • Research also finds that if SMEs began making full use of digital technology, it would improve the profitability of the sector and provide a £114 billion boost to Britain’s economy
  • Episode 1 of the Digital SOS documentary series is available to watch here now

Vodafone Business has partnered with ‘Diary of a CEO’ star Steven Bartlett to launch ‘Digital SOS’ – a new series of documentary films to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) supercharge their businesses by making better use of digital technology.

The three-part series has been launched following new research commissioned by Vodafone Business which revealed that almost one in three (36%) SMEs said they feared going out of business in the next two years due to rising inflation and a flat market. The findings also revealed that if this 36% of SMEs did fail, it could lead to a £49.5 billion deficit in the UK economy.

In his role as a Vodafone Business Ambassador, the series sees entrepreneur and digital technology expert Steven Bartlett visit a struggling UK small business to assess how their current use of digital technology is hindering their growth potential. Each episode demonstrates how the vast array of resources available on Vodafone Business’s V-Hub Small and Medium Business Support website can help SME business owners enhance their digital skills – helping to boost profitability and productivity for their business.

The first episode in the series sees Steven visit Apex Strength and Wellness, a community gym based in Bishops Stortford, Herts, to help its Founder Amelia Lawes turn the business around.

Launched in 2018, the Apex Strength and Wellness Gym provides coaching to kids and adults who may not feel comfortable in a regular gym or have learning disabilities. Like many SMEs, the business has struggled since the COVID-19 outbreak.

The business’s predicament seemingly mirrors that of many other UK SMEs, with Vodafone’s research also finding that a quarter (27%) of SMEs admit they barely make a profit from their business, whilst one in eight (13%) said they just about break even or make a loss.

Steven Bartlett meets Apex Strength and Wellness Founder, Amelia Lawes
Steven Bartlett meets Apex Strength and Wellness Founder, Amelia Lawes

It’s not all doom and gloom however and it appears many SMEs are beginning to awaken to the benefits of digital technology with half (46%) agreeing they could improve their profitability and efficiency through making better use of digital technology, whilst 40% admitted that they currently lacked the knowledge to do so successfully or didn’t know where to go for help.

Vodafone Business and Steven Bartlett have joined forces to address these issues in the realisation that further work is required to educated SMEs on the role digital technology can play in boosting their business. The need for SMEs to focus on implementing a sound digital strategy can play a pivotal role in boosting productivity, efficiency, and profits. This includes the use of easy-to-use online tools such as marketing on social media, making your online payments process as simple as possible, and implementing digital HR and accounting  software to manage the more mundane bureaucratic tasks.

Vodafone helps over a million SMEs enhance their online skills thanks to its business support programme

V-Hub, created in lockdown to help small and medium-sized businesses, celebrates its third birthday.

Vodafone Business Ambassador and Diary of a CEO host Steven Bartlett said: “I’m delighted to be working with Vodafone Business on this new documentary series to help really drive home the benefits for businesses of having a sound digital strategy in place. SMEs are the backbone of our economy and it’s alarming to see the detrimental effect it would have on the economy if a significant proportion SMEs were to fail simply through not embracing digital technology.”

“But there is much that can be done to avoid that reality, there is a whole world of opportunities that SMEs can take advantage of by boosting their digital skills and making greater use of technology. Our hope is that this documentary series will provide business owners with the inspiration they need to boost their digital skills and improve their futures.”

Apex Strength and Wellness Gym Founder and Owner Amelia Lawes said: “Having opened my community gym in 2018, then trying to keep afloat like many other small businesses through the pandemic was super hard and then trying to recover.”

“This whole experience has been eye opening, to clearly see all the benefits a sound digital strategy can have, in not only developing your business opportunities but also keeping you in trend with the digital world we now live in.”

“I am grateful for the work Vodafone Business alongside Steven are doing to help educate so many small businesses, to unleash their potential by embracing all the amazing benefits digital technology can provide, as so many small business owners still lack the knowledge and confidence to do so effectively.”

Jo Wedlock, Head of Business Marketing, Demand & Comms, Vodafone Business UK said: “At Vodafone, we recognise the challenges small business owners face daily to keep their business moving. Small businesses owners are often their own marketing, PR, social media, HR, accounting and sales departments rolled into one, and having to juggle those responsibilities collectively often leaves little time to brush up on digital skills.”

“However, devising a robust digital strategy needn’t be so complicated or time consuming for time poor business owners. That’s why we’ve launched ‘Digital SOS’, a new documentary series with Steven Bartlett to demonstrate simple tactics to help small business owners make better use of their digital skills – which are no longer a nice to have – but an imperative to help small businesses weather challenging market conditions and boost growth.”

The Vodafone Business V-Hub is a free online support service that provides expert guidance, knowledge, tools and training. SMEs can discover how to take the next step on their digital journeys by talking to a team of Vodafone Business V-Hub Business Advisers. Click here to find out more.

The first episode of the Vodafone Business Digital SOS documentary series with Steven Bartlett is available to watch here now.

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We have a strong track record as a tech pioneer, making the UK’s first mobile phone call, sending the first text message, and making the UK’s first live holographic call using 5G in 2018. We were the first to start carrying live 5G traffic from a site in Salford, Greater Manchester and now have 5G in locations across Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain as well as the UK. Meanwhile, our 4G network coverage currently reaches over 99% of the UK population.

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