Live Podcast Special: Help to Grow Management Programme

Live Podcast Special: Help to Grow Management Programme

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This is why small business matters from Northumbria University. Supporting small businesses with the Help to Grow Management Programme. Today's Why Small Business Matters podcast is taking place at the iconic Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts in Gateshead.

And we're here today in front of a live audience to celebrate the first year of the Help To Grow Management Programme, the flagship government scheme aimed at owners of SMEs. It's a 12 week programme that aims to promote growth and productivity. And today we're bringing together business support network organizations. The participants from the programme and members of the Help to Grow management team at Northumbria University to see how we can help promote growth within business in the north east Now businesses are at the heart of our economy and also the bedrock of our communities. So today we're going to be asking questions about how we can support business, grow and innovate and create really good, well-paid jobs. And now I'd like to introduce our chair, Caroline Theobald CBE.

Thank you very much. (Applause) Hello and welcome to today's episode of Northumbria University Why Small Business Matters podcast. And what a day it is to celebrate small business. The sun is out. The Tyne is sparkling. And it just. The weather says, what this region is, a great, great place to grow a business.

And that's what the discussion today is to be or is all about. It's now my turn to welcome today's guests. Three businesses who've really benefited from the Help to Grow program. Plus network organizations, the Entrepreneurs Forum and the Federation of Small Business, who, together with the North East Chamber of Commerce, have been real advocates of the program and in a minute.

And in the next hour, we'll learn why. Help To Grow, as Sarah said, is a £220 million Treasury investment in small business and is spread over four years. So if you haven't done the program yet, you can. It can really help businesses overcome challenges and transform their business practice.

You're about to hear from three people on my left who've done just that. Nick Downing, Director of Operations and Transformation at the NPH group. This is a full service occupational health provider which almost reinvented itself. Which almost invented its testing business to move into COVID related services over the pandemic. As a result, the company is now spreading its wings nationally and internationally and has experienced enormous growth and is going to keep on growing, I think.

Kelly Maxwell in the middle is the owner and founder of the award winning Kelly's Heroes Private Tuition. And I say award winning because not one, but two. Kelly you were in March. she became the FSB's North East Young Entrepreneur of the year and then was shortlisted in the journal Small Business Category This is a business just as much about purpose as profit.

1 to 1 tuition to help children be the best they can be. And at the end, Phil Robinson-Artley, the operations manager at Armstrong Direct family owned business that's growing from a medium sized business into growth mode. You pull the throttle back. Absolutely. It specializes in selling equipment to the nation's pond keepers.

a lovely thought on a hot day like this. In fact, I think I'm right in saying it's the biggest in the UK. That's correct. You are primarily internet based. The company grew during the pandemic and Phil is the sort of connector between the online world and the on site team.

That's the businesses on my right. We have got 2 really quite well known figures from the world of professional business support. Reshma Begum, who's the development manager of the FSB and a great advocate of Help To Grow. And I think it's fantastic for you that you've got one of your award winners here. Proof positive, really.

And just as a reminder, the FSB is a nonprofit and the largest membership organization in the UK representing very small businesses and sole traders. Not only does Reshma give voice to the concerns of the FSB's regional business members to local government and MPs to make sure that they're doing the right thing for small businesses. And she and the FSB also celebrate their success. So you clap again Kelly down there. Growing your business can be a lonely place, and I think we'll come onto that a bit later on.

And finally, Elaine Stroud, the CEO of the Entrepreneurs Forum, which celebrated its 20th birthday last night and was set up as a self-help group for the region's entrepreneurs. It's been massively successful. Last night was witness to that, a real celebration of how entrepreneurs have helped each other. That peer group support is so important, and I think now 300 North East founders spread right across the business spectrum.

You pride yourself particularly, I think, on the mentoring program, and that's actually a key part of help to grow. So we hear a bit more about that and it's practical help and also emotional support for members to help each other and help them grow and some other fantastic world class events. But like last night, really, which was great, great fun. So a fantastic group of people.

I think we're going to have a very lively discussion. And what I really want to have with everybody is I'd love you to share your experience and knowledge how you've overcome both personal and business challenges. Because over the last two and a half years, there's been a lot of both. And so what you've learned really as people and businesses from the pandemic, the importance of peer group support people do business with people, mentoring and community, the role is. Services provided by membership organizations. That's you two then! How Help to Grow and other university services have helped you because of course there are other university services on offer and I think we might ask you to talk about the KTP's that are on offer and then finally, how you'd like to get more involved with each other and the university, because it's this is this is the start of a network, really, and people support each other.

And that's what we want to get out of today. So first question just for the businesses and I'm going to start with you, Nick, but what was your biggest takeaway from Help To Grow? And it might be good just to contextualize which I think is all right. So, I mean, so for me was a really good programing opportunity, kind of landed in my inbox and I thought all that, do I want to go for this or do I not? And I was really pleased. I did the the content and the structure, the course I thought was really valuable.

