Based at Nabarro's offices in Holborn, the event saw six speakers who have all risen to the 'Growth Challenge' and continue to build their businesses despite obstacles.
Hosted by Robert Craven, MD of The Directors Centre, a consultancy for growing businesses seeking increased sales and profits, the day began with an introduction on the days proceedings and a flurry of networking and business card swapping so that delegates were familiar with the entrepreneur sitting next to them. Robert then welcomed Charlie Bigham to the stage, founder of the UK's fastest growing ready meal company, Bigham's. Beginning his entrepreneurial journey after buying a camper van and heading to the middle east, Charlie soon developed a passion for food and spices and when returning to London, he began experimenting, producing tasty dishes that could be cooked with ease. A particular aspect of Charlie's speech that stood out was his philosophy to be 'relentless about the quality of your product or service.' For Charlie, this incorporated attention to detail, with Bigham's mentioning that he redesigned every ready meal dozens of times to get it right.
What was perhaps most humbling about Charlie's speech was the pride he took in his company and its office space, with his attention to detail even going as far as him personally picking up litter outside of the Bigham's office for five years, as he didn't want customers to get a bad impression when walking in. He was also relentless about the importance of feedback - customers want to tell you about your product and their comments are priceless, as well as being the best form of market research. He also addressed PR strategies when launching a product, mentioning that Bigham's had launched limited edition products, bespoke campaigns and had sent free food to journalists - all with the aim to get as many people familiar with the food as possible.
(Above: Some of the delegates networking over lunch)
Next up was Robert Craven on '10 things to do in the next 30 days.' At the beginning of the session, Robert had delegates partner up with fellow small business owners and promise to get back in touch in 30 days to say how they had implemented a change in their company. This session was the 'how-to' of this process, with Robert asking the crowd to be honest on what was holding their business back. After a group discussion and debate, it seemed the only thing holding people back was fear, and themselves. Robert then launched into a step by step programme on how to conquer personal obstacles, as well as having delegates explain what was so special about their business and their offering.
Nicole Tumiati, Senior Associate at Nabarro LLP, then guided the audience through the legal side of investment and why entrepreneurs must do their research before taking on an investor. She also briefly looked at important legal advice such as the employment of workers - have you supplied written terms? Can an employee take your IP? If you're short of cash, was offering shares an option? Afterward, Henry Stewart of 'Happy' spoke on creating a great workplace and how important it is that employees felt good about themselves and that this should always be a company owner's main priority. Another debating session was ignited, with Henry encouraging delegates to ask each other whether their prioritise their employees happiness over success. Interesting statistics came to light, with Stewart stating that SME's spend 3x more time telling employees what they did wrong than what they got right and that to counteract this, managers should say '7 positives for every negative.'
Up next was Tamsin Fox-Davies, Small Business Marketing Mentor at Constant Contact. Tamsin's speech was themed around the importance of channels and how well companies communicate their business message. Interestingly, she told the audience to 'think like dog trainers'- when marketing to people, give them one call to action at a time and don't bombard them. In terms of channels, Tamsin asked the audience to seek out wherever their customers reside and place content there. Blogs were advised as a platform that made business websites 'real' and gave character to what would otherwise be an anonymous brand.
Lastly, Penny Power of Ecademy wrapped up the event with a look at personal branding and how she launched online networking to socially connect small businesses in 1998. Sensing a real opportunity 'çonnecting the globe', Penny displayed her fascination with social and digital media for businesses, as well as offering peer-to-peer support and knowledge sharing. One of the interesting points raised by Penny was how vital your credibility is online. At a time when business groups gain 'likes' on Facebook through manipulation by offering free products or competition entry to customers, businesses need to be concerned with nurturing their network and engaging customers instead.
Overall, the workshop was a great success and the delegates were given ample opportunity to learn, network and head off with vital tips and tools on how to move away from the pitfalls and setbacks of launching a start-up to striving for growth and success. Also, delegates tweeted throughout the day on the key pieces of advice offered up by the speakers. You can track the conversation at #ECWorkshop.
Thank you to all those that attended and to our sponsors, Nabarro and Constant Contact, as well as the host on the day, Robert Craven, The Director's Centre, and all those that spoke and shared their stories.
Also, keep an eye out for our next event, and another opportunity to come together as an entrepreneurial community and prosper!