Growth Support Programme

Date: 
27 Apr 2018
Details: 

Let’s take a look at what support and advice is available for sole traders and micro businesses in Devon!

Ben Leach left a career in the NHS to go into business for himself, starting up as Ben Leach Consultancy. To help him grow his business and learn new skills he joined the Heart of the South West's Growth Support Programme, a free business support programme offering advice to businesses in Somerset and Devon on a range of topics including digital, HR, innovation and finance. Since then he hasn't looked back. We caught up with Ben to chat about his business and how he is progressing to win new opportunities.

Tell us a bit about your business and your role?

I used to be a mental health nurse and worked for the NHS for the entirety of my career. I left the NHS a year ago to go into business and I do two things: mental health and safe guarding training in places like nursing homes, plus I work with legal firms to provide assessments of mental capacity including Best Interest Assessments.

What do you enjoy most about your business? 

Definitely the interaction with people – I became a nurse because I’m a real people person and without that daily interaction, meeting so many different types of people, I wouldn’t be in business. I love hearing their stories, their backgrounds and I find people interesting.

What are the most challenging aspects of your job?

The most challenging aspect of my business is that I spent a number of years with a team of people who I could delegate work to, plus I always had a direct line manager who would point out any issues or make sure everything I was doing was ok.  Being in business for yourself, you don’t have any of that, so you have to think and do everything for yourself. The next most challenging thing was that most of my career I spent in the Midlands, but only the last two years working for the NHS, I spent in South Devon. So when I went into business, I realized I knew no one outside the NHS, so my circle of contacts had to grow. 

Why have you joined the Growth Support Programme?

I went to a Brixham Chamber event a few months after I set up my business and I mentioned that I had never had my own business before, and I was quite happy to tell people I needed some help – no shame in that!  I was put in contact with Kim, a business adviser from TDA who then helped me through the Growth Support Programme. It was a great idea at the time to receive support and I haven’t looked back since – it has proven very valuable to my business. 

Is the programme proving useful to you?

Yes, in two key areas. Firstly, it has provided me with the skills and knowledge that I lacked and I was able to create a business plan, which is a really important plan to have. Secondly, it gave me mentorship – Kim let me know that I wasn’t alone and that everyone needs support with their businesses.

Would you recommend the Growth Support Programme, and why?

Yes definitely, I think it’s an invaluable tool for any business in the area to help them achieve growth. My relationship with my business adviser has meant that she was able to work out what my priorities are as a business, and help me re-align myself so that my priorities are at the best interest of both me and my business.

During the support I received from Kim, I also took a module in digital marketing which was delivered by Matt at Cosmic. I have never in all my career learned so much in one day about one subject. Within 2 weeks I was able to implement a lot of the ideas and suggestions from Matt, and I am still working on some of the more longer term items like my social media campaigns. The advice I have been given isn’t just for that moment in business, it’s for life! 

What are your key goals to achieve following the programme?

My goals are to end the year with a healthy profit, something that I couldn’t have done without the help of the Growth Support Programme. I am also looking to extend the work I do and develop more in-house training for care homes. 

What's the best piece of business advice you've ever been given?

The best piece of advice I have been given is to not get depressed by rejection.  I once tendered for a contract that I didn’t win, and I asked for feedback.  The panelist who got back to me gave me some great insights that I was able to implement into my next tender, and I didn’t lose faith in my ability to contact business.

What do you think are the biggest challenges for the future generation in business?

I think the biggest challenge that the future generation of businesses face is that we live in an increasingly “on demand” world. Clients want what they want yesterday so unfortunately I have had to turn down work based on their timescales not fitting in with my already busy diary. It’s a good position to be in, as I know that I have scope to grow further to meet demand, but I think that the only way to survive in business in the future is to cope with the immediate access that some people need. 

If you would like to benefit from the free support available to sole traders, micro businesses and SMEs in Devon, please register your interest here: https://www.heartofswgrowthhub.co.uk/gsp-apply/ or contact charlotte.bradley@businesswest.co.uk for more information.

The Heart of the South West Growth Support Programme project is receiving up to £904,945 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing and Local Government is the Managing Authority for ERDF. Established by the European Union ERDF funds help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. The accountable body for this programme is Devon County Council, working with the following delivery partners: BIP, Cosmic, North Devon +, Somerset Business Agency, TDA and YTKO.

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