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Scaleability. North East Entrepreneurial Awards honour entrepreneurial success

The power of mentoring can change your business

How to recruit the best people tips and advice from experts

Inspiring entrepreneurs interview with Ben Staerck

What’s On

dates for your diary

ENTREPRENEURS’ FORUM Together we can take on the world.

Together we can take on the world. 04




by Nigel Mills.

Helping high-growth entrepreneurs grow faster.



NORTH EAST ENTREPRENEURIAL AWARDS Four of the region’s most successful entrepreneurs were honoured.


BUSINESS TRACKER SURVEY Entrepreneurs positive about employment and exports.


SCALE-UP AND THE INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY How the Government is recognising the importance of scale-ups.

THE POWER OF MENTORING Behind every success you’ll find great people.


MENTORING IMPACT Andy Stephenson, Weekend Box, meets with David Shiel, Explain Market Research.


HOW TO RECRUIT THE BEST PEOPLE Tips to help SME’s attract top talent.


SUPPORTING SMES How our partners are helping entrepreneurs.


ENTREPRENEWS News and views from the North East entrepreneurial community.


SHATTERING STEREOTYPES Women in entrepreneurship.


MANAGING CHANGE A round table discussion.


FORTUNE FAVOURS THE BRAVE 10 takeaways from our Global Entrepreneurship Week conference.



AN INTERVIEW WITH BEN STAERCK Furniture Clinic & Handbag Clinic.


DATES FOR YOUR DIARY Inspirational events not to be missed.


RECOMMENDED BOOKS by Robert Forrester, Vertu Motors.

Welcome to EF News The latest edition of our member magazine.


he Forum has had another great year thanks to our members, partners and everyone who so kindly gave up their time to support us altruistically, through mentoring or sharing their experience at one of our events. There really is no network quite like it, and the work we’ve been doing recently with the national ScaleUp Institute has only reinforced how rare and important a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem like ours is when it comes to the region’s economic success. As we move through 2017 a number of challenges will come over the horizon for North East business owners and, in times of uncertainty, the importance of networking to help business growth shouldn’t be underestimated. In truth, none of us know the impact political events like Brexit and the subsequent trade negotiations will have, not to mention the election of Donald Trump as American President or a host of other factors that could influence domestic and international markets.

The simple truth is that no one can do it all on their own, especially in times of uncertainty, but sharing knowledge, building leadership capability and making valuable new connections is what the Forum is all about, and it’s what you will see featured throughout this magazine. I look forward to seeing you at one of our events very soon. TOGETHER WE’RE STRONGER. Best wishes,

Gillian Marshall, Chief Executive.

The North East’s entrepreneurial business community is relatively small and closeknit, though business population statistics do show it is growing faster than in any other region. This closeness makes doing business with other companies, sharing information and peer-to-peer mentoring more readily accessible than elsewhere. It has also created a friendly and supportive community, which people from outside of the area often remark upon.

The North East needs an entrepreneurial devolution deal By Nigel Mills, Chairman of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum.

Good news for the North East business community is a lot more common than it was in the days of the financial crisis, but it is still as warmly received as ever.


o catch up with London and the South East we need jobs and economic growth in the region, so the prospect of a devolution deal with wide ranging business support powers and cash for investment was welcomed with open arms. When the proposed North East deal collapsed it was a disappointment to many of us, however talk soon turned to the possibility of the three most northern local authorities making their own agreement. Their leadership had been in favour of going ahead with the original deal, while that of the four other councils involved had stronger reservations about it. The Government has already indicated that it would be open to such a deal, as have the three councils, which creates hope that at least some of the region will benefit from what was once planned for all.


In the south of our region the Tees Valley has its own devo-deal, which has attracted the support of the area’s political establishment and business leaders alike. In the wake of the closure of the SSI site and frequent stories in the national media denigrating the area, this progress is exactly what this part of the region needs.

When Newcastle was recognised as one of the best places in the UK to do business its tech sector was singled out for particular note. Support for this expanding sector, which continues to create thousands of well-paid, highly skilled jobs in established and new firms cannot be overlooked when devolution arrives.

The possibility of a North of the Tyne deal presents a unique opportunity to spark an entrepreneurially-led revolution in the region’s economic fortunes, through business creation, and more importantly growth.

In more general terms, access to finance to help businesses with a proven product or service expand is also hugely important. Much emphasis has been placed on creating start-ups, but the region will only see the real benefit of this investment when those that have started up successfully expand meaningfully.

There are a number of existing strengths we can build on. As the only region of the UK to export more than it imports, and with our excellent connections to the outside world, through our international airports and ports, it would make a great deal of sense for the new devolution deal to provide support to get businesses exporting.

To get the right devo-deal for the region, which in economic terms must be the right deal for business, entrepreneurs must be prepared to tell local authorities and the Government what they need.

Likewise, our local authorities, who employ many people supportive of entrepreneurship, should recognise that their social goals can only be achieved with business growth and a subsequent growth of employment. As we move through 2017, the resolution of leaders in all sizes of business, and at all level of the public sector, must be to work together to carve out an entrepreneurially focused solution.

“The possibility of a North of the Tyne deal presents a unique opportunity to spark an entrepreneurially-led revolution in the region’s economic fortunes.”

And the winners are… The North East’s entrepreneurial spirit was celebrated at the 2016 North East Entrepreneurial Awards, where four of the region’s most successful business leaders were honoured. The annual awards dinner, the first event to be hosted in the Crowne Plaza Newcastle’s newly refurbished Boiler Shop, was held in partnership with the North East LEP and was the highlight of our autumn calendar of events. A black-tie evening, the ceremony was hosted by comedian Jason Cook, creator and star of the hit BBC2 comedy Hebburn, and the after-dinner speech was given by adventurer and part-time superhero Jamie Mc Donald. Entrepreneur of the Year

Mentor of the Year

Emerging Talent

John Waterworth, chief executive of Gosforth-based Parkdean Resorts was named Entrepreneur of the Year, a much coveted accolade sponsored by Ward Hadaway.

James Robson founder of Exwold Technology and business advisory firm Alexander Jewitt & Co., was named Mentor of the Year, sponsored by The Malhotra Group.

John Savage, managing director of growing North East business trade retailers Flame Heating Spares, was presented with the Emerging Talent Award.

During the last 12 months John has created the first truly nationwide holiday park business following a near £1bn merger with Park Resorts in November and an acquisition in July.

James is now chairman of chemical processing firm Exwold, a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum board, an accredited business coach and is involved with supporting the Department for International Trade.

The rapidly growing firm has five branches across the region after just four years of trading; and has hugely ambitious growth plans. The award, sponsored by United Carlton, is presented to an entrepreneur who has been in business for six years or less.

With a turnover of £401m, Parkdean Resorts was recently ranked 29th in the Sunday Times Grant Thornton Top Track 250 and has just been acquired for £1.35bn by Toronto based private equity house Onex Corporation. John Waterworth: “I’m proud of what we have built. I have a wonderful group of people who have helped me grow the business. We’ve got an expanding team, in the hundreds, having started from five people in Newcastle. I’ve also had a number of great mentors.”


Awarded an MBE for services to North East business in 2011, he supports a number of North East businesses, sharing his experience, providing mentoring and a hands-on resource to SMEs. James Robson: “I strongly believe in supporting other entrepreneurs. Small businesses are the lifeblood of the economy and to be recognised as Mentor of the Year by the Entrepreneurs’ Forum is a significant personal achievement. I would encourage individuals in business to support start-ups and aspirational business leaders to enable the economy to grow and create employment in the North East.”

John Savage: “It has been another record year for Flame, which wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my colleagues, our loyal trade partners and customers. I am extremely proud to have been recognised within the North East business community, which was unexpected, and I would like to thank the Entrepreneurs’ Forum for presenting me with this award.”

Lifetime Achievement John Fenwick of Fenwick Ltd, was presented with the Lifetime Award. He stepped down as deputy chairman of the company in 2013 after 50 years with the business. John Fenwick is often regarded as the man behind the growth of the UK’s largest independent department store group and hailed as the genius behind the much heralded flagship Newcastle store’s Christmas window displays.

John Fenwick: “Thank you North East entrepreneurs for having presented me with the Lifetime Achievement Award. It would not have been possible without the wonderful team of staff I lead. I am truly flattered.”

By working together and sharing the benefits of our collective experience, we continue to make business a force for social good in the North East.

High-growth businesses provide the jobs and prosperity that our region needs and the Entrepreneurs’ Forum present these awards not only to recognise success, but to thank entrepreneurs who help others to build their businesses.

Nominations are open for 2017 As the champion of North East entrepreneurship we’re once again starting our annual search to find the region’s most talented business owners. Nominations are open until Friday 26th May for Emerging Talent, Mentor of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year and Lifetime Achievement awards. Email with your nominations.

