Category Archives: Stakeholder engagement

Blogs about stakeholder engagement and meeting facilitation

Sport to Boost Business?

Productivity is one of the great challenges of economic development – how do we raise the level of productivity in individual businesses and across the UK as a whole? Through the work that I have been progressing on a sport and physical activity growth plan with Innovas for Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership and Leicestershire and Rutland Sport, I have been thinking about the links between sport and productivity.


I know when I am really busy, taking time out for a 30 minute run, reinvigorates me and allows fresh thinking. I am more productive than I would have been, had I sat at my desk for those 30 minutes.  Even if it is just a walk round the block we often feel better for that fresh air and moderate exercise.

But this is not often talked about as a key factor in business productivity.   Productivity is considered in terms of business culture, management approaches, processes and systems, ICT and the buildings in which we work.  However for most of us, our health drives our productivity and sport and physical activity are key determiners of our physical and mental wellbeing – and how we perform each day.

In speaking to many stakeholders about the sport and physical activity growth plan, there are lots of people out there seeing this relationship and trying to push it forward through engaging businesses and persuading them of the positive impact on the bottom line. It has yet to take hold with businesses more broadly but lots of initiatives are happening.  More measurement of impact is needed to generate greater engagement.

Colleges are seeing sport as key in supporting greater employability – it offers leadership opportunities, work experience and motivation to young people. This is another way of seeing greater productivity in the economy overall – engagement in physical activity  – and skills development.

It feels to me that despite the barriers of there being too many initiatives and engagement is always difficult, looking at sport and physical activity to add value to the economic growth of UK PLC as well as the health of the nation would be a worthwhile step to take.

Planning for 2016 – 8 top tips

At the start of a new year, we all start talking about planning in our professional and often personal lives.  It is something many of us intend to do but then put off as it seems too hard.  In planning my workload for the next few months and how I aim to achieve my business objectives, I have developed the following guiding principles.  Let me know what you think…


  1.  Time – you need quality brain time to review your business and workload – if you work best at 10am then that is the time to act – not when you have done your ‘to do’ list but as the top priority on the ‘to do’ list
  2. Share your ideas – 2 heads are better than one and a business colleague or associate may be able to offer some sound advice and help you think through your ideas and plans.  It is not one for the darkened room!
  3. Background information – you don’t have to start from scratch and you may have last year’s plan as a basis for this – alternatively there are templates out there for everyone to access.  you may need the project and work plans for your workload and need to factor this in from the beginning.  Also don’t forget that Easter holiday you have planned!
  4. Milestones and targets – make sure you set some  goals and plan how to celebrate success when you achieve them!
  5. Stakeholder engagement – who else needs to be involved and with whom does the plan need to fit in?  If there are some key changes coming up, then factor those into your planning.  Consider local elections and Government reviews if you work with public sector partners.
  6. Timeframe – you may wish to plan over the next 6 months, a year or longer but focus on the timeframe that is most achievable while remembering the long term plan.    It may only be headlines for future years at this stage.
  7. Taking action – What are you going to do to make this plan happen?  Start taking action now and set aside time to bring the plan alive.
  8. Tell people about it – when you have written it, make one of the actions to tell people about it – your colleagues and associates will support you and hold you to account – this will keep you on the straight and narrow!

Grants approved for businesses in Bedfordshire – could you be next?

Grants4Growth is a capital grant scheme which is being delivered across the East of England. It is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and comes to an end in March 2015.  As the Bedfordshire Business Broker since August, I am trying to reach as many businesses in Bedfordshire to maximise the local impact.  Bedfordshire has not received as many grants as the other counties so I am trying to get the word out there and get grants to businesses investing in growth here.g4g-logo