So we had industry experts during lectures and what you face is all virtual because of all that element was virtual because of the lockdown, which for that with a mental session. So I was paired up with a facilitator from university and business leaders from different sectors. That was really valuable for me to hear about accountancy sector of education sector. So I'm in the health sector. And so the spread of knowledge that we got across the group was really powerful. And the thing that stands out for me that my key takeaway was that watching a case study about a guy who was a chemist, who had a product that was just a number and had gone through his whole journey to give it a brand name, he'd gone through the kind of the components of healthcare. He was a help to grow alumni himself, and then he'd taken internationally and one of the face to face sessions that we did, I asked the question, So how did he set up his China office? How did you go from being in the Midlands to opening your China office? We had a bit of discussion around that and for me it opened the door and just it was it helped me with my confidence, say, well, why do I not think about going internationally, what we're already doing? And so through that process, i got in touch with a few people.

We're now in conversation with the i.t. Some of my work is in europe. We're doing film and distribution of COVID test kits across europe and also now America for one of our big B2B clients. So

yeah, overall, it's a really well rounded course with a couple of key takeaways from a business output. I've made a real difference straightaway and that's fantastic. Is it particular? I said you were flying and you will be, I think. But it is.

It's that people thing, isn't it? You say something and you think, oh, that's interesting. Oh, open the door. Let's go through. Kelly, what about you? What was your key takeaway from it? Yeah, quite similar actually. Following on from there was quite a few things I took away from the course and one was the network and all this.

So here that we're on the course the same time as me, I'm being able to reach out to all of these different people who are all from very different backgrounds. However, the course was brilliant because although everyone had different businesses, all were able to take things away from it. And I was saying that, you know, you're not going to take everything straight away, but you've got your notes and it might become relevant a little bit later down the line. So I found it really beneficial for that. Also the mentoring that was amazing.

Absolutely amazing. I think I was on this like hamster wheel, you know, trying to just keep up with everything and keep going and having that mentor and really opened my eyes to see actually, you don't have to do 1000000 hours to be a successful business. It's about managing that time and creating that roadmap. And from that it opened and doors within the business. I didn't expect to.

And you know, I think a lot of the time we're all in own business. We're all kind of doing what we think is right. But hearing it from the outside in and of course and learn or learn and all of these really helps you realize that actually doesn't just have to be one way. There's so many different ways that actually could be better than you had imagined. So that's my biggest takeaway, definitely.

And actually for you it's a relatively young business because you started in 2018, it's yours. It's a lonely place, isn't it? So it's great to have people out there who you feel that you talk to support are on a similar journey. Definitely feel a bit different from you because you came in from a business that was quite well established. First time you'd worked, I think in in in the Internet sector primarily. But you came in and the business, I think, was sort of stuck where it was. So what was you what what's been your takeaway and what was your experience of the program? It originally it started off being I'd been out of education for 15 years.

I thought, well, it was a way of getting back in education. It seemed like a really good course to get into. I get the the budget for it because the budget was quite cheap because it was only £750. So it was almost a no brainer to do it. And I put it to my directors, they said, yep, push along with it. It's great.

Completely changed when I. He went on the course because basically I'm in this new environment. I'd only been there for a couple of years and I was a little bit on the back foot with it. I've been in the hospitality trade for about ten years before that, so it was completely different.

So basically as we were going through the course, we were doing the 12 modules. It was it was giving us a little bit more confidence to look under the stones. It was given us some sort of rigid way of doing things.

So basically I'd come home each week or I'd go back in the office each week with a new idea in my head and give us that structure to hang the idea off until somebody actually dealt with it. So it meant it could push the business on a little bit. There was a lot of, I don't know, a lot of information to take in. And my only job was basically to pick out the best bits for my business.

And really, we got a lot of support from the likes of Jill Danby. And when we were doing the mentoring, she actually pushed us in the right direction. It almost turned the management meetings into a product of three wise D So basically, why are we doing this? Why is that important to us and why is that important to us? So basically, we could we could go down this rabbit hole and find out. And that was really surprising because we found a lot of people weren't on the same page.

And that that that that why it's such an, you know, in your why is such an important thing but having the rigor that actually when people come that you actually then had learned the tools to to to back it up and really stays there until you actually deal with it. And then we can so many, especially in small businesses where the you know, the small business leaders have so much to do, it often gets lost and you're sort of like, don't come back to it for a couple of years or whatever. It meant that we could actually push it out and push on. I'm going to bring these two in now because actually you must have loved to hear that word about mentoring and the importance of community and support. So let's pick up the mentoring thing first, because that has been a standout of the forum over its 20 years.

What what can you take from that and put into your context? Well, you're right. I loved hearing how powerful the mentoring is, because for us, mentoring is what we do. And the forum was set up for the purpose of mentoring and it was experience entrepreneurs, the iconic figures of the region saying We want to help businesses that are starting up so they don't make the same mistakes that we made. And it was interesting.

Caroline mentioned last night we had our 20th anniversary celebration and people like Paul Walker, who founded Sage were talking about, well, we were just the start up at one point and they remember those pains and they didn't want the people who are starting businesses now to go through that again. So it's about learning from each other and learning from that sort of real experience. So not necessarily your accountant or your traditional advisors, but learning from people who've been there and being in the trenches and done it. And that experience is invaluable. And there's so many people in this region willing to give their time and share their experience. It's just about tapping into that and taking advantage of that if you can.

