Digital Transformation: An interview with Tara Ashe, owner of Block Design
We spoke to Block Design’s owner, Tara who has been involved in our Digital Transformation programme after successfully receiving a grant to develop a new wholesale customer portal allowing orders from international customers to be linked to Block’s Sage accounts and their stock control system, in real-time.
Tara, tell us a little about your business?
We’ve been trading for 21 years now – we started in 2000. We design and manufacture products that we sell to design-lead stores, mainly museum stores but obviously there’s been some huge changes over the years, and we’ve tried to embrace those changes – now it’s a really exciting time to be working!
Why did you decide to get involved in the Digital Transformation programme?
We’ve always enjoyed a huge amount of support from our Business Development Manager (BDM) and we’ve had a great working relationship – that’s really come into effect during lockdown. We were having a chat, a brainstorming session, and we talked about where we could go, what we could do and how we could really use these [Digital Transformation] new opportunities so actually it was our BDM that suggested it.
What digital challenges were you having in your business?
Because we’ve been going for so long, I think in some ways we’ve got a bit stuck in a rut through the traditional model of trade shows and the traditional calendar. So when we started to look at this, our main route to growth was through export. One of the challenges to this was the administration and how it technically worked.
We had lots of opportunities abroad and our products are well received but the systems for working in those markets were quite clunky. We were working in different time zones and we were working with different currencies obviously– so it was the administration that was causing us trouble.
We had lots of inconsistencies and there were quite big gaps between placing the order and the customer receiving and paying for it, so we were looking for something that really joined up all these processes and made it a better experience for our customers.
What are the key areas the Digital Transformation programme has helped with?
Digital Transformation helped us find a fantastic solution that really joined up all these processes.
Now our overseas customers can go on a website portal where they can view their prices. That portal feeds down into our accounts system in real time and those sales orders are made in their time zone. They’re uploaded automatically to the portal so they can see it and pay for it. When we get in the next morning, the orders are already there.
The website portal reduces admin, and it reduces mistakes so it’s a fantastic system for us.
This development has been a huge part of our business, it’s been a real focus for growth – I can’t believe we didn’t have it six months ago! It’s been a real change in our business and ultimately, it’s shown our customers that we do look at things differently, that we can change, or we can keep up to speed.
What does the rest of 2021 have in store for your business?
I’m so excited. It’s been a really difficult year, but also there’s been so many opportunities that have opened up myself and my team are really looking forward to making the most of. Our business had probably got a little bit stale and a bit comfortable in the way we worked so this has really shaken things up and made us look at things differently.
What do you think prevents businesses taking advantage of advances in technology?
Money obviously, but also time. Technological advances seem to be moving faster than any other point in history and it’s hard when you’ve got your head down trying to work in the everyday. To really take advantage of these can be quite intimidating so our BDM has really handheld us through this process and made it easier. It’s taken the stress out of it to make it into an exciting project and really enjoyable.
Would you recommend Digital Transformation to other business owners and why?
I think this is a fantastic opportunity to step outside your business and look at how it works. This last year has really made us look differently at our businesses and the arena that we’re working. This is such a good time and opportunity to make a change.
What three words would you use to describe the Digital Transformation programme?
Exciting, invigorating and challenging.