Entrepreneurs positive about employment and exports The North East’s highgrowth businesses have increased employment numbers, grown exports and are positive about opportunities in the postBrexit vote economy, according to findings from our latest Entrepreneurial Business Tracker Survey*. Our annual member research, conducted by Hexham based independent research agency Public Knowledge, has shown that the region’s businesses performed better last year than in the previous and that, despite the Brexit vote, the majority predict even stronger performance this year. The businesses were not complacent and did highlight a number of significant challenges; however Brexit only registered as a key barrier to growth for 10% of the respondents; dwarfed by the 30% who are concerned about access to skills and great people.


Among the key findings are:

On seeing the results, the Entrepreneurs’ Forum chairman Nigel Mills said:

 8% of companies said they 6 expected to increase the number of people they employ.  2% of firms expected to see a 5 rise in export sales in 2016/17, compared to just 3% that expect to see exports fall.  he majority of companies also T reported positive performance and expectations in the areas of stock level, capital expenditure, prices, remuneration, profit, and overall sales.  0% of businesses said that a 3 lack of skilled workers was the biggest challenge to growth; with competitive pressures given as the next biggest challenge by 11% and Brexit by 10%. Only 2% of North East entrepreneurs’ suggested a lack of confidence or economic uncertainty was a major issue.

63 members completed the survey – 21% response rate Data collection took place 22nd July – 19th August 2016


“It is great to see the North East’s high-growth businesses are bullish about their prospects for 2017. The fact that they are confident about creating more jobs, even after the EU referendum, shows how quickly they can adapt to changing markets. “A majority of our members, including me, wanted to remain in the EU, but all see that being an entrepreneur involves adapting to circumstances and taking a dynamic approach to the opportunities on offer. “The positive outlook of entrepreneurs in the North East, even in uncertain times, demonstrates just how important they are to the region’s economic revival. The creation of jobs, and the wealth that funds public services, are a result of entrepreneurial activity, which must be encouraged and supported.”

How entrepreneur led businesses are performing



Increased staff remuneration

Increased staff numbers


Increased profit


Increased exports


Increased sales

27% (2016 vs 2015)



(2016 vs 2015)



(2016 vs 2015)


Research conducted by: Filled most jobs available






Believe sales will increase

Expect exports to increase

Plan to increase staff numbers

Are more optimistic about the future

Feel less confident in the economy

figures are on balance (respondents stating an ‘increase’ minus those stating a ‘decrease’) and based upon a comparison between the financial years of 2015/16 and 2014/15. Future forecasts are for the 2016/17 financial year.




have accessed finance in the last 12 months. On balance, 16% of those who had accessed

CHALLENGES TO GROWTH Like in previous years, recruiting the right quality of staff is the main challenge to business growth faced by entrepreneurs, with Brexit felt to be a barrier for 10%.


finance felt it was easier than 12 months ago.

WHY? 38% To purchase new assets 25% For working capital







6% To buy property








50% Via the bank 38% Retained profits 34% EIS / SEIS 16% Angel investors 13% Personal finance 13% Private equity 9% Venture capital 3% Peer lending










POTENTIAL CONSEQUENCES 46% Slowed growth 13% Loss of revenue 6% Loss of customers 6% Potential company closure

63% Accountant 60% Entrepreneurs Forum 52% Website 46% Mentors 44% Networking events 37% Business mags 30% Industry bodies (excluding Entrepreneurs’ Forum)

27% Blogs 27% Lawyers 17% Banker 13% UKTI 11% LEPs 6% N  orth East Finance











Scale-ups and the Industrial Strategy Government recognises the importance of Scale-ups The Government’s Industrial Strategy demonstrates a firm commitment to improving on the competitiveness of Britain’s economy. The economic importance of scale-ups has been fully recognised. Now we need to create an environment at both local and national level that is fit for purpose to the needs of our fastest-growing firms. In 2015 the ScaleUp Institute was established by the private sector to make the UK the best place in the world to grow and scale a business. It has since then been working on that mission with the national Government as well as the local public and private sectors across the country including here in the North East. It is therefore pleasing to see that many of the ScaleUp Institute’s recommendations, which were featured in the 2014 ScaleUp Report and 2016 Review, can be seen in the Industrial Strategy Green Paper. Most notably these include the commitment to review the use of HMRC data in identifying scale-up businesses; the focus on building local strengths (such as peer-to-peer networks); and the appointment of the Rt Hon Margot James, Minister for Small Business, as a cross-Government Scale-up Champion to lead a public and private sector task force. These are all hugely welcome steps. This builds on the work that the ScaleUp Institute has undertaken in 2016, which the North East has been involved with, including the education programme Driving Economic Growth through Scale-up Ecosystems led by Professor Daniel Isenberg, supported by the Goldman Sachs Foundation, 10,000 Small Businesses and Innovate UK. Here are some of the key areas of the Industrial Strategy in which the ScaleUp Institute is engaged:  he Patient Capital Review, recently T announced by the Prime Minister, will identify the most effective ways to improve the availability of patient capital for growing businesses and therefore improve businesses’ ability to invest for the long-term. The Government is working with the British Business Bank and the ScaleUp Institute to understand and address the relative weakness of venture capital funding and entrepreneurship networks outside the south-east.


 urveys show that new businesses S may not be aware of what finance is available in their area or familiar with how to access it. New models of funding such as crowdfunding are also concentrated in London and the south-east. The ScaleUp Institute, the British Business Bank, the BGF and other partners are working with the Government to examine how to improve business networks and access to capital in the rest of the UK.

 he Government wants to T improve support for scale-ups and entrepreneurs. The Government proposes to work in partnership with LEPs, Growth Hubs and the private sector to enable the timely delivery of scale-up plans across the country. So it has appointed the Minister for Small Business to the role of ‘Scale-up Champion’ working more closely with high-growth businesses across the country.

The Green Paper states: “Businesses that are growing fast have unique challenges and can benefit from connections between others in analogous positions. The Government will work with the ScaleUp Institute and other partners, including LEPs and Growth Hubs and their network of strategic partners, including universities, business schools, business bodies, associations, and the private sector to build peer-to-peer business networks specially for fastgrowing firms.

“We will use data that only government has – such as VAT returns – to help identify fast-growing firms at an early stage. This will enable the efficient offer of advice and support to catalyse business growth and support scale-up businesses in cooperation with the Behavioural Insights Team and the ScaleUp Institute.” This is a tremendous opportunity to turbocharge the UK into being the best possible place to scale and grow a business. The Government has recognised

the importance of scale-ups to the UK economy. The Industrial Strategy is a vital plank for creating the components for a sustainable Scale-up Nation. The ScaleUp Institute is very keen to hear the views of scale-up leaders as well as all the players in the wider entrepreneurial ecosystem so that it can feed into these important discussion. If you have ideas, please get in contact with the Institute at

Source: ScaleUp Institute.

About the ScaleUp Institute The ScaleUp Institute is a private sector-led organisation that is focused on closing the ‘scaleup gap’ by creating a supportive public and private sector ecosystem that enables scaleup companies to fulfil their potential. It builds on the pioneering research and recommendations published in the 2014 ScaleUp Report, collaborating with policy makers, corporate partners and educational establishments to make a real and identifiable impact. You can read the 2016 ScaleUp Review at

Sherry Coutu, author of the ScaleUp Report, is one of the inspirational speakers at our Together We Can Take On the World entrepreneurs conference. See page 36 for details.

Scale-up Leader’s Academy Helping North East entrepreneurs grow faster. Helping businesses grow is the best way to grow the region’s economy, so this year we’ve launched the trial of a high-impact Scaleup Leaders’ Academy. With support from a number of regional partners – Team Massive Results, Teesside University, the North East LEP, Tees Valley Business Compass and Newcastle University Business School – and designed following our participation in the ‘Driving Economic Growth through Scale-up Ecosystems’ programme run by the ScaleUp Institute with support from the Goldman Sachs Foundation, 10,000 Small Businesses and Innovate UK, the Academy will help business owners who run established fast-growing companies and have the ambition to scale-up quicker. Free for Entrepreneurs’ Forum members whose business has more than 10 staff and has seen at least 10% growth in each of the last three years, our first Academy cohort is made up of 14 North East based entrepreneurs. Our ambition is to increase this number in the future.


What is it?

Is there a cost?

Spread over 12 months, the Scaleup Leaders’ Academy is a 50-hour programme of support dedicated to helping high-growth business owners prepare to scale-up their companies faster through a mix of:

As the first year of the Academy is a trial, there is no cost for Entrepreneurs’ Forum members to join the programme. The intention is that future cohorts will be charged a fee to participate.

Inspirational / role model led events Practical workshops Scale-up coaching Peer-to-peer mentoring support Action-based learning

Who will be delivering the programme? Inspirational / role model led events will be facilitated by business experts, who will be joined by successful entrepreneurs, business leaders and specialists sharing their experience on how you can:

Who is it for?

Develop a high-growth mind-set

It has been design specifically for business owners who are currently running established high-growth companies, but want to scale-up quicker.