It is. And I mean, it's sort of built into the program because you've got that. And it's lovely actually to see on the program your peers here in the room because there's that support network is growing. You come at it in a slightly different way, don't you, at the FSB? I mean, but that word community, that's that's big for the FSB, isn't it? It is. It absolutely is.

And I think I know we keep referring to yesterday's downside, really, but it's fresh in my memory. It was raised by a couple of the business owners yesterday. I mentioned it on the stage that when you're a business owner, you are expected to be you're expected to know everything and you don't know everything.

And it's it's hard because you can't necessarily confide that in your staff members. You don't want to worry them. So the community aspect just helps you have that peer board, if you like, that sounding board of people who know what you're going through, who know you know, who've either been there and done it or are currently going through. And you can sort of bounce off each other and you can get ideas from each other, learn from each other and help each other and really give each other that support.

And I think the pandemic has really highlighted how much mental health and wellbeing is really important. Again, that's something that people can benefit from as a part of a community or part of a mental mentorship smashing. And actually it goes back to actually what you were talking about, Nick, that the whole thing that when you talked about how powerful it was for you to learn from you, there were people on your program who might have been about the same size business, but they were completely different businesses. There was accountants, there was, you know, your occupational health business that's, you know, pivoted. But actually just being able to speak freely over quite a long amount of time so you could build trust must have been quite important.

Definitely. I think there was there was real value, real learning in that. So I remember positive conversations about how a different business that digital. Guys what they were doing, and we've been on our own journey, but it helped me to see a different path to what Kelly was saying and feels like actually, you you're not stuck in your own rut thinking I'm doing it the right way. I'm doing the way I think is right.

It's actually saying, well, actually, there's a bunch of other options here, a bunch of other services. And we talked about particular use cases for a financial services system, and we've already done that also, but many others hadn't. So it was a great one up. So I built a toolbox of additional things that I could open up whenever I want to look into. It's okay. How do I now move forward on this aspect of the business? Which was great.

That's fantastic. And I'm just thinking about that because these things don't happen overnight, do they? I mean, it always takes a bit of time to get into something. You know, you're you're in an alien environment, you know, doing something new in a university setting or online. Kelly is really quite a new business. We've talked about the modules, we've talked a about we haven't talked specifically about the time involved, but it is a big time commitment. But you obviously think that time commitment was really well worth making? Oh, 100%. I think you spend a lot of time in your business.

When do you really get the chance to spend time on your business? Look. And so from the outside in and having that time, I mean, I've continued with that time, I've kept it locked out in the diary because it's been so invaluable. I thought, I'm not going to then just go back into the business. I'm going to make sure I've got that time.

And it's great because then there are a lot of things that you take from the course that might make you say it might not be relevant at the time, but then you come back to it and you think, actually this is a really good idea. You know, I think like I think especially when it came to like the marketing that I found really, really helpful because it was something I had just so it goes, it goes on the back burner, doesn't it? You just think I've got everything else to do, but actually seeing how important marketing is to the business and then I spend some of that time that I had blocked out on marketing for the business, on the social media is doing that and it's made a huge difference in itself. So I think in that time there has been really important, which again I wouldn't have done before the course. That's a great takeaway that isn't it? Because you said when you started you felt you were on a rabbit wheel and you haven't.

You've stepped off the wheel and you're working smarter. Yeah, just hit me hard. Phil, just coming to you, because this education, as you said, you went before, when you went on the course, you sort of went on to it because it was you thought education, all this is I can go back into education. But actually that's not what you got from it, was it? No.

And I want to just ask you about what the because people think education or maybe they oh, in an old fashioned way is sort of board and chalk, but that the the program doesn't work like that at all, does it? I mean, I was trying to get my I was trying to get my brother on the course, but he's actually changed jokes now. So he hasn't got that far with it yet. But his big thing was, I don't want to do anything in education.

He was like me at school, didn't do massively great in there or whatever, but got a good head on his shoulders. And I was trying to explain how sort of like it isn't a massively impactful thing. It doesn't impact on your life. I mean, a lot of it is webinars where we sort of like talk to each other and and we try to talk through problems that we've got. And it's almost like it's not so much sort of like them asking the questions of was. So basically

the tutors not asking the questions of us, we can ask questions there. And that usually opens up huge to no worms. It's basically then you've got like half an hour of people trying to explain their own viewpoint. But for me, sort of like didn't come across as education. We took a lot away from it and I'm still on a WhatsApp group with the rest of the cohort on there.

So if there is a question come up, we consult like throw out and nine times out of ten we can usually find a way of solving the problem. But it's one of these things. It sort of it does scare people off this this sort of like, well, having to go to university.

And if you haven't been at university, that's probably even scarier. But it's such a good atmosphere. It's like everybody some of the some of the break times that we had in between the parts of the course were educational on themselves. Because everybody's been through this problem. We've all got a lot of the same problems anyway.