So what is this Grants4Growth? It is a capital grant that can cover up to 28% of a total investment in equipment.  It excludes ICT and agricultural equipment but includes business vehicles, lighting, kitchen equipment, heating and production line tools and equipment. Who can get the grant? Any independent SME in Bedfordshire and Luton that is investing in their business are eligible.  It includes start up businesses and community and voluntary organisations that undertake economic activity.  Businesses need to generate growth, create or protect jobs and enhance resource efficiency through the investment. So what is the process to get a grant? The grants are funded by European Regional Development Fund supported by SEMLEP – the Local Enterprise Partnership that covers Bedfordshire and Luton.  There is a simple enrolment form and 5 page application form – accounts and quotes for the investment need to be supplied with the form.   My help as the Bedfordshire Business Broker is available to smooth this along and then the application is considered by a weekly grants panel. How is the grant paid? The grant is paid by a cheque according to the terms in the offer letter. It is only paid once the business has made the payment and received the goods.  Claims need to be made by March 2015. So who is getting the grant? – in the last few weeks 3 companies have received awards:

  • A golf club has received funding for a log cutter to use fallen trees on the golf course for log drying and sales – this will protect ground staff jobs over the winter
  • A hair salon has received a grant to allow growth into bigger premises to meet growing demand – new staff will be taken on in all parts of the hair and beauty business
  • A manufacturer of high grade pipes is investing in a new production line to meet demand for a particular specification of pipe, leading to new jobs and potential 24 hour production.

There are 5 other applications in development – could your Bedfordshire or Luton business be the next one? Do check out the Grants4growth website or call me on 07960 224568.

Rip it up and start again


There’s a balance isn’t there- between preparing well for a meeting and then being prepared to put all this preparation aside as it’s not going to work  This happened to me last week.

I had prepared well for the meeting.  It promised to be lively (read shouty) as issues to be addressed were contentious and those attending were not known for sitting quietly and listening to others. I designed a process that warmed the group up, introduced the topic of merging gently by looking at past successes and the benefits that could be gained in the future in a more collaborative manner.  We would then hit the meat of looking at streamlining services and stakeholders yielding sovereignty or as some would say, losing income.  Not an easy topic when jobs and services could be at stake.

On reading through the agenda one last time before I left for the meeting. It occurred to me that I was avoiding getting to the heart of the issue by looking at ‘safe’ topics.  By warming people up, I was wasting time on comfort when we should be concentrating on the task hand.

I started the meeting  by suggesting we move for the final agenda item and ignore the all other items as we had to tackle the task at hand head on.  This frank approach clearly communicated what we needed to achieve and made for a productive and lively (still a bit shouty) meeting.

All good fun.

Have a good week.


Customer relationship management- right topic, wrong audience


Ok so we didn’t look quite like this, but that’s more a reflection on the politeness of our culture than the content of the presentation.  However, there was a lot of device checking and work going on.  It was really a case of not doing his 5 or 6P’s depending on your sensitivities- I’m a 6P person.

I went to a CRM workshop this week, only two hours, over lunch and local- perfect for me. Customer relationships are key to us as most of our clients are ones that have been with us for years, so the workshop was very tempting.   I had anticipated a broad discussion on the top as it was billed as a taster session, which meant that it was brief, it was but this didn’t make it alright.

At the beginning, the makeup of the audience was established- overwhelmingly very small businesses.  Ones with tiny budgets with business owners doing most of the key elements of the business themselves.  This should have been a warning signal to the presenter that his high level sales pitch for an expensive CRM software system was probably not going to bring him any sales.

We politely (around 15 of us) sat through the presentation focusing on the benefits of the CRM software.  A key element of any CRM system is that it must be used and that means everyone in the business must use it.  We were given examples of huge companies that had spent millions on a CRM system that wasn’t used- not relevant to this audience. It would have been to a audience of businesses with sales and marketing departments but if you’re largely working on your own it really isn’t relevant.  Eventually the elephant in the room made its presence felt in the manner of costs.  Around £45 per month plus a start up fee of circa £2,000.  At that point, I think we all got our phones out.

It’s all about preparation.  I was taught the 6 P’s a long time ago.  If you don’t know it, it’s very useful it’s perfect preparation prevents p**** poor performance.  Of course you can always leave out a word.

Work hard and have fun.