Improve your leadership capability

In the Academy’s inaugural year, the cohort is made up of 14 North East based entrepreneurs who meet this criteria.

 nhance sales and business E development skills  ccess and manage the right finance A for your business Recruit, retain and develop your staff Brand & market your business better


150,000 additional jobs by 2034, across every region of the UK as much as £225bn (net) towards UK GDP, from 2015 to 2034 increased productivity in all sectors of the economy


SCALE-UPS ARE PRODUCTIVE high levels of productivity twice as common in firms that are scale-ups

3 x as many per week as FTSE 100 in 2014



with those exporting 3x more likely to introduce products or services that are new to their sector than businesses which are entirely domestic



2. Deloitte Research 2014 ScaleUp Report 3. ONS Business Structure Database based on IDBR (Figures may differ by small amounts from those published in ONS outputs due to the application of rounding methodologies)

2016 scale-up survey had scale-up CEO respondees from: construction, manufacturing, automotive, chemical engineering, advertising, marketing, hospitality, retail, food and drink, oil and gas, energy and utilities, creative, games, property development, fintech, life sciences, recruitment, education, healthcare, consultancy. bioindustry, and IT/software 4. CBI “Lifting the Trophy’: 2016 CBI in partnership Lloyds Bank and Aston Business School. 5. Octopus Investments High Growth Small Business: Centre for Economics and Business. 2015 6. Endeavor: Multiplying Impact through High Quality Jobs. 2012

SCALE-UP JOBS ARE HIGH QUALITY 80 percent + job satisfaction

SCALE-UPS ARE DIVERSE 927 female-led businesses with £1M-£250M in revenues growing on average at 28% p.a. 336 of them were found to be growing at > 50% per annum. Their contribution was an additional £2 bn to UK plc in 2015

Source: ScaleUp Institute, Review, 7. Goldman Sachs Foundation and 10,000ScaleUp Small Businesses UK report 2016 “Unlocking Productivity”. 2015

8. ScaleUp Institute Survey 2016 9. Doteveryone and Founders4Schools October 2016

Practical workshops and scale-up Our promise: Participants commitment: coaching will be run by Ian Kinnery, a Sign up to our Newsletter; submit Case Studies and Get in Touch at: | #scaleup | @scaleupinst respected business coach, entrepreneur We will help to raise growth aspiration They must attend all events and European Coach of the Year, with and get people prepared to scale-up and sessions. participants exploring what it means to their company by understanding what scale-up, preparing to face the challenges the journey will involve, the challenges of business growth and building ahead and some of the tools that can help actionable plans that allow them to They must be open and honest them on their way. achieve their targets. with themselves, the coaches and mentors and within the group. Peer-to-peer mentoring support for We will explore the six biggest barriers each member of the Academy will be to business growth, looking at the During each practical workshop they through the Entrepreneurs’ Forum’s impact in each area once a business must commit to three actions and mentoring match-making service, with is successful in achieving their growth send these to both the Entrepreneurs’ experienced mentors who have been ambitions. Forum and Ian Kinnery following the there and done it all before giving their session. time altruistically. The mentors will be on We will examine what each hand for participants to act as a sounding organisation needs to grow quickly board, to offer advice and bounce ideas off They must be willing to provide data and what must change, helping throughout the programme. on their company’s performance and participants to develop an actionable plan complete research and feedback forms to cope with the challenges scaling-up Action-based learning sessions will also throughout the programme. will bring. be chaired by Ian Kinnery, who is giving his time altruistically to support this trial. Here the cohort will meet to discuss We won’t show people what to do, but Applications to join the 2017 openly the three things they each agreed we will get them ready to scale-up Scale-up Leaders’ Academy are to achieve as a result of the practical with peer support and a clear idea now closed. workshops. They will review progress, of what they need to do, so that they can support fellow participants, hold each succeed in achieving their business goals To register your interest in future other to account and share advice and and vision. programmes please get in touch with experience.



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GET A FREE PLACE AT OUR NEXT ENTREPRENEURS’ CONFERENCE BY INVITING YOUR FRIENDS TO JOIN! For every one of your friends that joins the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, as a thank you, we’ll give you both a free place at our spring entrepreneurs’ conference, Together We Can Take on the World (Thursday, 11th May 2017).

DON’T KEEP THE BENEFITS TO YOURSELF Opportunity is created when you meet people you didn’t know you needed to meet; and that’s why we want all of our members to help us bring even more of the region’s change makers together. By sharing the benefits of the Forum with your friends, you’ll not only help them to benefit from the inspiration, shared knowledge and new connections, but also ensure the Forum continues to grow and the region prospers.


You share the benefits of being a Forum member with your entrepreneurial friends.


Your friends give us a call -0191 500 7780 - and sign up, benefiting from being part of our unique network.


You and your friend will both get a FREE place at our next entrepreneurs’ conference, saving £99 (+VAT) each and guaranteeing a day of inspiration, shared knowledge and valuable connections!

If you’d rather we got in touch with your friend, just let one of our team know who they are, including their company name and the best way to get in touch. Simply email us at

Don’t keep it to yourself, we’re stronger together! 14

The power of mentoring Behind every business success story you will find great people, something our region prides itself on having in abundance. A quick visit to any ‘about us’ web page and you’ll discover the business leaders, directors, managers, supervisors, shareholders, grass-roots operatives and customer service teams that drive the business forward, but it’s often the people not named here that are having the most impact. The relationship between an entrepreneur and their mentor is perhaps the most important of all, something backed up by almost half of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum members citing a mentor or coach as their key source of business advice; after only their accountant, the internet and the Forum itself. It is reassuring for business people, as it is for professionals in any field, to be able to draw on the experience of people who have been there and done it all before. While success in business, especially in the early phases, comes down to the drive of the founder and their team, mentoring can help entrepreneurs avoid pitfalls and see opportunities as they arise and the business grows. There are many different kinds of mentoring arrangements, some formal and some informal, some free and some paid for. These can take the form of a cup of coffee and a chat from time to time, or a more structured, planned programme, and can come into place by chance or by the individual actively seeking a mentor. The kind of advice provided by a mentor varies from person to person, and depends on circumstance. From strategic advice, and ideas about motivation and management, to financial control and international marketing, no business subject is off topic.

As with any relationship, that of the mentor and mentee only works when both parties are committed and play their part. The Entrepreneurs’ Forum Mentoring Charter expresses that a mentor should act as an altruistic, wise friend, offering advice and counsel and providing constructive feedback. It defines the role of the mentee as someone who asks questions, listens to the answers and recognises the value in not leaping to the defence of all their own views and actions; being open to the mentor’s suggestions, but also responsible for their own decisions and development. As an organisation we were proud to name James Robson of Alexander Jewitt & Co. our Mentor of the Year, at the North East Entrepreneurial Awards. This award celebrates the importance of people who offer their time altruistically to support their peers, helping them to overcome the barriers to business growth. James joins Alastair Waite, who won the inaugural award in 2015, in our hall of fame. As a business support organisation, we run regular mentoring drop-in sessions for our members, which allow them to spend an hour with an experienced mentor, confidentially discussing challenges faced in their businesses. Some of these sessions provide one-off support that allows an entrepreneur to triage an issue or take on an opportunity, and some result in

long-lasting, mentoring relationships and friendships. It’s a two-way process and there are no guarantees but, whether it’s a long-term relationship or a specific answer to a specific question from an entrepreneur who’s been through the same experience, the impact of having a brain to pick, an ear to listen and a push in the right direction can be business changing.

Mentoring Drop-In Surgeries Thursday, 4th May 1.30pm - 4.30pm PwC, Central Square South, Newcastle

Thursday, 22nd June 1.30pm - 4.30pm The Forge, Teesside University, Darlington Campus

Access to peer-to-peer mentoring support is part of Entrepreneurs’ Forum membership and includes confidential one-to-one connections, round table discussions and mentoring drop-in surgeries. To find out more, visit

Mentoring impact Andy Stephenson meets with David Shiel. Mentoring is an ongoing process, which could mean anything from a few meetings over a few months to ongoing support over years and even decades. David Shiel, founder of Newcastle-based Explain Research helps Andy Stephenson of Weekend Box with regular, informal mentoring sessions. Here they discuss the benefits that mentoring has brought to Andy and his business, and how the relationship developed. David founded Explain in 1993, having already run his own businesses and worked in a number of senior marketing roles. Today his company works for some of the biggest names in research and employs 65 people. Andy Stephenson founded Weekend Box, a company that provides activities for parents and their children each week on a loose subscription basis. His company now employs ten staff and has ambitious plans for expansion. Andy first met David through a mentoring session organised by the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, in late 2015, having joined the Forum several months earlier. On the importance of mentoring David said: “I didn’t have a mentor when I started out in business, as a concept


mentoring hadn’t really been developed then. While I did get support and advice from a number of key individuals, in retrospect, my companies would almost certainly have grown faster if I had a mentor. Because of this I took the opportunity to get involved in mentoring through the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, and I’ve found a couple of businesses in particular that impressed me, which I have continued to support.” Andy said: “The world is full of people who have experience that can add value to your business, who aren’t always in your particular sector. Something you notice in the North East more than in some other areas is how willing people are to help. We have a relatively small, close knit, business community filled with people looking out for each other.” When asked about their mentoring relationship Andy said: “I catch up with David every few months, some people prefer a more frequent and more formal approach to mentoring, but informal works for me. I have formal relationships with my board and investors, this dynamic is completely different.”