And, you know, smart people thought with smart solutions and wherever you can take away from that, it's great for me, for my business. It's good that you felt like that today, didn't it? We came here to enter the Baltic, which is iconic in terms of the north east landscape. And actually this it didn't feel this with people celebrating their businesses, wanting their businesses to be better, wanting to help to grow them onto the next stage. And there's, there's, there's a real dialog between the businesses and the fact that the where it doesn't matter as much use that why would you go and it's the why and then the how and the transform transformational change of. It's made to all of you, which will come to you a bit later.

And just for just thinking about that, you, too, you to run membership organizations. It's getting and it's been really tough for the pandemic because so much has been had to be online. What have you found? Now that we're all back in the real world, you know, people do business with people, don't they? Yeah. I mean, look, the pandemic did have its benefits because online

meetings, etc., they are much more time efficient and much more cost efficient. And you somehow feel more productive because, you know, you're in your own environment. You can jump from one meeting to another. But as you say, Carline, people buy it from people. People connect with people.

So, you know, online networking is fantastic, for example, or online webinars and, you know, learning opportunities. But when you're in the room and those conversations that you have before and after the event with somebody who's on a very informal level, those are invaluable. And those you cannot get from from a different environment. It was challenging for, I think businesses, small businesses in particular have really shown just how agile they are, just how resilient they are, just how determined they are to be the best that they can be by managing to survive such a horrific pandemic period. And it was ongoing.

It was a stop start economy for two whole years. There was so much uncertainty, but they just got on with it because business just doesn't just get home with it. And that's why, you know, things like Helped Grow program are so important, but also celebrating success that you do through your awards and you do through yours alone at the Entrepreneurs Forum, don't you? Yeah, I think we're in year 17 of our awards actually, and we do that once a year and we celebrate Entrepreneur of the Year .

We continue to do that during the pandemic because I felt it was really important that businesses were having a tough time, but certain people were doing an incredible job of keeping things going because it was I mean, you all know it's unprecedented how challenging it was, but it was right to continue to recognize those entrepreneurs who really stood out and kept things ticking along, because I think we all know that actually this region doesn't do terribly well in terms of business start up. There aren't that. It's the lowest business density in the UK. If you think in London there are what, 1400 businesses per 10,000 population here in the northeast, we're about half of that .

So it's really important to celebrate the businesses that are out there and showing your resilience, really to keep on taking the step to go forward. So thinking about that, you three, I'll start with you, Kelly, this time first, what's what was the biggest challenge that you that you came across, either personal or professional during the pandemic? And so when lockdown first hit, I didn't have any employees. It was just me at the time.

So I think is probably everybody in the room did you weren't sure what was coming so you it was that uncertainty of will people still want tutoring will they not want tutoring? is it going to be two months? Is it going to be two weeks? So I think I was worrying about whether the business was going to continue because I couldn't do face to face anymore. It was and I'm not great with technology. I'm not going to lie. I was I was a bit like, oh, no, what I'm going to do. So I just had to adapt. And I went online and I just hoped families would move online. And luckily the did.

And I think as lockdown continued, you know, schools weren't going ahead, everything was online and parents will have to work from home, but they were trying to homeschool at the same time. So I think as lockdown went on, parents will worry about the child's education. So you start to get more students that way. And so initially for me, the biggest worry was whether the sessions would continue because face to face was all I knew. But now online is a service we continue to offer because it's been so successful. Right. How did you get this? Good. You said you're not a tech person.

So where did that ability and what did the course give you the confidence to look at a new that new models? Definitely, yeah. It gave me so many ideas about it. I think it just opened up possibilities where again, I'd kind of been tunnel vision and face to face. It has to be like this way. The course was and again, it wasn't just what we took from the course, it was the people in the room who had so many ideas and so many suggestions. And all of the businesses are different as things we can all take from it.

So I remember every time I would leave and I would sit in the car and I would write a list of things I wanted to do or things I wanted to remember. And then I look back at those even now, and I think online was something I was going to just show off and go, Right, we're past it now. We're back face to face. But then I thought after the course I thought, Well, why would I do that? Because that's another avenue where children from all across the world can then can access the education. So the course gave me that confidence to be able to say, yes, this is what we're going. Do.

And that I mean, that's a great thing because that's opportunity for small business, particularly in a pandemic and, you know, a very early stage business to commit the time that 12 modules take and, you know, to do it when you're thinking, gosh, all this stuff, you know, is I've got to deal with. But actually that time commitment has gave you the oxygen to learn new things, to put them into practice, to see your business grow. Because how many people are you up to now? 12. Yeah. From not at the start. The beginning to 12. Yeah, yeah, yeah. What about you feel what was your biggest challenge or the biggest either personal or business? Well, from the business point of view, and as of 2020 March, all of the bricks and mortar shop shook.

So basically what we had to do was deal with this massive influx of people who were migrating online. So we had like a three fold problem. It was we had four times as many sales coming through the door, which is a nice problem to have. We had maybe two thirds of the stuff that we would usually have because we're seasonal business, so we take on more stuff which we couldn't do on the back of that. At the core of everything that Armstrong Direct does, keeping the customer happy.

