Business Leaders explore ‘Future Ambition’ as #AmbitiousLCRList is launched
Growth Platform invited ambitious business leaders to a celebration event rounding off the #AmbitiousLCR series delivered as part of the LCR High Growth Programme.
The ‘Future Ambition’ event held on 8th June at Oh Me Oh My explored how ambitious businesses within Liverpool City Region can innovate and grow, and what the post-EU landscape may look like in terms of business support.
The event also launched the #AmbitiousLCRList with the first inductees being some of the most successful businesses who accessed support via the programme partners Growth Platform, Edge Hill Productivity and Innovation Centre and St Helens Chamber.
Broadcaster and journalist Ellie Phillips, who played host, welcomed the entrepreneurs in attendance to be part of #AmbitiousLCR along with Head of Business Growth from Growth Platform Janice Mears, who congratulated the businesses who have received support through the programme on all of their success.
Fireside chat with Professor Simon Bolton
Host Ellie Phillips quizzed innovation expert Professor Simon Bolton on the potential for business growth in the Liverpool City Region (LCR) during a fireside chat. Professor Bolton estimated that there are around 78,000 businesses in LCR, 500 of which are considered ‘high growth’, but that there are a further 10,000-13,000 businesses with high growth potential to be nurtured.
Simon’s work at Edge Hill University Productivity and Innovation Centre focuses on using data to drive innovation and productivity. Through their innovation ‘sprint’ programme which has been part of the LCR High Growth Programme, Simon explained the team help businesses to look at:
- How to reduce loss making customers – for example those you have worked with for years, but with pricing that is now 10 years old.
- Identifying new and profitable parts of the business
- Adopting digital technology that enables them to grow
Having supported both large organisations such as Procter and Gamble as well as SME’s, Ellie asked Simon to reflect on the difference of supporting innovation and productivity in large and small organisations.
“The use of data in large organisations is more systematic and is often the starting point for their strategy” explained Simon, but noted “A job for life for me is data literacy. It is the one parameter that helps to unlock business innovation potential” regardless of business size.
Simon explained “The ability to ask the right questions is the starting point of unlocking data. If you generate an invoice, you have a primary data set to drive innovation”. Some of the questions businesses should be asking themselves according to Professor Bolton are:
- Do you know where you are now?
- Where were you in the past?
- Where do you want to be in the future?
He continued “What’s your highest value customer? How many high value customers do you have? How do you get more of those? Do you have the evidence? Data literacy is getting into the details.”
“I’ve worked in 46 countries around the world and I can tell you that all businesses face the same challenges” said Simon noting the 6 dysfunctions of businesses as:
- Undefined demand
- Unclear offers
- Unstructured processes
- Ineffective comms – internal and external
- Unproductive organisational structure
- Ineffective use of data and numbers
And finally Professor Simon Bolton stressed the importance of building a bank of case studies of your work, saying “without them a 5 minute pitch becomes 5 hours of convincing”.
Entrepreneurs and Innovators Panel Reflections
A panel of local entrepreneurs and innovators including Rod Wah of Beverston Engineering, Jennifer Fenner of Defproc Engineering, Ben Sweeney of Vidivet and Tony Caldeira of Caldeira Ltd, spoke about the impact of business support on their growth journey.
Rod Wah shared that Beverston’s current customer base includes pharmaceuticals, oil and gas companies and aerospace. “If you fly on a Boeing 747, parts of that plane will have been made in Beverston in Knowsley” he told the audience proudly.
Rod who took over a failing engineering business becoming the sole employee in the 80’s and building it to a £5mil turnover with an impressive team reflected on the tough economic climate over the last few years.
“We had £2.5mil in orders lost overnight through covid. Through the Future Innovation Fund I was able to carry on with my projects and build equal turnover to pre-covid.”
Defproc also accessed the Future Innovation Fund (FIF) during the pandemic facing £50k drop in income due to companies pulling out of innovation projects.
Jen reflected “Fortunately 2018-2019 had been a good year for us, so we have enough funds to keep the lights on and keep us ticking over, but it also allowed us to apply for grant funds. Through FIF we received around £74k to develop a product, one of our own products to help with loneliness and isolation, and we disseminated it via Liverpool City Council. That project also enabled us to upskill our team.”
Defproc also accessed the ‘Gather’ programme and are already seeing the benefit of the support received. “Our turnover last year was £216,000 and this year it is already £220,000 with space to take on more work as a result of the support from those programmes” said Jen.