David added: “For a mentoring relationship to work both parties have to like and respect each other, you need the right chemistry. It’s not just about the expertise of the mentor and the sector of the mentee, but in the case of Andy and myself my retail marketing experience and the nature of Weekend Box do fit together pretty well. “The relationship is really informal; our meetings are usually done over a cup of coffee. Andy is a great ideas person, so it’s useful for him to have someone outside of the business to discuss his thoughts with.” Andy described the benefits of the mentoring relationship, saying: “For me the main benefit is clarity, David helps me to see solutions to problems that don’t immediately occur if you haven’t already had certain experiences. David’s advice on building up our team by hiring the right people, and what to do if you hire people who don’t quite fit, has been invaluable. “It is also incredibly useful to have someone neutral and independent, without any vested interests in the company, that you can take your ideas to and have them challenged.”

“None of us got to where we are today by ourselves. We all need mentors, friends and advisors to achieve success and we all continue to learn as we continue to grow.” Sir Peter Vardy. David said: “The ideas we’ve discussed include ways for Weekend Box to maximise its return on investment, and different revenue streams involving existing brands. It is important for companies like Andy’s to have a synergy with companies that share its target customers and advertising space.

“I have always been an advocate of strong brand values within a company, when asked what a company does and stands for every member of the team should give the same answer. When Andy and I discussed recruitment, I explained the need for these brand values, and that someone can have the qualifications and experience

you’re looking for, but if they don’t buy into your brand they aren’t right for your company.”

Access to peer-to-peer mentoring support is part of Entrepreneurs’ Forum membership and includes confidential one-to-one connections, round table discussions and mentoring drop-in surgeries. To find out more, visit

Recruiting top talent in 2017 by Andrew Mears, Solutions Recruitment. For many, 2016 was a year of uncertainty and flux. Within the business community, there were perhaps one or two unprecedented changes to the political landscape both at home and abroad. Markets have reacted but ultimately we can only speculate at what the ramifications of these decisions will be in 2017 and beyond. Of course there will be winners and there will be losers; the international supply chain will undoubtedly present new challenges but the business community will continue to seek out new opportunity and with that we will see sectors and services grow. It is undeniable that the face of the recruitment industry is changing. Technology is transforming the way businesses and candidates interact; making the landscape more competitive but also opening up a hotbed of talent like never before. With demand outstripping supply in the skilled marketplace, employers need to be in a ‘marketing’ state of mind; looking to attract, retain and create advocates out of the best candidates in the market. More than ever, candidates who have a plethora of options are asking what it’s really like working for companies and this can be a major barrier in them leaving their current role. If you are thinking about recruiting in 2017, these are some of the things that you should consider building in to your recruitment strategy.


Employer brand When we talk about employer brand, we are going much deeper than creating some PR headlines about how you have a great company to work for. Candidates are savvy and can find out company information from a great many sources. At Solutions, we always encourage our clients to move away from the clichéd job descriptions, person specifications and values that are dreamt up in a board room and dusted off to attract talent. Instead, we try to develop meaningful content from employees, talk about business challenges that any new candidate will be intrinsic to solving and develop career pages that talk about benefits, progression and the future trajectory of the business.

Understand industry de-motivators The best candidates already have all the trappings of a good career: salary and benefits; so many days paid holiday. But there will be reasons why they would consider a move.

Do your research on competitors to find out what the movement triggers are. In the recruitment industry it’s transactions rather than relationships, targets for targets’ sake and micro-management. As a business we know we offer marketleading freedoms including duvet days, birthdays off and a great work-life balance; all supported by managers who see strategic value in building long-term relationships with their staff. Find out what the pain points are in your industry and seek to eliminate these de-motivators to really stand out.

Don’t be afraid to talk about challenges It doesn’t matter if you sell bricks or software, your employees and exemployees are reviewing your company whether you like it or not. You can’t control what is being said (nor should you seek to) but you can be aware of your failings. In truth, potential employees are much more interested in how you are going to address challenges, rather than joining a business that promises to be great at everything, only to find out that it’s all bluster. Most job seekers want to shape the future of a company, not serve it.

Brand experience


From the job description and application process to the welcome a candidate receives at first interview, make sure that every brand touchpoint is consistent. The informal touches are the ones that candidates remember and speak volumes about communication, process and connectivity.

As with any good marketing programme (and you are in marketing when seeking the right candidates), understand how your different market segments give and receive information.

If you work with a recruitment agency then this applies to them too. Too many candidates are not followed up properly or put forward and never contacted with any feedback. This has a reputational impact on you. Put this at the top of your list of priorities when seeking a recruitment partner.

When recruiting you could be working with anyone from entry level to executive, so you need to be aware of the nuances like senior management audiences being time-poor and requiring a more consultative approach. Technology is great but sometimes, humans are better.

Andrew Mears is a director of Solutions Recruitment. With offices across the UK and internationally, Solutions support an enviable range of clients from exciting, high growth SME’s to some of the best-known multinationals in the world. Solutions give their clients access to top talent from entry to executive level appointments. The Entrepreneurs’ Forum is proud to be partnered by:

Supporting SMEs How our partners are helping entrepreneurs. We’re delighted to welcome two new corporate partners to the Forum…

Bespoke training for owner managed businesses. Gateshead College has underlined its credentials as a dynamic, employerfocused organisation that wants to work in partnership with SMEs by delivering a flexible, strategic solution to the way people are recruited and trained in the construction sector.


Activ Technology. Activ is an independent provider of mobile, communications and IT services to SMEs across Northern England and Scotland. They’re a local company dedicated to delivering the friendliest service – which is supported by world-class partnerships with networks and hardware and software providers.

Shout Digital. Shout is a customer-first digital agency committed to the customer experience approach across all technology platforms. In today’s digital age, customers demand much more from business. Their experience must come through a range of technology touchpoints to best reach them. This Customer Experience (CX) approach focuses on adaptive solutions to achieve these objectives – and it’s precisely how Shout delivers their services to you.

Launched by Ryder Architecture in 2013, PlanBEE now also has the support of Arup, Cundall, Desco, Esh, FaulknerBrowns, Napper Architects, Sir Robert McAlpine, Summers Inman, Surgo, Turner and Townsend, Xcite, 3eConsult, NELEP, RICS, CIOB and ICE. This powerful partnership of designers, builders, and project managers have come together with the College to campaign for change, addressing the skills gap while also creating more flexible employees through a new architectural engineering and management programme. Mark Thompson, managing partner at Ryder, said: “We’re delighted to have Gateshead College on board as PlanBEE educational partners, alongside a number of universities. The facilities and staff at the College will provide valuable support throughout the course; ensuring cohorts receive the right balance of quality in-house educational content and hands on training with our professional industry consortium members. “We believe PlanBEE will inspire a new generation of bright, talented individuals to consider a rewarding career in construction. The blended learning approach aims to deliver work ready individuals with the creative, practical and entrepreneurial ambition the industry needs to evolve.” Gateshead College created an innovative programme that gives new recruits a broader set of skills to ensure greater inter disciplinary working in the construction industry. The programme sees the College take its strong links with regional employers and provide study and off the job training at their modern construction facility on Team Valley. The programme has been tailored specifically for and by the North East construction sector, providing students with a starting salary of £10,000 per annum, a professional qualification and a guaranteed job opportunity on graduation. For more information about Gateshead College and how their training programmes can help you, please contact 0191 490 4623.

As sector exclusive relationships, we work with our partners closely to raise their profile among the North East’s entrepreneurial community and ensure they experience the enormous advantages of joining forces with the Forum. If you’re looking to raise the profile of your organisation amongst the region’s most aspirational entrepreneurs and want a partnership that aligns you with success, then simply call Gillian Marshall on (0191) 500 7780 or contact our team at


Strategic focus on supporting scale-ups. More high growth businesses in the North East will secure economic resilience, improve the rate of private sector employment density and deliver of more and better jobs. That’s why the North East LEP, together with partners has placed a strategic focus on supporting businesses with high growth potential to scale, as a central part of its refreshed strategic economic plan, set to be published in March 2017.