So we basically had to do all of those things at the same time on the hoof. So we were literally making up new things that were going on. So a good example of that would be we found a way of sending a text message to a group of people. Very simple thing to do for your average melody or whatever, but for me, probably the hardest thing in the world. So we worked out what to do with that space. So really at the end of the day, all we did was use new technology.

We changed the shift patterns. Everything started to take over quite nicely. Everybody was out of everybody's way. The challenge now and the thing that the course gave us was basically it put the idea in our head, thought the things that we put in place during the pandemic, we have to try and keep that as much as possible .

So texting a load of people at once is great. So what we do now is we have when people's phone calls and if they don't get through to one of our people before they ring off, we take that number and offer them a 5% discount till we the phone is back or accept a call from us and we do things by text. Text. So taking that one thing that we did, of which we did very, very many, has actually bolstered the way we do business.

So now we've got a lot more customers and that takes a hell of a lot of communication. And this is an added extra bit of communication, which I'm surprised I hadn't thought of before. You've now got a communication background. But it's interesting you said it alone, and Reshma said that the most testings of testing of times businesses, actually, the ones that survive and thrive, are the ones that innovate and, you know, and do the next thing. And we're just going to learn from Nick. That is exactly what happened.

Yeah, that was a big problem for your business, wasn't there? Definitely, yeah. So the business is a people business. So we're out on client sites or people come to our site for face to face services, clinicians doing health surveillance, medicals for kind of safety of train drivers, etc.

When the pandemic hit and businesses closed down and people were furloughed, there was practically no business. But we do testing and we do screening. We make sure people are health and safety populations being a business or broader population.

So I started out helping people to stay in business by doing temperature checks, and initially it wasn't self testing, but it was all nurse led testing. So we were doing that for businesses which kept them productive and that then scaled up and we ended up getting a contract with Leeds, Bradford and Newcastle Airport to do testing for travel. That was a big change and the business had to be really agile and from being quite a steady occupational health business, we were now in a business which was growing at an uncontrollable rate with the master being the COVID infection rates and the government rules. So every week we would be like, right, let's change direction, change direction. So we, we pivoted and were as agile as possible.

There's quite a big cultural piece within that about bringing the team along that journey the change of pace, the ways of working. And so I quite enjoy that side of business. I quite like the, the, the pace of the change. I know it's not everyone's cup of tea.

So it was really it was exciting in some ways. It was tough in different ways. But if you look back now, I think from the business to say, well, we had to do it, it was necessary. And actually now at a point where I'm off the back of help to grow and we've we've rebranded, we've lost a new website, we've done a little bit testing services.

We're now looking at international markets. We're looking at testing that isn't just COVID, but you can use lateral flow test for HIV, malaria, TB, diseases that affect populations. And if we can get into that space. We can help people's health and well-being that sits at the core of what we do as an organization. But we can do it on a completely different scale through enabling change or allowing change to happen and embracing it and running with it. And what's interesting, it's almost the same question as the one to Kelly earlier. This was all happening when you was one of the directors of

the company was on a course that was taking your time, so time up. So that was cultural change, the leadership challenges. There were all sorts of things wrapped up in that. How did the course help you sort of unravel, make sense of it and take it back so that, you know, you could you could work through it because it's important when you're doing that sort of people who use the word pivot, that sort of pivot, that's tiny stuff inside out, move off in a different direction. Did you get help on how to do that, how to you manage that? And so, yes. So the course gave some really nice kind of research based or kind of evidence based tools to use, which helped me to reflect and step out of the business and look internally basis.

And they were really helpful and I'm quite a practical person in operations and that you always have that element. So I did what Kelly did, and every time I was in the course I'd write down, I wouldn't I wouldn't try and take everything and I'd write down the key bits for me in the moment. And I've got a page for each week that we did of the course with a bunch of notes, and I refer back to and I've got the course notes, I know that I'll get back to them again. But it was

it was challenging to be so busy at work and do the course, but I wouldn't have not done the course because I got such a lot from it that I know I'll revisit that and it helped me in the moment as well. So good in many ways. Yeah. And that's a sort of toolkit thing, isn't it. It's actually What do I do here? And then also you've got those folks out there who actually can you can say, ooh, have you done have you done this before? They'll say, yes.

And we did that then. And that's that's how it helped. But the culture is because I think the pandemic really did impact on culture within organizations. I'm going to come to you, Phil, on this, because that was you were moving into a new sector for you anyway, having been in sort of paper manufacturing, completely different Internet based rather than real, that whole culture, that different culture. Then when you have a pandemic coming, poking in in the middle and in a family run business, which you actually don't own. So you're, you know, if you're a general manager, but you don't own the business, all of those things are quite difficult to navigate.

Again, just connecting back to what it was saying about the sort of toolkit that the the program with Help To Grow program gave you. Was there stuff in that toolkit that you were able to take you take away and then put into practice and then help to sort of permeate stuff down through the team? Yeah, there was a do at the start of it. There was a I thought we've got quite a happy team there. It's maybe struggling to get from one culture to another because, you know, small businesses from differently to where we were going. I mean basically we added a third onto our sales practically overnight, so added an extra dimension. And when I sat down with my mentor, we went through a lot of different ways of assessing where the culture was and where we need to be.