Vidivet are earlier in their business journey, but Ben said the ‘Peer Networks’ programme has shown him the benefits of business support programmes. “It put me at the fore as a business leader” said Ben, commenting that “The comradery that developed through the programme” was hugely beneficial saying “What Liverpool do well is we support one another”.
Calderia also received £500k from the flexible growth fund and further investment from the capital grant fund to take on a larger business unit. Tony said “The pandemic was a challenge as our primary business sales are via the high street which obviously closed over night. We had to furlough the whole factory. But then we heard of places struggling for PPE. We decided to help out and sew non-surgical gowns. We made 100,000. Our staff were given the option of whether they wanted to come back into work and every single one of them chose to put themselves at risk and come back in to help.”
Future of Business Support
With EU funding drawing to a close and UK Shared Prosperity Fund and other investment mapping out the next phase of business support, Ellie asked the panel what they think the priorities should be when it comes to shaping future programmes.
Tony Caldeira felt that most businesses need support at two times:
“Start up because they don’t know what to do, and next is whenever there has been a step change”. Tony felt that LCR has a good model for business support but emphasised “We just need to keep business support focused on the businesses, not the providers.”
Ben agreed saying “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There is a model that works in LCR, so let’s do more of that.”
Jen Fenner shared “The best business support for us was when it has been bespoke and tailored to exactly what we want to do.” Having received tailored advice Jen explained “We’ve changed policies, pricing is better, it makes sense. For a business you need to know what you want to do, and networking events like this are really important. You never know who you are going to meet”.
Beverston’s Rod Wah said “I echo what Jen has said. In my days based in St Helens I used to think networking was a waste of time. Since moving the business to Knowsley and joining the chamber, the benefits I’ve had from networking are fantastic – finding out what other businesses are doing. As a business owner you are in a little bubble”.
And grants was the final business support mechanism important for the future in Rod’s opinion “sometimes businesses just need grant funding”.
Future Ambition Advice
Host Ellie Phillips asked the panel to round up their story by offering advice to entrepreneurs in the room who want to turn their ambition into business growth and here are their final words of wisdom:
- Rod – “My advice to other businesses is that every business has waste and inefficiency. Always look at what that is and improve.”
- Jen – “One thing would be to always have an idea of what you want to achieve by having a business. Work from your end point back to work out how we get there. Always be looking for more opportunities. We’ve talked to over 1000 people in 10 years, but we haven’t landed 1000 jobs. Be open to everything.”
- Ben – “Ask yourself are you doing something you want to be doing?”
- Tony – “Ask yourself why is my business special, why do customers need my business? It is the best it can be. Always keep the focus on the customer.”
Ambitious LCR List is Launched
A highlight of the evening was the launch of the #AmbitiousLCR List.
Those added to the list as ‘ones to watch’ or ‘leaders’ have all demonstrated their high growth potential through the LCR High Growth Programme – whether that be expanding their team, pioneering new technology, significantly increasing turnover or making huge progress in their sustainability agenda and were selected by the team who have worked alongside them.
The businesses inducted into the inaugural Ambitious LCR List are:
Delivering a sustainable industrial future
Ones to watch: Abbey Eng LLP and Make CIC
List leader: Dowhigh Ltd
Open Health Innovation
Ones to watch: Barerooms and Viz box
List Leader: Biograd.
Global Cultural Capital
Joint List Leaders: Adlib Audio and Sound City
Zero Carbon Economy
Ones to watch are: Avrenim and Heptron Manufacturing Limited
List Leader: Armada Technologies Ltd
Tech for Good
Ones to watch: Hybrid Technical Services and Lead 5050
List Leader: Fifty Eight
Ones to watch are: Prime Atlantic Ltd and Lavasource
List leaders: The Progress Group
Click here to see full details of the Ambitious LCR List and reactions from the businesses chosen.
About the LCR High Growth Programme
Through a range of support measures including guidance from account managers, access to the High Growth Innovation Fund, the innovation ‘Sprint’ programme and Capital Growth Fund, the LCR High Growth programme has so far worked with 120 ambitious local businesses wanting to develop their business growth strategy.
The programme which is part funded by European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and Liverpool City Region Combined Authority has already helped to create over 300 jobs, brought new innovation to market, and brought around £12million in private investment – with further impact expected by the close of the programme at the end of this month.
There is still time to make use of the LCR High Growth Programme business diagnostic tool to help give you an understanding of the relative strengths and weaknesses of your businesses, together with insights into the areas that need to be developed to maximise your growth.
This tool helps to analyse where you are now, your business model and looks at your business operations across 10 areas – Leadership, Finance, Value Proposition, Customers, Markets, Products & Services, People, Operations, Sustainability and Innovation.