Flying high at Newcastle International Airport. Newcastle International Airport continues to fly high with confirmation that over 4.8m passengers travelled through in 2016. That’s an increase of 6% on 2015, which means more than 250,000 extra passengers used the airport last year, making it six years of positive yearon-year growth. The airport’s daily Emirates service to Dubai celebrated record numbers in August, carrying 22,745 passengers from Newcastle and its Dubai hub. The route, hailed as a game-changer for the North East when it launched almost ten years ago, plays a vital role in the North East economy, carrying the vast majority of the airport’s exports too. The value of annual exports now stands at £310m, with pharmaceuticals, oilfield equipment and auto parts making up the bulk, while more unusual cargo includes fishing rods and even works of art. Before Emirates arrived in the region in 2007, flown exports stood at less than £20m. These latest figures all come just after the airport was announced as the most punctual small airport in the world following the release of OAG’s 2016 Punctuality League, with over 90% of flights both leaving and arriving on time. With over 41,000 flights each year, the airport serves more than 80 direct destinations and connects businesses across the globe via its hub connections. Find out how the airport can help your business and see the range of destinations visit,

Based on High Growth Small Business Report 2015 data, the North East LEP area has 420 high growth small businesses employing 15,500 people and with a combined turnover of £1.8bn; generating approximately 33% of GVA growth during 2014. The last two years have seen significant business growth in indigenous businesses, including increased exporting from the region to national and international markets. The North East needs to maximise the potential of fast-growing businesses that deliver higher levels of growth and employment and secure stronger trade and investment flows. It’s estimated that if the North East had 25% more high growth small businesses, it would result in £130m in additional GVA. Colin Bell, director of business growth said: “This clear focus will drive our activity over the coming months. We want to create a support network for businesses with high growth potential, to make sure they have everything they need to scale.”

Driving future economic growth through investment. As holding fund manager for the Finance for Business North East programme, North East Finance has overseen the investment of £159m into fast growing regional SMEs. Between April 2010 and December 2016, five highly experienced fund managers invested a ground-breaking suite of seven investment funds on their behalf, with the aim of driving future economic growth. Matched by £235m of private investment, the ‘JEREMIE’ funds (Joint European Resources for Micro to Medium Enterprises) supported 938 North East SMEs, helping them to create more than 3,300 new jobs and safeguarding a further 3,500.

Taster trade missions.

A joint initiative between the EIB Group and the European Commission, to enhance cohesion across the EU, the fund provided debt and equity finance to SMEs based in, or relocating to, the North East.

The recently renamed Department for International Trade (formerly UKTI) are offering two great opportunities for business owners to learn from likeminded businesses, meet with specialists and network with customers and colleagues as part of two European trade missions.

By being administered here in the North East, the fund has proven to be a spectacular success; so much so that a new £120m Finance for Business North East fund has been secured and - once the fund managers have been procured - will be ready for investment through five funds from the start of the new financial year.

These Northern Powerhouse initiatives invite businesses from the North of England to join organised visits to Copenhagen (13th to 15th March) and Dusseldorf (21st to 23rd March).

To find out more about the new investment fund, visit

The missions are open to all companies with little or no export experience, with good opportunities in Copenhagen for companies working in construction, transportation infrastructure (incl. rail), food & drink, healthcare and services. In Dusseldorf, capital of the German federal state of North RhineWestphalia (NRW), the trip is exploratory and will see you introduced to the Department for International Trade, British Consulate, Local Economic Development Agency, Chamber of Commerce Dusseldorf and the European Enterprise Network. Each market visit registration fee is £99 (incl. VAT) and includes flights and 2 nights accommodation. Register your interest at or call 0345 136 0169.

The Entrepreneurs’ Forum is proud to be partnered by a host of corporate organisations who are experts in their own field and keen to support SMEs and entrepreneurial businesses.



News and views from the North East entrepreneurial community Scotland Expansion for Flame Heating Spares The North East’s fastest growing heating & plumbing merchant, Flame Heating Spares, is set to cross the border and expand into Scotland. The firm has appointed an experienced director for Scotland, as it seeks to acquire a number of sites and develop the Flame brand north of the border.


Danny Byrne, from Perth, will oversee the expansion into Scotland and report directly to John Savage, managing director of Flame Heating Spares, as part of the role.

Embark on Acquisition Trail to Boost Growth

Danny, 57, possesses more than 35 years’ industry experience having worked in various managerial and directorship roles for national heating & plumbing firms, with a track record of overseeing growth and expansion in the Scottish and Northern markets. In one of his previous roles, he appointed John and Gary Riseborough, Flame’s sales director, as branch managers.

durhamlane, the growing North East sales consultancy, has acquired an established coaching business, which marks the start of an acquisition programme for the business as it accelerates its growth.

Danny said: “I have known John for a long time and his aspirations for Flame are really exciting. As soon as I was offered the opportunity to get involved with this project and help the company expand, it was an easy decision to make.

Entrepreneur: John Savage

The Newcastle-based business has acquired Thinkfreer, a company established for more than 15 years, which specialises in leadership development across multiple sectors, including digital and technology, health, manufacturing and engineering. Alison Freer, who founded Thinkfreer in 2000, will join durhamlane as director of consulting, learning and digital transformation. Alison’s role will see her take a lead on guiding clients as they adapt to commercial leadership in the digital age. Since it was founded in 2011, durhamlane has grown organically, but now the international sales outsourcing, training and recruitment company is actively looking to build its operations through acquisition. The company works in more than 14 countries around the world, employing 24 people in its Newcastle hub and has seen double digit growth year on year, since its foundation.

Entrepreneur: Richard Lane 22

Square One Law Becomes the Fastest Growing Commercial Law Firm in the Country North East law firm, Square One Law, has released its 2016 financial results revealing that it is the fastest growing commercial law firm in the UK. The firm, which has a financial year ending on 30th April, announced turnover growth of 39% for the year ending in 2016. This follows year-on-year growth of 36%, averaged over the past three years. Newcastle-based Square One Law, which was a start-up business only five years ago and now has 15 partners, has successfully established itself as one of the leading commercial firms within the North East. An analysis of the recently published ‘Top 200’ legal firms in the UK revealed that, aside from mergers, no firm could match the rate of organic growth demonstrated by Square One Law.

Global Deals Fuel New Jobs Business IT specialist Opencast Software is on a recruitment drive following new contract wins with HMRC, the NHS and two of the world’s biggest banks. The Newcastle-based firm is looking to fill 30 new roles - taking its workforce beyond 90 - and will host an open evening to meet potential new employees.

The business is being developed by building long-term, trusted relationships with its clients and gaining a comprehensive understanding of their businesses to help them continue their success. In addition to supporting its clients’ organic and strategic growth, the firm has a strong track record in transactional activity.

Entrepreneurs: Ian Gilthorpe and Alan Fletcher

The news comes ahead of a busy 2017 in which the company’s annual turnover is likely to grow by £2m to £5.5m following a string of global successes. Recent months have seen the company win new contracts with two global banks, one headquartered in New York and the other in London, as well as a UK-wide insurance firm, HMRC and the NHS. Opencast specialises in developing enterprise software for global businesses and on the digitisation of government data and services. It was founded in 2012 by entrepreneur Mike O’Brien, who has since been joined at the helm of the firm by MD Carl Shovlin, head of client services Steven Lumley and Fiona McDonald, head of technology.

Entrepreneur: Mike O’Brien

Weekend Box Sign Deal with War Child Charity Multi-award winning Newcastle-based company Weekend Box are proud to announce they’ve launched a partnership deal with the charity War Child to create a limited edition Christmas box. Having been growing their existing business organically and exponentially throughout 2016, this deal marks the first in a new line of partnerships that will help quadruple the size of the business throughout 2017. The partnership centres around a one-off limited edition Weekend box designed for children aged 3-8, featuring four activities (and everything you need) designed to showcase the amazing work War Child do in war zones around the world through fun, exploratory activities. The limited edition Christmas boxes sold for £9.95 (incl. free delivery) and £3.80 from each purchase was donated straight to War Child and the important work they do to help vulnerable children in war zones around the world.

Entrepreneur: Andy Stephenson

TTE to Expand Global Presence The TTE Technical Training Group has appointed two new Global Sales Executives to build its presence in international markets. Wayne Pocket, 45, and Robby Hugill, 29, bring extensive experience from a range of industry sectors to support Middlesbrough-based TTE’s growing position as a leading supplier of technical training, competency assessment and consultancy to international business. Originally from South Africa, Wayne has worked in business development and management for 20 years with training experience in regulatory and professional qualifications across various sectors. Prior to joining TTE, Wayne was commercial director for a further education provider and he also brings considerable international experience to the organisation from his time with the British Standards Association (BSA). Business development specialist Robby Hugill joins TTE with six years’ experience across the chemical, pharmaceutical, water, utilities and oil & gas sectors. A graduate in Chemical Engineering from Newcastle University, Robby has developed knowledge and understanding of key industry sectors across global markets having worked with organisations such as Transvac and OMS. Robby has experience in designing bespoke equipment and service packages for the sectors including chemical and oil & gas as well as providing account management and business development disciplines, working on major projects around the world.