And I mean, one of the things that she did mention was basically we needed to put together some sort of mission statement. And the mission statement was put together by my senior team. However, when we did sit down to do it, it took us maybe two or three days to do it because it seemed to we were all actually looking for different things and pulling in different directions. Once we got everybody pulling in the same direction, that's when it all started to click together. And that was basically pushed, pushed forward by Jill Danby.

So like, this is a good way to solve the problem. I think you've got that. You possibly don't think you've got it worked very, very well. So a lot of happy people on our team.

Practically nobody's left. I know there's a lot of people who are leaving businesses now to work for different businesses and we've had maybe three people leave. Two of them have come back. It's because they realized that their input to this culture is appreciated and they can have a lot of input into that when they've got the different businesses that probably didn't get that. So I'm happy to say that they've come back to us now and it's not like it's almost stopped people leaving because they realize they're on such such a good deal.

And that being heard, that's I mean, this market that is absolute. I mean, that's that's incredible. You've grown in this market to really tough market conditions.

KELLY So same same thing with you, that cultural piece, people getting it, keep you from getting that. It's a purpose driven company. Yeah. And for me, again, I've said this to a few people. I'm a teacher. You know, I'm a teacher. That's what I want university to do.

So when I started my own business, I've never been a manager. I've never been in charge of a team, never. So I didn't know if I was doing things the right way or not or being on the course and hear from all of these experts really helped embed that the things I was doing was right, but then also gave me a lot of ideas on lead in the team .

And I think for me it's all about if you've got a happy team and everyone feels like you feel everyone feels appreciated and heard it then ripples out into the whole business. And it makes I feel like you can go somewhere and you feel like the vibe, don't you know, if it's, you know, if it's tense or not. So I think having a positive team which which I did have but it's the course really helped me realize what I was doing was right but then given me those tools to then, you know, further that. And it makes a huge difference to business. And I think if people aren't happy in the business, what is that business actually doing? So I think it is really important.

Do you feel a lot less stressed? Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. From January now, yeah. I'm a different person, but in all aspects of of my life, you know, everyone's comment is on it because I think you think you've got to do all of these hours, but actually you don't.

It's about getting things right and getting the people in place and learning all of these different, you know, all of this knowledge that we've got from this course and then putting it into place. I think you don't you? I think when you when do you think you're going to go on this course? You think, oh, what, what would I get out of it? What's it going to be like? Well, until you come out of the other side of it, you really realize how valuable it is. And I think whether you just start in your business, it would have been amazing. It will start on this course right at the very beginning.

And to have all of this knowledge, well, even if you are further down the line like Phil is here, I think it's still you're going to get so much from it cemented a bit of confidence in me I'm starting it because it was you're on the right track is and it's lovely actually it's the stress buster thing that's really big. I mean, you know, and you've seen that too, Nick, before I go over this side, you know, because you you had this, you know, this is holding this tiger by the tail. Yeah. And I would just tell you, I think one of the things that help to grow

gives you is you might have been in business for a while. You've learned various elements, helped grow, cemented them together, added new bits in which are valuable, and it gave you confidence to go forward. And having that confidence, it takes the stress off, doesn't talk about the structure, didn't with the structure of how you actually do things changes a little bit because you've got all these added extras. And I mean, there's been a few times when I've been starting this thing now I'm going to solve this problem saying, Hang on a minute, I just need to go back to my notes of saying, I'm sure we picked up on that.

And even if I haven't actually written a lot about it, if I throw it to the WhatsApp group, they can, you know, fill it out a little bit. Maybe people think it's that people thing. So come on, let's think about that. What? It wasn't just businesses that had a really tough time during the pandemic. Membership organizations had a very difficult time because when you've got when you don't quite know what's going to happen next, as Kelly says, and you've got limited budgets to spend on things, what what goes it's committing to things outside.

But you've you've kept that FSB knew. Yes. Yeah. We maintain quite a stable membership and actually I think we pivoted a little bit as well in terms of how well we communicated with members more of the 1 to 1 support and that that level of outreach and engagement allowed us to push messages on really worthwhile projects such as the Help to Grow program. You know, that's probably something that we maybe didn't have as much of before, and people recognize just how much they can get from the FSB. We had all the legal support that was invaluable for people and keeping them updated on, you know, the continually changing beast of of restrictions and what you can do and how many people can go out to the park with today. You know, we kept up to date on all of that information so that businesses didn't have to. And the FSB care, which offers wellbeing, support and, you know, 1 to 1 support with a nurse as well for any mental health and wellbeing issues that you may be suffering, you know, that type of thing.

It was really well utilized during the pandemic. And again, it just shows the importance of that community and and knowing that you don't have to have all of the answers, you just have to know where to go to find them. Yeah. And you know that you know that you've got that safety net. You've got it. Somebody's got your back. Sona. That's what all three of these have said, knowing where to go to find them.

That's something that you hold within the membership, don't you? Yeah. And what we found in the pandemic was it was all about the members. They're our customers. They're the people we needed to look out for. And they were hurting and they didn't really know what was going on. So for us, it was getting on the phone to the members and we put in place a really structured program to pick up the phone, make sure that we spoke to every single member on a regular basis.

