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  • Tomorrow's the day. Visit us at Ely Cathedral Celebration of Business, south transept, for cake and consultancy!,
  • Hummingbird cake, Black Forest Gateau and ? Visit us at Ely Cathedral Celebration of Business Thursday afternoon, 21st May,
  • Come & see Bardwyck at Ely Cathedral Celebration of Business starting this w/e. Tea and homemade cakes on our stand as usual,Thurs 21 May,

GrowthAccelerator

 
On 17th November 2013, we were thrilled when, at a marketing seminar we gave at the St John Innovation Centre in Cambridge, Kirsten Masson, who is the local manager for the government’s GrowthAccelerator programme, announced that Bardwyck’s Patricia Mathieson had been selected as a Growth Accelerator Coach.   As a registered Growth Coach under the programme, she can provide companies with the help they need to achieve high growth, or to expand even further if they are already growing fast.

GrowthAccelerator website, www.growthaccelerator.com, describes the service as follows:

“GrowthAccelerator is where ambitious businesses go to grow. A unique service led by the country’s leading growth specialists, GrowthAccelerator provides businesses with new connections, new routes to investment and the new ideas and strategy they need to achieve their full potential.

Whether it’s insight into what’s holding you back and developing a plan for the future, helping you build a case for investment and finding new sources of finance, turning your most innovative ideas into profit, or providing training and masterclasses to develop confident leadership and management, our service is focused on a single goal: the growth of your business.”

GrowthAccelerator is co-invested by the government and is open to businesses that are registered in the UK and based in England, have fewer than 250 employees and a turnover of less than £40m.

Companies taking part in the programme are asked to pay the following costs:

  • 1 – 4 employees                                  £600                   + £700 VAT
  • 5 – 49 employees                             £1,500                   + £700 VAT
  • 50 – 249 employees                         £3,000                   + £700 VAT

These investment figures entitle your firm to £3,500 of coaching and mentoring.

(The VAT is based on 20% of the nominal value of the service at £3,500, so all businesses pay the same amount of VAT.)

In addition, you will be exclusively entitled to up to £2,000 of matched funding for leadership and management training for each of your senior managers.  Under this entitlement, GrowthAccelerator will invest in your team, helping you to improve the performance of your business and increase your productivity and profit by enhancing your senior managers’ time and stress management capabilities.

To find out more about this service and how it could benefit your business, visit www.growthaccelerator.com or contact Patricia at Bardwyck (patricia.mathieson@bardwyck.com; 01353 721991).

The Effective Business

In the first of a series of articles for Cambridge Business, I look at how individual departments’ drive for efficiency can undermine what’s going on in the rest of the business.

It starts the minute a company gets beyond the size where everyone sits in one room and can happen at any time thereafter.  It happens because people are given different areas of responsibility and different targets, and then go off, appoint their own staff and set up their own systems and processes.  Somewhere along the way, managers become so focused on their own goals that they lose sight of what the company as a whole is trying to achieve.  They focus on being very efficient at what they are doing, but this may not be the right thing for the business.  Consequently, even though they feel they are doing the best they can, gaps appear between what one department is doing and what another expects of it. The result is either a bottleneck or a missing piece of the puzzle.  That’s when managers and staff begin to complain about each other. Yet they are all part of the same extended team and presumably, at the end of the day, they all want the same thing: for the company to be successful.

Eventually many companies will call in a firm of management consultants to review their processes and infrastructure.  We have known big projects that have re-engineered whole sections of a business and put in new computer systems across the board, with significant financial and human cost.  Sometimes they have even halted the day-to-day work of the business while the new systems were going into place, only to find that they needed further adjustment after going live.

Yet the solution can be relatively simple.  First, it takes seeing the company as a complete system, in which every department, person, process and system plays an integral part.  Understanding what the business is trying to achieve then allows you to drill down and find what we in Bardwyck call the “conflict points” – where something is misaligned with the overall goals.  It is then fairly straightforward to bring them into line so that they work alongside all the other processes and people in the business – so they are not just efficient, but are also truly effective.

To find out more, visit Cambridge Business, May edition.

Bardwyck in the news

 
21st February 2012 was a red letter day for Bardwyck when the Cambridge News ran a profile on my working day.  It was a great PR opportunity for us because it gave me the chance to explain the sort of work we do.  I even had a chance to talk about one of the techniques we use, Theory of Constraints, which was used to discover the reasons for the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster.  It’s a great technique because it allows you to drill down to the source of a problem.   In the case of many businesses that are experiencing problems, it lets you find ways of making small changes with big results.

Off the back of that idea, we are about to launch our “Make one small change” campaign with a view to helping businesses that don’t want (or need) the disruption and cost of big management consultancy projects, but need help either with a difficult issue (which could be anything from a bottleneck in an office or on the shop floor to managers falling out with each other or even a serious slump in profits) or because they are setting up a new project or company and want to make sure that their operations and systems will really help them achieve their business goals.