Entrepreneur: Steve Grant


Handbag Clinic Opens in Qatar

Strong Growth Has Seen Big Rise in Profits for North East ICT Provider ICT solutions provider Smart IT has grown rapidly over the last 12 months due to increased client demand for the services it offers. Smart IT provides infrastructure solutions, hardware and software, maintenance and support and deployment of telephony integration to SME clients across the public and private sector. Over the last year, profits have increased by 22%, with turnover nearing £2m. Tony Wilson, managing director of Smart IT, said: “We’ve grown so quickly and been able to expand our customer base rapidly because we are a very people driven business. In my opinion, people buy people and I think that’s given us an edge in a pretty crowded market. Being smaller than some of our major competitors also enables us to make quick decisions and, in turn, focus on creating a high level of customer satisfaction through a more personable service

Handbag Clinic, which buys, sells and restores designer handbags, has opened a new franchise in the Middle East after spotting a unique opportunity. The firm has opened in Qatar after demand from women whose handbags were being ruined by black dye rubbing off from their traditional abayas robes. Handbag Clinic’s latest store has opened in the Al Maamoura district, with a second shop due to open in Qatar’s latest luxury shopping destination, the Al Hazm Mall when construction on the centre is finished. Vito Cerabona, general manager of the Lerida Group which has taken on the franchise, said: “Female members of our ownership group came to us with a challenge; to find a company that could remove the black stains generated from an abaya onto their handbags. As all local ladies wear these black abayas, this staining is present on every bag, as the bag starts to brush on the black cloth. This, combined with the huge appetite for luxury handbags and shoes in Qatar started to paint a very attractive business opportunity for us.”

Entrepreneur: Ben Staerck

“I think our differentiator is that we are not orientated around products - rather we use products to deliver the right service for clients. Many companies will try to shoe horn a product into a customer’s business, we try to find the best product for the customer’s needs. In short, we are one of the few mid-market IT providers in the region who is big enough to effectively manage client demand but small enough to really care about delivering a personal, bespoke customer experience.”

Entrepreneur: Tony Wilson

Ecommerce and Online Marketing Agency Aims to Make 60 Appointments A campaign to recruit 60 professionals within the eCommerce and digital marketing industry has been launched by Visualsoft.

Diamond Group Sparkles as Move Spurs Job Hunt The Let’s Grow Regional Growth Fund continues to help north east businesses evolve through its capital investment scheme with a Tyneside based business technology solutions provider the latest to benefit. Diamond Group is reaping the rewards of regional funding after achieving record growth, turnover and an increase in staff numbers. Gateshead based Diamond is expecting to create 21 new positions over the next five years in the IT, reprographics and telecoms sectors after its move from East Boldon to its new home on Kingsway North, Team Valley - especially welcome news as the region retains its unwanted status of highest unemployment numbers in the UK.

The eCommerce and online marketing provider is initially advertising 37 sales focused roles to predominantly support the growth of its online marketing department. The company already employs 53 people across its six marketing teams; Affiliates, CRO, Email, PPC, SEO and Social Media. The investment in the recruitment campaign follows a period of deliberate consolidation in the company’s online marketing department, as it has worked to significantly enhance its offering with multiple senior appointments of leading industry experts. Visualsoft, which has its head office in Teesside employs 216 people across four offices and this year alone has welcomed 53 people into its growing family. It hopes to fill the new roles over the coming three months. In addition to the online marketing sales specialists, Visualsoft is also searching for experienced business development managers to specifically focus on its Enterprise client portfolio and a number of executives to support its eCommerce platform sales.

Entrepreneur: Dean Benson

The switch is in part down to Diamond’s impressive turnover figures, which rose significantly over a twoyear span to the end of the 2015 tax year, and saw the Diamond team and services outgrow their previous East Boldon offices. Managing director John Burns says it is a testament to the hard work shown by the staff since he started the business back in 1992.

Entrepreneur: John Burns

To read these stories in full, and many more, visit To promote your business and share your latest news, simply forward your press releases and any accompanying photographs to


Growth Fires the First Chapter of Narrative A North East marketing communications agency has enjoyed a year of rapid expansion following a major rebrand. A string of new contract wins has enabled Narrative Integrated Communications to ramp up turnover by 30% to £1.7m after it evolved from its former brand, Press Ahead, in 2015.

New Depot Puts Nicholson’s on the Right Track A logistics firm’s decision to expand its operations has put the business on the right track. Nicholson’s Transport opened an additional 15,000 sq ft warehouse near Eaglescliffe at the end of 2015 to meet growing demand from customers. The expansion immediately created three new jobs and eased pressure at its existing 55,000 sq ft warehouse in Billingham. Now, the new facility at the Durham Lane Industrial Estate is employing six staff after building up a strong customer base from firms wishing to outsource their logistics operations.

In the last twelve months the Sunderland-based company has won almost £400,000 of work across its core service areas, which include digital media, PR, creative, advertising and marketing strategy. Staff numbers have risen from 13 to 19 in line with the increase in workload. The contract wins include a media buying deal with York College and the implementation of social media strategy for hospitality and events specialist Sodexo Prestige Venues. Narrative is also working with North East legal expert BHP Law and Mattel, a global toy and game retailer which employs around 31,000 people and sells its products in more than 150 countries around the globe.

Entrepreneur: Kieran Goldsborough

Managing director David Nicholson said: “It had been clear for some time that we needed to expand beyond Teesside as we were picking up a lot of business around Darlington and County Durham. “It’s an ideal size and in a convenient location for the road networks. We wanted the new site to bed in for a few months but it was vital that we took this decision and it’s very encouraging that we are picking up new customers all the time.”

Entrepreneur: David Nicholson

Congratulations! On Saturday 7th January, our very own Stacey was whisked away to York to celebrate her birthday. After weeks of planning, Ryan got down on one knee and popped the question. After 10 years together, she said yes and now the real event planning has begun in the Forum office!

Congratulations Stacey & Ryan xx

Shattering Stereotypes Women in entrepreneurship Insight from:

The economic empowerment of women and the rise of the entrepreneurial economy are two defining trends of our time, yet entrepreneurship remains riddled with stereotypes; and this is particularly true of female entrepreneurs. For instance, women starting businesses often attract specialised labels such as “mumpreneurs” or even “lipstick entrepreneurs”. The mere existence and continued use of feminised descriptions of entrepreneurship fuels the perception that entrepreneurial activity is a largely male preserve; and such stereotyping has an impact. The majority of the women interviewed for the Centre for Entrepreneurship (CFE) and Barclays most recent research did not identify with the title “entrepreneur”, often seeing it as a loaded term. Instead, many of the women surveyed preferred terms such as “founder” or “business owner”. For them, it is about growing a profitable business and providing stability for their employees, rather than “becoming the next Richard Branson”. This is a serious point about the UK economy. If women started businesses at the same rates as men, there’d be 1m more entrepreneurs in the UK. And while the number of women in entrepreneurship is on the increase, this study uncovers that there is clearly more that can be done to remove the unconscious bias from entrepreneurship: the very sector that generates the highest number of new jobs, and fosters nearly all of the growth in the UK economy.


The report is compelling because the findings shatter the stereotypes that many of us hold about the entrepreneurs who are growing businesses and powering the UK economy: the women in this research show stronger entrepreneurial ambitions than their male counterparts. Whilst there has been significant growth in the number of women rising to C-suite executive levels and companies have adopted policies to boost the number of women on professional boards, work still needs to be done to address the barriers to entrepreneurship for women. Currently, women are under-represented in business creation not just in the UK, but globally. We need more women entrepreneurs because their role in fostering prosperity is clear. They are not only achieving higher profits and taking home a higher income than their male counterparts; they also demonstrate a commitment to growing a profitable business and providing stability for their employees. The CFE and Barclays hope that this in-depth, empirical look at gender and entrepreneurship will provide evidence that helps us all look beyond the stereotypes regarding what makes a successful entrepreneur.

Are you interested in starting a business (or another business) in the next three years: 17.7%


Very / Extremely

Very / Extremely Male C-Suite Executive

Male Entrepreneur



Very / Extremely

Very / Extremely Female Entrepreneur

Female C-Suite Executive

A Call to Action The women researched stressed that it was essential to treat them based on business achievements rather than on gender expectations. When considering support for entrepreneurs to start and grow a business, the CFE ask all stakeholders to generate activity around entrepreneurship that is gender intelligent, and as such make the following recommendations:

Policymakers, investors and funders, the media, entrepreneurs themselves as well as those considering entrepreneurship - should:  ssume women have strong growth A ambitions, while recognising that they see and experience more barriers to growth.  djust for biased perceptions about A the ambitions and competency of women.  e alert to how over- and underB confidence can skew business owners’ perceptions of the health of their businesses. They must calibrate success potential with objective measures rather than relying on perceptions.  nderstand women are quite willing U to take risks, but they are also more sensitive to risk, and this vigilance can be an asset.

 ecognise that entrepreneurs are not R a homogeneous group and that there are different, but still successful models of growth.

Entrepreneur support and service providers should:

 nderstand that in the scale-up U phase, women focus on long-term sustainability of the business, not simply rapid growth to position themselves for exit. Education and networking support is as important as access to funding.  nsure events and seminars have E appeal by making them relevant by sector, business size, and solutionoriented.  e mindful of the language and style B adopted, so as not to be exclusionary, because some entrepreneurs prefer “consultation” and some prefer “education”.

 ee events geared specifically S toward women as an important first step, but focus efforts on achieving a 50:50 gender balance in the wider entrepreneurial networking community. And finally, there is reason to celebrate. Women-led small and medium-sized enterprises already add £70bn to the UK economy. As they scale-up, it is imperative that we recognise and support women who are entrepreneurial role models to help fill the remaining gaps in entrepreneurship.