And all they wanted to know is what's everyone else doing? You know, am I getting it right? I have no idea what I'm doing. As long as the other 300 members are thinking along the same lines, that's reassuring to me. And obviously, we helped them with H.R. and the furlough scheme and all the practical side of things. But really what they wanted to know is, am I getting it right? Am I doing the right thing? Because people want it to be kind to their employees.

And but but we wanted to be kind to the members because what was happening was that the owners were picking up the slack. They were spending all their life looking after their teams and being worried about the people, but not worrying about themselves. And that was really important. And that property was the second part of the pandemic, was looking after those owners and making sure that they had connections. And you know that because, you know, you pick up the slack and you, you know, you you were the ones working 24 hours a day and probably on that rabbit wheel.

We have to look out for these people because they're the ones creating the opportunities and keeping other people in in work, essentially. So that was and and I think that's done as well because people have been loyal to us because we were kind to them during the pandemic. And it's really that thing that, you know, you talked about here. We've included, too, haven't we, really, that, you know, business, of course, the wealth creators, they create high value jobs, but they're worth creators, particularly businesses like yours. KELLY Which is actually in the making, helping people be the best they can be.

But you need support and a bit of TLC as an owner to to do that. And that's that's what this program and others actually are. The things that university has to offer can do. And actually you've. I love this. What was that advert about? So, like the the shaving thing that I bought the company, you've almost.

All right. I really like this program, so I want to do a bit more. So what are you doing now with the university? Nick So we're looking at something called a CT or knowledge transfer protocol or partnership relationship with KTP. So that's linking a business to university through a fund that's government run that's been around for 50 plus years. So very successful. It plugs kind of academic expertize into a business which needs to grow up into a third space.

And so as a small business, you don't have necessarily everything you need to step into the next opportunity. So it's a step change program, but it's an investment from the business, a commitment to say we're going to fund this that's in government supported with the university to innovate UK and you can do KTP's for a bunch of different things that can be management KTP it can design widgets it can be anything you like . It can be for a bigger business, a smaller business. And so what we're looking at right now is working with a couple of people here in the audience to take our business from where we are now, where we've got a a corporation, a health business, we've got a health screening through lateral flow test business.

We've got some key partners that we've kind of grown up with during the pandemic and that we knew before that. And now it's about how do we take kind of all that we have in front of us as opportunities and refine our way forward and lean on the university to give us some expertize around that? And you have to help us make a step changing going forward. And you know, what's going to happen is wonderful segway here because what I'm going to do now, I know you've been working with Matt a bit on that, but actually Hannah is really into working with you quite a lot going forward. So Hannah, would you like to tell us a bit more about how these work and the offering, how it works and how people can find out about that piece? Yeah, so thank you. I think

the KTP's are, as Nick says, really about making the step change. And one of the things that universities are quite good at doing is bringing together lots of different expertize from different disciplines and then some variable and a real benefit. And having academics who are used to working closely with small businesses and can listen to what their needs are. So we've been able to put a team together to make an application hopefully and hopefully it works. The end really just supports businesses through making an enduring change to their business. So not just here's some capacity for a year or for two years and we're going to try and go for two years.

It's not just about pitching some capacity and for that time it's something that's supposed to remain with the business and last beyond that. And it's got a fantastic track record and we have a fantastic track record at Northumbria for them as well. And but where things don't fit with the CPTPP because obviously Innovate UK have got very specific requirements around it. And where it doesn't fit that are. There are other things that we can do to support businesses through consultancy and contracts, research and collaborative research.

There's lots of different ways that we can be supportive with with organizations. But the CPTPP is brilliant because it's so well subsidized by him, by the government. So yeah, what I'm wanting to do now, I'm looking into this audience and thinking.

A lot of you have been on the program. Is there anybody who wanted anything to add from their experience of the Help to Grow program? Who's not on this panel but things actually, you've talked about such and such. But I really I got a real takeaway and that was this and nobody's mentioned it. So I wanted to bring it up. Anybody in this who'd like to say anything? No, but they might come back to them again.

So I'm going to come to you then just to talk about some of the other things, just to build on what Hannah said. Some of the other programs just in such bite sized chunks that businesses could access. Yeah, and I like the front door comment, actually, Caroline, because I think every university struggles to guide SMEs to say this is the front door, come and access, come and access some provision. And I think actually this program, even if you didn't take it up, you're speaking to Sarah and you've got a foot in the door.

And I think one of the most powerful statistics to come from Northumbria University is that it's supported over 500 startups, and those that are still trading contribute 83 and a half million pounds to GDP to this economy alone every year. So the footprint of the university, the company that we keep and the work that we've done is really strong. And this is just this Help to Grow program. It's just another program in the arsenal of the offer to support business.

And as I've said before, in this region, particularly, more needs to be done to support business because it contributes an awful lot to the community, but there aren't yet enough small businesses there. So because of that, what I want to do in my last 5 minutes, I suppose, is actually run along the panel. And I'm going to start with you, Phil. If you helped growers work for you, you said it has very coherent to all of you and said it's great you made the time you wanted to do it .

