Collaboration and ambition can unlock UK business potential

Not-for-profit organisation The Growth Company is dedicated to economic development, inward investment, skills, employment and enterprise. In July 2019, it was appointed to run a series of national mentoring programmes by Be the Business, which will be rolled out via the nationwide network of growth hubs, including The Growth Company’s own GC Business Growth Hub. 

The news represents a culmination of success stories for the Greater Manchester-incepted organisation, of course, but more poignantly sheds light on recurring issues that domestic businesses are facing in the current climate, challenges that the hub has strived to help clients combat since 2011.

“When we founded the first Hub in the country, it was a display of how we could be a complete support infrastructure for businesses in Greater Manchester,” recalls Richard Jeffery, the Hub’s director of business growth. “We wanted to help companies to start, grow, scale and expand from here in the city, providing active programmes along the way by leveraging the best of private and public provision.”

At that time, the overriding challenge for startups and early-stage businesses was access to finance, but the constantly evolving nature of the UK ecosystem has now veered towards challenges of access to skills, internal reinvestment planning, development of leadership teams and the integration of new tech in the digital era.

There are now hubs all over the UK replicating our model, all well-networked cities with ambitious visions, complemented by a series of peripheral actors working together for the benefit of businesses

Mr Jeffery continues: “The focus is on how to apply modern day, applicable solutions to stage-centric challenges, often starting with one hook or
problem they want help with, before delving into the wider workings of their business to instil much more widespread improvements.”

Much of what GC Business Growth Hub promotes revolves around collaboration, a notion Mr Jeffery believes can take budding enterprises from concept to international success. This process is ingrained into the facilitator’s offering via an amalgamation of public and private partners that combine to provide full wraparound support when needed or more bespoke troubleshooting of individual needs if more applicable. 

The resultant tailored programmes of support help small and medium-sized enterprises overcome specific barriers that are arresting their growth, can address all facets of a scale-up journey and help to create an ecosystem of aid for companies during their most pivotal developmental phases.

“I’m a massive believer in ecosystems and the Greater Manchester model is a great example of how entities can come together to assist burgeoning businesses,” Mr Jeffery explains. “There are now hubs all over the UK replicating our model, all well-networked cities with ambitious visions, complemented by a series of peripheral actors working together for the benefit of businesses.

“Startup teams, scale-up teams, banks, private partners, all working together. The best of private and public at their disposal.”

Collaboration then also applies to what will be promoted through the Hub’s Be the Business affiliation: collaboration with each other via peer-to-peer support and mentoring to pinpoint opportunities both locally and further afield.

“There needs to be a big call to action around international opportunities,” says Mr Jeffery. “We’ve all seen various forecasts for the UK, highlighting limited market growth projections, but there are still huge opportunities internationally and we want businesses to put that ambition at the heart of their growth plans.”

The recent launch of The Growth Company’s international scale-up programme, delivered by the Hub in Greater Manchester alongside partners including KPMG, DWF, Santander and Manchester Airport, epitomises the level of support that is on hand for companies in Greater Manchester to make this leap.

It’s not just about expanding market potential; it’s a way to tackle domestic barriers to growth and to foster a more well-rounded business in the long term. 

Mr Jeffery concludes: “The message gets lost sometimes, but when you become international, you become more productive and a better business. You learn from global players and competitors, and it forces you to improve. That then leads to better jobs and more exciting opportunities for your teams; a concern that has been at the forefront of our agenda since
day one.”

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