As a small business based in Nottingham we are incredibly lucky with the amount of support we receive through training and development.
This comes through the two excellent universities we have in the city and the Chamber of Commerce – alongside the D2N2 partnership.
I started The Dairy 17 years ago as most small businesses do – with lots of energy and enthusiasm, filled with hopes and dreams. I had worked in ad agencies for 22 years across the Midlands and London but always had the goal of setting up my own business.
Having gained my CAM Foundation and Chartered Institute of Marketing exams in the late 80’s, I felt well qualified in marketing and the services we offered – but had little training or knowledge of actually running a small business.
To be fair, I was surrounded by family members who were/are all self employed – so something must have rubbed off.
One set of grandparents had a shoe and cobblers shop in Nottingham, the other had a handful of butchers shops in the local area. I grew up with parents who had a lingerie manufacturing business in Nottingham’s Lace Market so I was quite used to the ups and downs of a small business. I also got to know the bra and knickers business quite well!
I would spend every summer holiday from school and college working in my Dad’s factory and then took a stall at a local market on Saturdays to sell his seconds. I am sure I learnt more about product/price/place and promotion on those Saturdays than I did in my marketing exams!
So starting a brand new business in September 2002 was quite a daunting task. We had everything in place – premises, accountants, some cash and a computer but most importantly we had a couple of clients who wanted to put their business through us.
To be honest, things went swimmingly well! We picked up some nice business in those first few months and enjoyed good growth, turnover and profit for the first few years and didn’t look back.
However, like all businesses, we had some good and some bad times – especially during the credit crunch recession of 2008 – 2011.
It is at these times that you start to look at yourself and wonder what you can do to ensure future success and create a more stable and sustainable business.
But no-one has ever told you how to plan for this or deal with it, which is why I am so grateful to the local bodies that do offer training and support.
In recent years, I have attended five separate courses all covering various aspects of business planning and growth.
Maybe like a lot of small business owners, I thought that this kind of high level thinking was reserved for the bigger companies. How wrong I was! These courses all lasted around 6 months and required attendance of a day a month typically at either of the two universities or Chamber premises.
I have learned amongst other things about financial planning, workflow organisation, team management and more about myself and the kind of manager I am. Once you know what you are dealing with (as yourself) it makes the rest a lot easier!
The courses have always brought in excellent guest speakers and regular organisers to move the group along in a quick and efficient fashion. I am very grateful for it.
The most recent programme I’ve started attending is the D2N2 UpScaler. The course is organised by D2N2 and delivered by Nottingham Trent University and we’ve already covered sessions on:-
And we have more great sessions to come covering:-
These sessions are always informative and rewarding but delivered in a relaxed and friendly manner.
Two spin outs have come from all of this; funding has been available to allow a business coach to spend time in our business after the course is over which has proved to be invaluable, and the wonderful hidden benefit of spending time with other owner/managers, developing a peer group to chat with and share experiences and concerns with. It really proves the point that you are not alone and lots of worries and issues are being faced by others. As they say – ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’.
Here is the list of courses I have attended in recent years:-
Growth Accelerator 2015
I would recommend other business owners keeping their eyes peeled for similar opportunities through the same organisations in the future if you’re keen to continue your learning and development.