What would you say to people? How can you help us get more people knowing about it? And actually, it's the benefit to business is that they'll want to hear the benefit to your business. Why did you why should people do it? I mean, first of all, I'd like to say just the first thing I'd like to stress is basically that don't be scared of the word education because it isn't like that. It's almost like a help type situation. But what I got out of it, I was a little bit well, I haven't been at university for 15 years now, so how am I going to feel about this? I was really, really pleasantly surprised by how it was put across.

It did take up a little bit of time, but we had a lot of webinars there. So basically I was maybe conducting business around that as people were coming into my office or whatever. So it wasn't as impactful as I thought, and that was what I was trying to get across to my brother when I was trying to sort like promote it for him because he's the same space ops manager. I thought you get a hell of a lot out of it.

He's never been to university and that was the thing. He was scared of it. He was like, Oh my God, you're going to give me that depth of focus to get through it. It isn't like that. It's like if you've got a problem, it's a you've got a voice to put it out there.

And there's a lot of very well-educated and good business managers that you can talk to. And that's how I sort of put it across to himself, almost got there anyway. So hopefully in the next cohort, no accident and I think the next cohort is on it starts in September, September. Kelly, what would you say? Because Fiona manages particularly young businesses, I think it is particularly difficult for them to prioritize time. Yeah, it is. When there's so many other things that need to be done.

However, go one on one on the program and you don't know what you don't know until you you go on the program and it's going to give you so many more ideas. It's gone, really. I would say it would spark the excitement because I left that program thinking I've got so many ideas now that I want to implement and as a business owner, you're excited about that. So I think if you go on the program, it's it's definitely going to benefit the business. Either way, you're going to learn something. And it's also going to open up a network of other business owners, which is it's something every business owner wants.

It's great to have that support network and especially those that have been on that program, they've been in that situation. So they they've taken different things. So you can go back to them and you can ask them. So there's there's so many things you can take out of it.

Fantastic. Nick, why would you not do the program? I think is my question because 90% funded by the government. So you're only paying £750. £750 might feel like a lot. But if you can get buy in from your business leader or your other business leader, it's a relatively small investment. If you look at other costs in your business.

And I guarantee everyone will learn something, whether it's off course, material of a peer or network, and it will make a change in your business, I'm certain of it. So let's say in the terms and I just do it, just do it. I'll just do it right now. Then you two, you have been great advocates through your your membership organizations of the program. So I'm going to ask you a hard question, right.

What more can you do, having heard what you've heard from three small businesses and what more can you do? Reshma Thank you. First, I think I think it comes back down to effective communication and making it comparable. Businesses are often swamped with information of You should do this or this, this and this, this and all of this different stuff you can do. It's making sure that they recognize the value of each of those different programs. And that comes from communication and engagement. As you said

several times, people buy from people. It's the same with FSB. People invest their time in me as much as they do in the organization. So because I am that trusted person for them, if I say to them, Oh, you know, it's really worth looking out, I'm hoping that they will. But at the same time, it's what put my members in touch with each other as well, so that people like Kelly, who I will pick on the contract, can tell all the members because they will respond more to it coming from one of their peers.

That's a great idea. Kelly, I think you're up for you're going to get an FSB invitation to tell them how good this is. I think that's a really, really good idea result. Results.

And I just think it's a brilliant program, and we need to do more to convince more people to do it. Because if you look at this, there's three people on this panel and the impact on their business, if you replicate that among 500 businesses in this region and got that impact, I mean, think how many extra jobs would be created and that 83 million you're talking about, that could be 160 million easily. And the Northeast is lagging behind. Like you said, we have half the number of businesses per 10,000 of population to London. The LEP keep telling me we need 6000 businesses, new businesses per year to just catch up and to level up . Something like this will create sustainable businesses, businesses that are doing better.

So it's not just a business starting. It's a brilliant business that's growing and scaling and we need more of that. So I think we need to get out there and get the word out there and we can help with that and encourage more businesses. To sign up. I mean, like you said, just do it.

It seems like a no brainer. These government schemes don't last forever. It will be our sort of a once off post-COVID opportunity for businesses to access this level of education and help.

They just need to get out there and do that. And we can see from the examples we need to talk about the examples and the impact and show people that it's not just another government scheme or a university led scheme that just seems like not as exciting. It's got to be out there and it's got to be shown by the results. And you three have done a brilliant job today of advocating for it.

Everybody else in this room must have equivalent stories. Let's help more people and get them signed up. And it would be great, actually, if we could. I'm just going to be a bit of a, you know, opportunist here.

So actually, there might be, you know, regiments already asked, invited Kelly to speak at the FSB. It would be lovely to hear about that. And entrepreneurs formal invitation would be spent extended by the Philharmonic because actually it's all.

KELLY Well, you know, but actually that's that's the thing that sells it, isn't it? It's not Nov saying it's great, it's actually the businesses saying how great it's been and how it's helping their businesses. But talking about Northumbria, I would like to ask Sarah to come and just bring the podcast to a close. And then I think because otherwise we're going to run out of time and then I'll be in trouble. But I know that we are heading beautifully towards 11:00, according to my watch. So Sara

2022-07-13 03:13

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