The Centre for Entrepreneurs promotes the role of entrepreneurs in creating economic growth and social well-being. It is also home to national enterprise campaign, StartUp Britain. To find out more and read the full report, visit

Managing Change Round table discussion. The need to manage both ongoing and step changes can be a challenge for even the most experienced business people, as companies grow and adjust to market conditions. A number of Entrepreneurs’ Forum members took part in a round table to share their experiences of managing change, hosted by UK Land Estates at its headquarters in the Team Valley. The discussion began by talking about challenges the group had when managing change. Ean Parsons of Parsons Containers said: “Managing people is a lot harder than managing spreadsheets, the big challenge is getting new people into the firm and acclimatising them to your culture, while not getting distracted from the day job – business development.” On the same topic Nick Salloway of Status Digital noted: “When I first started the business I was working with two or three people that I had worked with before, I was familiar with these individuals and it was easy. But as soon as you start to employ other individuals, they don’t know who you are and they don’t know how you work. We changed the strategy, but could have been better communicating this to our employees. They were doing things, but didn’t really know why they were doing them or why they were important. To remedy this we decided to flatten the structure of the business; now we say – this is what we want to do, this is the vision, we want you to be the catalysts for change, so that it comes from the bottom instead of the top. We meet fortnightly for an hour with the team, talking about what we can do to improve performance, stating where we need to be and asking how we can get there – together.”


John Lawler of Madventure International added: “I’m interested in seeing the innovations my clients make in their organisations and what we can learn. One of my clients is particularly interesting in this sense, a huge travel company; it is fascinating to see all their processes and training methods in action.” James Robson of Alexander Jewitt & Co. and founder of Exwold Technology said: “We started with a single site and seven people, at this point it was relatively easy to communicate to people; the only problem we had was when there were two shifts. After the day shift I would go home, have tea, and come back to communicate to the night shift. “As we opened the second and third site, this again was a problem. As things grew, communication and information grew and grew, we muddled through with spreadsheets and timesheets from the shift until we eventually realised that this would implode on itself unless we put in a computer-based ERP system in place, to link up the sites. That was a big commitment in terms of finance and time, but absolutely necessary.” Peter Glenton of Ryeroft Glenton said: “It’s a good idea to have someone interested in change management, regardless of the size of the organisation. We are part of an international accountancy group so we are not tied financially to any other firm, but we are able to share ideas. It’s useful to be able to say to the

partners that we have seen something in practice, it neutralises some of the issues that suggesting changes can create.” Gillian Marshall, chief executive of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum said: “As you are growing, you may not have the systems and processes in place, as you are focused on growth. Managing change is the evolution and development of your business.” Joel Marks of Cheviot Insured said: “There’s always a ‘Mr Toad’ obsession with change, it must be shiny and new. I think there is a lot of validity for actually doing what you’re good at and doing it extremely well. Someone asked me how am I going to shake up the insurance world, the answer I gave was, I don’t want to shake up anything, we listen to what our clients want and give very good advice. We don’t want to lose focus.” James Robson added: “We couldn’t have grown any further without bringing the software in. We had three sites and customers were demanding more information. So we decided to invest around £70,000, which is a lot of money, but we knew it would take the business forward. We took the gamble and it paid off.” The attendees of the round table discussion were also asked: “How do you keep the culture of the organisation when the founders leave?”

Peter Glenton said: “The fundamental principles aren’t going to change. If you care about your clients, and you know everything about the business, the cultural aspect of it isn’t necessarily going to change. At the same time, this in an opportunity for change.” Nick Salloway said: “It almost dictates that businesses have to have mechanisms and capabilities in place to allow them to change, and to see what is happening in the market around them. Businesses have to be able to look at the market, understand what’s going on and adapt. With technology changes can happen and you can go bust before you realise what’s going on, so mechanisms that realise change are vital. The only way to do that is to enable open dialogue within the workforce, this pushes change up through the organisation, because you can’t see everything.” James Robson added: “There are a number of businesses that don’t make it to a succession, because they aren’t

big or profitable enough to sell. In short they close, which is very sad. It can be the case that they never grow big enough to be attractive to be taken over or added to someone’s portfolio, or perhaps that the owner never realises that there will come a day when they will want to move on or retire. It is our traditional businesses I am fearful for because they can be slow at adapting to change.” Michelle Harrison of Lignum Bespoke drew on her experience of being a business planning for acquisition, saying: “I didn’t realise it at the time, but it was clear afterwards. A new handbook was implemented and middle management training. There is now an expectation of better communication.” Ean Parsons commented on the implementation of performance reviews, he said: “When someone walks into a performance review, both the manager and the employee, they walk in and wonder what they will get from it. To me it is a personal review, is about

“With technology changes can happen and you can go bust before you realise what’s going on, so mechanisms that realise change are vital.” Nick Salloway, Status Digital

a conversation between myself and a staff member. The method we chose was for both parties to write down their views, swap them, and talk about it in a meeting a week later. I make it clear that it is their opportunity to ask anything about the business. We don’t have the barrier of any performance related metrics, it’s a conversation – are they happy in their job, is there anything concerning them, do they have any suggestions.” John Burns of Diamond Group added: “Something I tried to get the staff to buy into the review process was letting the employees do a review of me. I got some strange comments but also some great feedback.” Following a healthy discussion the group concluded that change is a constant in all businesses and clear communication is essential to ensure everyone feels involved and able to support the future success change ultimately delivers.

Join the conversation We host regular round table discussions on a wide range of business topics, stimulating debate and shared learning between members. For a full list of events simply visit events

Lessons from Entrepreneurs From our Fortune Favours the Brave conference. Each autumn, as part of the UK’s Global Entrepreneurship Week celebrations, the Entrepreneurs’ Forum host a conference packed-full of inspiration and advice to help North East entrepreneurs grow their businesses more rapidly. At Redworth Hall in County Durham, sponsored by Recognition PR, the event was hosted by John Myers with speakers including Robert Forrester (Vertu Motors), Keith, Gary and Jacqui Miller (Miller UK), Cameron Saul (Bottletop), Peter Hiscocks (University of Cambridge), Andrew Tomlinson (Andrew James), Mohammed Bashir (Boro Taxis) and Richard Lane (durhamlane). It was fantastic to see 200 of the region’s most aspirational entrepreneurs come together to create new opportunities and learn from those that have been there and done it; and here are our top ten takeaways from the day: A good idea is only as good as the people who execute it, but if you get both of these things right success will follow. Entrepreneurs need to plan, plan and plan; and build a great team to implement it.


It’s crucial to take advice from those who have been there and done it. When growing a business, put together a board of experienced people and take guidance from mentors. An important statistic we heard was that new businesses with a mentor have more than an 80% chance of surviving over five years, without a mentor this is reduced to 20%.


In a changing world, try to look forward and stay ahead of the market. If you can predict what is coming you can be agile and take advantage of opportunities, exceeding your customers’ expectations along the way.




Growth doesn’t just happen; you have to plan for it. All net new jobs in the UK come from SMEs, so our economic recovery depends upon high-growth businesses, or ‘Gazelles’. We need to get better at scaling up and we need to help entrepreneurs develop growth plans. The wrong people are the biggest barrier to business growth and at different stages of the journey your top team will need to change; but the characteristics of the right people will always stay the same: driven, energetic, positive and talented people.

5 6 7

Achieving success and getting to the top of any industry takes 10% talent and 90% determination.

You need to trust your instinct and keep an active eye on the risks to your business so you’re in a position to defend yourself if you need to. You never know what’s around the corner and if you’re not prepared, prepare to fail.

Being socially responsible is a virtuous circle as customers and staff want to be involved with an organisation that is making a positive impact. Companies should consider what is important to them and try to give back to both the communities within which they work and to those who need it most; because as long as you make a profit, you can do anything you want.


Focus, focus, focus. If you are a small growing business you will have limited resources and lots of opportunity, so you need to focus on key markets first.



People are not your greatest asset, the right people are. If you do good things for 66 days it will become a habit, and to succeed in business you need people who have good habits and a positive attitude if you want them to translate your vision into reality.


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It can sometimes be difficult to take time out of a business to learn from your peers, especially when you are busy growing a company. Attending the Entrepreneurs’ Forum’s conference once or twice a year is an easy and rewarding way to do this, and to make new friends and connections.

Entrepreneur interview With Ben Staerck, Furniture Clinic and Handbag Clinic.

Launching a website to promote his father’s small business put Ben Staerck on the path to entrepreneurial success. From the early days trading from the family’s garage, his companies Furniture Clinic and Handbag Clinic now trade globally and have ambitious plans for expansion. How did you get into business?

How has your business grown?

It first started when I was at school, my dad has a business making a wood cleaning product, which he sold at trade shows and exhibitions. I made a website to sell his products online, which his existing customers used to re-order the products. I noticed no new customers were buying via the website, so I taught myself about Search Engine Optimisation and improved the site to drive traffic to it. Sales picked up and the business grew, then in 2005 we added more products to the range.

