Recruitment support gives the gift of time
It’s easy to imagine that Unlocking Potential’s various programmes all coincide neatly with businesses at certain points in their evolutions, and that all businesses need similar inputs at similar stages in those journeys.
But the fact is, of course, that businesses are like their owners. They start at different stages, have different gaps in their knowledge, take more or less scenic routes to growth, have false starts, or head off in new and surprising directions.
Claire Heron-Maxwell and her partner Sebastian Venn are an example of these specifics in action. When July 2021 comes around, they will celebrate five years since they started Sprout Health Foods. Those five years describe a journey on which they’ve both had to learn a great deal, and fast. Claire was a qualified nutritional therapist, working in a health food shop; Sebastian (Bast) was an architect. Between them they had no experience of running their own business.
They deliberately chose to open Sprout Health Foods (a shop and a café with courtyard seating) in Newquay, where they live. Being part of their community was very much part of the attraction for them both; learning on the job was their strategy for initial survival and subsequent growth.
FUTURE FOCUS WAS SO RELEVANT, IT FELT LIKE IT WAS CREATED JUST FOR OUR BUSINESS
Unlocking Potential have been there to step in and help more than once over the years, and, as Claire says, “Their guidance has helped us a lot, and their input has been invaluable”. This has meant different kinds of help at different times. And although she realises she signed up to receive Unlocking Potential emails at some point, by her own admission, she would read and delete them because they seemed not to apply to her or the business.
Until, of course, one day they did.
InFocus’s Growth Planning workshops helped the couple crystallise their thinking; they were an example of content so relevant to them it could have been created and timed with them in mind:
“What they were saying just seemed to be aimed at a business like ours which had got to the stage we were at,” she says, “I know it’s a phrase that’s used a lot, but it was so true for us: we needed to take time to work on the business, not just in the business.”
Encapsulating the experience of so many busy new-business-owners, what Claire and Sebastian realised was that they’d hit a phase where the business was both ticking over and not about to fail, but had also reached a kind of critical point.
TO WORK ‘ON’ OUR BUSINESS, WE NEEDED RECRUITMENT SUPPORT
All of our staff, apart from me and Bast, were part-time. They were all doing other things with their lives too; very good at their jobs, but we felt that we needed more continuity across the working week. It became obvious that what we really needed was a manager. Someone dedicated to running the business day to day, so we could focus on the bigger picture and the longer term.
If it was InFocus which allowed Claire and Sebastian to think bigger and more strategically, it was Future Focus which gave them the practical support they needed to turn the aspiration into a reality.
WAGE SUBSIDIES THROUGH RECRUITMENT SUPPORT
Claire describes the help they had from their Business Development Manager, Carolyn Inger as “amazing”.
She helped us with everything: the wording and the placing of the advert, she advised us on the whittling-down, and, in the process, really raised our awareness of the part discrimination can play, even if you don’t mean it to.
Carolyn not only helped them appoint the best person for the role, but – by knowing how to access further funding – she’s been able to help them pay the new manager’s salary for a few months as well as fund some training should any be needed.
WE CREATED AN ECOMMERCE STORE
Of course, it’s too early to say what kind of impact the new manager, and a (with luck) post-Covid world will have on Sprout Health Foods. The business managed to escape some of last year’s worst excesses, as Claire explains:
Fortunately, we were classed as an essential business as we stock food, cleaning products, and immune-supporting nutritional supplements. We did have to make adaptions – such as rapidly listing our stock online so customers had the option of creating a basket of goods, which they could then collect from the shop.
Summer in Newquay is usually hectic, to say the least, but this year Claire and Bast are keen to retain some of the customers who often leave the town-centre well alone for the high season. Now there’s an online facility, the aim is to encourage people to order, ready for delivery after shop hours.
WE RECEIVED DIGITAL MARKETING AND XERO TRAINING
As for their experience of Unlocking Potential, Claire’s convinced of its benefits, even down to the more specifically-practical workshops they both attended online: on digital marketing and WordPress (Bast), and getting to grips with Xero book-keeping software (Claire). And even though their engagement with the programmes has been exclusively online, Claire was far from fazed and actually saw it as a plus. She found it easier to fit the courses in around the needs of her business without having to travel and, as she is – by her own admission – not the world’s most natural networker, the remote element suited her learning style.
Future Focus Business Development Manager, Carolyn Inger added;
Claire and Bast have such a strong desire to learn and develop both themselves and the business and have taken on board all the input and support we’ve provided, resulting in news skills for them, plus a clear plan and mechanisms to grow and diversify the business.
The support with the recruitment of the new manager will enable the couple to begin to step back from the day to day operations and have more time to develop exciting new products, services and markets and have the confidence to grow with a great team around them.
As Claire and Bast approach their fifth Business Anniversary, they have reason not just to be cautiously optimistic for the long-term future, but to be grateful, too, that in the recent past they decided to take big, assisted steps to help secure that future. They’re also living proof that those emails you see and half-read each month might be the same emails which one day change your life.