To read the Cambridge News article, go to http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Business/Working-day/Patricia-Mathieson-joint-founder-of-Bardwyck-28022012.htm

The harmonious business: why producing the best music isn’t just about playing the same tune

Last night we (that is, Ely Sinfonia) had our first rehearsal for our concert on March 3rd (Ely Cathedral, 7.30pm, by the way). How it panned out reminded me very much of the issues facing a lot of businesses.

The first thing we did was play right through Britten’s “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra”. It was recognisable, but little short of cacophony.

Then the conductor began to take it apart. Section by section, we got our fingers round the notes and started to piece together the various tunes we were trying to play. And as we became more familiar with our own parts, we started to hear what was going on in other parts of the orchestra and to adjust our own playing to fit in. Sometimes one part had the main tune, sometimes another – occasionally even my own section, the violas. In places my desk partner and I had different notes to play: that, in particular, is when you realise that playing in harmony involves not just pitching the note correctly, but also moderating your tone and even the way your bow moves across the strings to create the right kind of sound. Suddenly, the orchestra was playing as one and producing really wonderful music.

Running a business can be much the same. For the musical score, read strategy. You can have an excellent vision, mission and goals and everyone in the business may know what they are but, on its own, they don’t make for success. You can have a wonderful marketing strategy and tell the whole world about your business, but unless the product matches your customers’ expectations, it won’t make for long-term success.

Similarly, each department or work group in a business can be likened to the different sections of an orchestra; the individuals are equivalent to the different players; the processes or activities undertaken in a business are like the techniques used by members of the orchestra to play their instruments. Each individual or department can be operating excellently, but it doesn’t always mean that the business will hang together as an entity.

How can this happen? Just because an activity is being done perfectly doesn’t meant that it is necessarily right for the rest of the business. In an orchestra, the whole effect can be spoiled by someone playing beautiful notes, but too loudly or in the wrong place. Similarly, one person or department in a business can undermine all the others, not simply because the wrong things are being done, but possibly because the right things are being done in the wrong way or at the wrong time.

That’s where a good business operations strategy can help. It treats the business as a complete system in which every person and activity needs to contribute in the right way at the right time. So next time you have a problem in your business, don’t look at it in isolation. It could be that you have found a symptom of something going on elsewhere. If you can find the cause and put that right, you may well find that you suddenly unblock the whole system and the whole business begins to operate far more smoothly – bringing success closer more quickly: a symphony, if you like, that’s really worth playing.

A Question of Succession

This week, when we are celebrating the Queen’s diamond jubilee, I am thinking about succession. Not just the royal succession, but the whole question of passing on the reins from one generation to the next. It’s important in families – and even more so in business.

As my father says, things change and he reckons it’s not always for the better. “The country has gone to the dogs,” he says. “It’s never been the same since they got rid of the British Empire.”

I have to say, Dr Who aside, the idea of going back to pre-war times doesn’t much appeal to me, or even to my own schooldays. My schoolteachers were a pretty austere lot, most of whom believed that under no circumstances should you ever give kids the slightest hint of praise.

Nonetheless, they managed to give us a healthy respect for what went before: our elders, their values and what they had managed to do in their lives; which makes it quite strange that the next generation have a very different set of values and lifestyles to their parents’.

Now I know that teenagers are almost compelled to be interested in nothing but themselves, but nonetheless, it gets me thinking. If they don’t put any value on Aunt Grace’s collection of china ornaments or the fact that uncle Fred was the champion runner of the world, who is going to remember any of us, or to value our few possessions or the few things we’ve achieved after we’ve gone?

And if it’s true about one’s life and home, it’s an even greater problem for people who’ve built up businesses. The years of work represent to them not just their greatest accomplishments, but also, more often than not, their pensions.

Actually, it’s a question of trust and that is why it’s really important to think about succession planning early enough to do something about it. There’s a whole generation of women whose state pensions keep disappearing over the horizon just when they seem to be within grasp – why don’t they all make themselves redundant and spend the next few years on unemployment benefit: they are fully paid up, after all? But them apart, retirement seems to creep up unexpectedly on most people.

It’s particularly difficult if you have built your business on the back of your own expertise, albeit with people in support roles. I can think of a few people who are highly skilled in their fields, but have no one to pass their businesses on to when they want to stop work. Without them their businesses cannot function and nor are they worth anything, so there is nothing to sell.

Being able to learn is a privilege of being human; and being able to teach the next generation is a privilege of being an expert. So as early as you can, think about how you are going to pass on your knowledge and expertise. Set up a process or series of processes to allow you to build a team of younger people who are not only technical experts, but also leaders, and who you will trust to run the business when you are no longer in a position to do so. Only don’t follow the shareholders of the big banks and allow them to line their own pockets rather than continue to build the business.

Then, one day, you will be able to take things more easily in the knowledge that your pension is secure.