It was back in January that Mark Heptonstall was interviewed by Goldman Sachs to be chosen as one of the 70 business leaders included in cohort 10 of its 10,000 Small Businesses Programme for 2019.
Piloted in late 2010 and launched in early 2011, over 1,400 entrepreneurs from across the country have now graduated from the programme, taking with them the knowledge and experience that will create jobs and build greater economic opportunity. The programme addresses the support gap for growth-orientated small businesses, equipping leaders with core business management skills that they can immediately apply to their organisation. To qualify, business owners must pass certain measures that deem them ripe for growth: a minimum turnover of £250k, 5-50 staff and operational for more than three years. With over 10 years in business and year-on-year growth of 20%, C80 Solutions was a perfect candidate for the programme.
“The 10,000 Small Businesses Programme has earned itself a fantastic reputation amongst business leaders,” said Mark. “Knowing two people who have already attended the course, I’d learnt first-hand how their businesses had benefitted as a result. I was immediately very keen to take part.”
With the course commencing in May, Mark spent two full days at Shine, a social enterprise in Harehills, Leeds that actively recruits, trains and employs people with previous convictions. The enterprise provides employment opportunities for women currently in prison through a day-release program. “The venue was perfect for the hosting of the course as it’s such an aspirational environment,” said Mark. “The building had been a derelict grade II listed Victorian school until Shine’s co-founders raised £4.5 million in public and private monies to purchase and renovate it. Now it houses beautifully designed offices, conferences and meeting rooms and 10 years on, it’s been a huge business success that has brought real benefits to a deprived area too. Hearing the background story of Shine immediately filled us all with enthusiasm for what could be achieved within our own organisations.”
The first day of the course gave the business leaders a chance to introduce themselves and present an overview of their business. “I was surprised by the diversity of the companies in the room,” said Mark. “Whilst C80 Solutions is based nearby in Leeds, the businesses in our group were from across the UK and from very different industries. I’d expected there to be a lot of people who were very highly confident and ‘big achievers’, but everyone was actually very down-to-earth and open to discussing the challenges that were faced with. People were happy to admit to their knowledge gaps and disclose where the weaknesses lay in their business. Despite us being from many different sectors, it was interesting to see how many of us shared the same issues and problems.”
The second day of the course was hosted by Business Mentor Gary Lumby MBE and saw the group split into two growth teams with each business owner having a partner to do a competitor analysis on their partner’s business. “It was interesting to hear an outsider’s perspective on what they thought about C80 Solution’s marketing having never seen it before and having had no prior knowledge of the company,” said Mark. “There were points made that I would never have considered. The first two days on the course teach you to take a step back and view your company more objectively without involving your own personal emotions. This means you’re able to make more logical business decisions.”
With a number of two-day off-site training sessions, the programme is supported with online tuition throughout the working day. “We have a new module to work on every week, which is delivered through a webinar every Monday, a Skype call on Wednesday and closing webinar on Friday. We also have to complete two workbooks per week, which makes things quite intense. You certainly have to be quite dedicated” says Mark. “Each module forms part of a growth plan which we’ll be able to apply to our businesses when the programme comes to an end in July. If everything isn’t completed then we won’t graduate from the course!”
With a panel of business experts to call upon, the course offers continual support throughout the 12-week programme. The next two-day session will be held at Oxford University. “Having completed only a few weeks on the course, the knowledge gained has already helped the business,” said Mark. “We’ve already started looking at personal development and expanding resource within the company.”
10KSB UK is a partnership between Goldman Sachs, the Goldman Sachs Foundation and leading UK universities. The programme is fully funded for all participants and the content is designed by business education experts.
The evidence so far shows the scheme to have been a huge success. A new report found that participants are consistently doubling revenues and creating over 50% more jobs within two years of graduating, following the behavioural and strategic changes they implement because of the programme.