Reconnecting with your passion for business

Guests gather at Fire Up workspace in Rochdale

The turbulence of the last few years have shown how important it is that businesses look after their employees and adapt to new ways of working. and the Growth Company were keen to gather insights from employers, many of whom have enjoyed the experience of support from the People Skills and Talent programme run by the Business Growth Hub, designed to help businesses survive and thrive by looking inwards and investing in their staff and in particular in developing future leaders in their organisations.

As business leaders play such a crucial role in leading the business to grow and succeed, we wanted to take the best learnings possible. 

All the attendees at this open and frank discussion at the Fire Up coworking space in Rochdale spoke with great honesty about how they had improved as leaders in an ever-changing business environment, but also on the importance of being able to have difficult conversations.

Laura Dunlop, managing director of GLD Tech, said that her engineering and construction management background gave her a constant yearning for learning as an important culture in her business. “I actively went looking for the right courses at the right time that will support me in my business journey so that I could support business. And that’s the whole ethos. As we’ve grown, we have become almost a training company, because we now have quite a lot of young people in the business who we are training up as apprentices.

Darren Shaw said he has gained an enormous amount on his learning journey as he slowly takes over more of the day to running of the Pegasus Warehousing and Fulfillment from Andy Taylor. “It’s me that needs the growth and mentoring support, to to grow the business.” 

He admitted it’s not been a pain free process. “We’ve gone through quite a bit of pain in the last two years, a company has gone really well, what the pain has been there to get through another level, the system itself that needs to be involved in the business growth.”

Barry Lewis has also migrated from the shop floor at Reel Appeal to a leadership position. “My skills have been able to pick a stick a label, to now having business acumen and the skills that are needed to run the business and expand the business in the right way, passing the correct skills onto that people was something that I didn’t know how to do.”

Katie Ford of Vet Empowered said she came from an industry where quite often people would come to her advice on life or death situations and wanting answers. “Speaking to different people meant that I had to give myself permission to be a beginner at stuff, which then just opened all these possibilities to be able to learn new things that you never saw yourself ever learning before.”

Tom Fletcher also has a family element to the high protein food business, Firstplay Dietary Foods that he’s taking an increasingly key role in, succeeding his father in making many of the major decisions  “I’ve had to fight for an awful lot of change, and am hoping many of these things, big things, affecting the business in the last couple years that I’ve really had to put the case forward for some of the stuff I want to do, so it’s made me work harder.”

Sally Dewhirst described her fascinating 10 year career history in the fashion business, where she was the head of design for a major label for five years. Her venture though is The Pick Me Up Truck, a converted horse box from which she serves coffee at events and festivals.

“When I was starting my own business, I knew that I always wanted to do something that brought people together.” 

She admits she bogged down with the need to make money straight away, with business processes but a business mentor really helped her to focus on the initial plan and to remind her why she started out in the first place. “I needed to stop, but in a good way, and re-evaluate everything and go back to where the beginning of what it was that I was actually doing this far. That’s been the biggest thing for me.”

Dawn Luvin, director of the Music Shed, a business she runs with her husband, related to earlier observations from people around the table who suffered from imposter syndrome, and admitted that she struggled with the difficult conversations with people that a business owner inevitably has to have.

However, she was honest enough to share her doubts but also the self-knowledge to realise she’s really good at client care, so focused her energies on that, for the good of the business. “I’m very, very good at interacting with our clients, and very, very good at working with the community. I’m very good at talking to people and very good at building relationships. And so the fact that I’ve been able to take a step back and hand over roles to other people and say this, this is not this is not me, I’m not comfortable doing this. But I say to someone else, I think you’ll be great at it. And that was a huge step forward for me as it’s taken a lot of pressure off.” 

As a business mentor on the programme, Melvin Cainer said he recognised that he came from a different era where there was no such thing as a mentor or consultants. You simply learned by your mistakes, he said. 

“What I’m hearing today is very, very interesting, because there’s so much that you can benefit from other people’s experiences. And I find that I find that wonderful, really. Fate has also definitely played a very, very big, big part in my business life.”

Janine Smith, described the discussion as “a great morning listening to amazing business owners share their journeys and how our teams at GC Business Growth Hub have supported with this – particularly around executive development. We talked about resilience, personal development, being a leader, tackling difficult conversations and accelerating growth.