Aspire 2 Grow Course at the University of Nottingham
Just before Christmas last year, I saw a social media article promoting the soon to be launched Aspire 2 Grow programme from the University of Nottingham Business School.
I was aware that both our local universities had worked hard in recent years to forge links with local private sector businesses at all levels – not just the top end where relationships have been in place for many years. The school was offering a 6 month long course just for small businesses that were looking to grow their turnover (and profit).
As a management team here at The Dairy – we had already agreed that 2016 should be our year of growth. We had relocated to trendy new offices in West Bridgford, agreed to grow the team and invested in new kit. We had also enjoyed some business planning training through the government funded Growth Accelerator Programme and this had given us a real taste for moving the business on.
So I applied. It was a stiff process of written applications and then a formal interview in order to gain one of only a dozen places on the course. I was delighted that we were successful and I prepared as best I could for a series of training days at the Jubilee Campus – one a month from January to July.
The first session was about getting to know the other students and meeting our mentors and lecturers. It was immediately obvious that the students were in similar situations to us at The Dairy and we were instantly able to swap stories and empathise with each others opportunities and challenges. It was agreed that we would abide by the ‘Chatham House’ rules of what is said in the room – stays in the room. So we no worries about sharing information with companies who could be considered as competitors.
The training team was great – superbly organised by Andrea O’Mahoney of the business school and delivered by Dr Andrew Greenman and Jeannie Holstein with input from experienced businessmen – Rob Carroll and David Falzani. We also enjoyed guest lectures from a variety of business experts – it was particularly interesting to hear from Kevin Hard who had established, grown dramatically and then sold rather profitably, the solar energy business – Evo Energy.
The 7 training days covered:-
- Finance and Governance
- Human Resources
All were incredibly useful and I learned a huge amount that I wouldn’t have come across in my normal working life.
It was also good to be back in a learning environment – I think I could get used to it and with two teenage daughters on the cusp of going to university – I am rather jealous!
The theoretical learning was good but the mixture of hearing directly from more established business leaders and chatting with my peers made the whole experience really useful and one that I am delighted to have been a part of.
The icing on the cake was that after the last session where we had to present our own learnings and take outs from the course to the whole group, we were treated to a lovely BBQ and drinks on the lawn of the university. We were told that we had graduated from the course and were presented with our certificates – which I am very proudly clinging onto in the picture below.
I would recommend a course like this to any small business locally. All it takes is a deal of your time and a lot of commitment (first time I have had to do homework in years!) as the results are worth it. We are already using some of the things I learned and have changed our business strategy which is proving successful.
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