After we increased our range of products customers started asking us to do repairs for them, so we started going to homes and business premises to do repairs on furniture and even classic cars. The business has grown year on year, with our rate of growth for the last three years being 30%.

What was your first business premises? At the risk of sounding clichéd, for the first year we traded from the garage. We leased a small unit on the Team Valley, when we outgrew that we leased the unit next door, and eventually the unit next door to that. In 2010 we’d outgrown those premises and bought the factory in Burnopfield, where we’re still based today.


Visiting people’s homes as Furniture Clinic gave us the idea for Handbag Clinic. When our team was repairing their furniture, some customers asked if we could repair their handbags while we were there. In August 2013 we decided to spin this out into a separate business. We did it as mail order at first; people would send their handbags in the post and we would post them back after they were repaired. In the first month we doubled the number of bags we were repairing. This was going really well, but we noticed room for improvement in the number of enquiries we converted into sales. Almost 100% of enquiries that came in person to our head office became sales, but for people not visiting us it was much lower.

We identified that we had the most enquiries from South West London and decided to open a shop there, where customers could call in and have our processes explained first-hand. I walked around Chelsea and Kensington for three days before I found the right premises for us. In February 2015 our first shop, on the King’s Road in Chelsea, opened. We now have a second London branch in Islington, one in Newcastle, one in Leeds and one in Qatar. The Newcastle store has been open for almost a year. The expansion to Qatar is a franchise; the staff from our partners over there came to the North East to train for three months in the run-up to the store opening.

When our team was repairing their furniture, some customers asked if we could repair their handbags while we were there.

We’ve got plans to open in Manhattan in 2017, which is very exciting.

How did the recession affect your business?

In one sense it’s hard to say, we started just before the recession and grew every year during it. It’s possible that we would have grown faster if there wasn’t a recession, but on the other hand it’s likely that we benefitted from the reduction in disposable incomes, meaning more people would chose to spend hundreds of pounds on us repairing their furniture rather than spends thousands on buying new.

How have the markets changed since you started? For the Furniture Clinic we’ve seen demand increase year on year for our products, both in terms of the products we sell directly to customers and the ones we supply to other businesses. For the Handbag Clinic there wasn’t really a market before we created it. We’re now in a position where competitors have entered the market and are roughly where we were three years ago.

What would you say your USP is? For the Handbag Clinic I would say it’s our stores. They drive sales by building customer confidence in a way that onlineonly and mail order retailers just can’t compete with. It has also taken relatively little time to build relationships with top stores like Harrods and Harvey Nichols, as well as high-end designers directly.

How do you handle internal motivation and staff rewards? We’ve just completed the first month of a new bonus scheme for the team in our head office. Employees can get a £100 bonus if they meet a monthly target, and if every member of their team meets their target they all get a half day at the end of the month.

Because of the nature of our work, we have a constant flow of products going out and handbags coming in for repair, it can seem like your work is never done. By bringing in a target we have given everyone something tangible to work towards. The last Friday afternoon off is a team bonus to encourage people to work together and help each other, so far it is working really well. The results speak for themselves, we’ve seen a 30% increase in productivity.

How does your motivation now compare with that when you started the firm? I’m as motivated now as I was then, I suppose the difference is I am now able to prioritise ideas I have, so I know when to act. When I started out I’d try to do every good idea I had, now I’m much more selective. With experience comes the knowledge that you should concentrate on a few things and do them well.

How did your business structure come about? The Furniture Clinic has grown organically every year. We make our products and sell them to businesses, both for them to use and to sell, and we sell them online. This isn’t just in the UK, we sell internationally. Our branch in the USA has just started to turn a profit, so we’ve invested in new business development personnel for it. The Handbag Clinic does basic repairs in-store, but the vast majority of the work is done at our head office. The exception is Qatar, where the cost and complexity of international shipping makes it more economical to do the repairs in store.

Have you benefited from mentoring? I haven’t had a formal mentor, but through the Entrepreneurs’ Forum and its events I’ve met a wide range of people who have given me some really good advice.

Our branch in the USA has just started to turn a profit, so we’ve invested in new business development personnel for it.

Any future plans you’d like to talk about?

We’ve got ambitious plans, though in general the plan is organic growth. I’d like to have a branch of Handbag Clinic in every major European City. We’ve got plans to open in Manhattan in 2017, which is very exciting. For Furniture Clinic global expansion is on the cards too, we already have a market in Hong Kong and could see growth in mainland China soon.

Dates for your diary... To download our event app for iOS and Android search for Entrepreneurs’ Forum

Upcoming events and key dates We host a year-round, wide-ranging programme of inspirational events, bringing together the most aspirational North East entrepreneurs to create opportunity, make new connections and help businesses in the region grow stronger. Our events come in all shapes and sizes, including in the coming months:







Tuesday, 14th March, 6.30-10pm Seaham Hall Hotel, Seaham, County Durham

Tuesday, 4th April, 6-9pm The Assembly Rooms, Newcastle



Thursday, 25th May, 8–11am Ward Hadaway, Newcastle Quayside

Thursday, 29th June, 6-8.30pm Ryder Architecture, Cooper’s Studios, Newcastle




PAULA RADCLIFFE (in association with Siglion)



Thursday, 23rd March, 1.30-4.30pm Newcastle Airport, Woolsington, Newcastle

Friday, 5th May, 8-10.30am Venue tbc, Sunderland


Thursday, 6th July, 4-7pm NBS, The Old Post Office, Newcastle

EXCHANGE EVENT LEADERSHIP Thursday, 30th March, 8–11am Gateshead College, Baltic Business Quarter, Gateshead

TOGETHER WE CAN TAKE ON THE WORLD ENTREPRENEURS’ CONFERENCE Thursday, 11th May, 8am-5pm Crowne Plaza Newcastle

Why not take some time out of your business to work on it with us. Listen to insights from your peers. Meet with people you didn’t know you needed to meet. Who knows where it might lead. Events are continuously being added to our calendar. For the most up-to-date information, to book your place or to find out about round table discussions and mentoring drop-in surgeries, visit

Together we’re stronger. 36

Tuesday, 6th June, 6.30-10pm Middleton Lodge, Middleton Tyas

EXCHANGE EVENT ACCESSING & MANAGING FINANCE Tuesday, 27th June, 8–11am Beamish Hall Hotel, Beamish, County Durham


Partnership opportunities The last 12 months have seen more than 1,700 business leaders come together at our inspirational events. There really is no network quite like it, and your business can become part of it, raising your profile with 300 of the North East’s most aspirational and influential entrepreneurs.

BE PART OF IT Support our inspirational events The highlights of our annual events programme are the most high profile business gatherings in the region.

TOGETHER WE CAN TAKE ON THE WORLD (ENTREPRENEURS’ CONFERENCE) 11th May 2017, Crowne Plaza, Newcastle 300x entrepreneurs

NORTH EAST ENTREPRENEURIAL AWARDS 29th September 2017, The Boiler Shop, Newcastle 400x business leaders

FORTUNE FAVOURS THE BRAVE (GLOBAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP WEEK CONFERENCE) 16th November 2016, Redworth Hall, County Durham 200x entrepreneurs

WHAT’S IN IT FOR YOU? As event partner at one of our most popular and well attended events, your business will not only be aligned with entrepreneurship and helping businesses to grow, but will receive unrivalled exposure amongst North East entrepreneurs and business leaders. We will work with you to develop a programme of promotional activity that works for you, to ensure you receive the maximum benefit possible from our partnership. Benefits will include:

Guest places at the event Inclusion in all pre and post media activity Event branding and profile Exhibition opportunities Company profile in printed programme

To find out more about our entrepreneurs’ conferences and awards celebration, simply contact the Forum team on (0191) 500 7780 or

Recommended books Great leaders love to learn. The ability to expand your mind and have a lust for life-long learning is one of the key traits of the most successful entrepreneurs. There are many ways to go about it, but sitting down with an insightful book is never a bad idea; so here are few great books to get you inspired.

By Robert Forrester, Vertu Motors.

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Built to Last

by Dale Carnegie

One of the most influential business books of our era, it chronicles the results of a six-year research project into what makes enduringly great companies, the underlying characteristics that are common to highly visionary companies and how they effectively communicate findings so they can influence management.

Dale Carnegie’s advice has stood the test of time and millions of people around the world have improved their lives and made friends quickly and easily based on his teachings, practical advice and techniques.

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey A step-by-step approach for living with fairness, integrity and dignity, Stephen Covey presents a holistic, integrated and principle-centered approach for solving personal and professional problems.

Good to Great

by Jim C. Collins

Work Rules! by Lazlo Bock Insights from inside Google that will transform how you live and lead, Work Rules! shows how you can strike a balance between creativity and structure, leading to success in your business that you can measure in quality of life as well as market share.

by Jim C. Collins Why some companies make the leap to becoming great companies and others don’t is a book that started with 1,435 good companies, examined their performance over 40 years, found the 11 companies that became great and shares how you can make the transition too.


… and anything by John Maxwell, Robin Sharma or Tony Robbins!

E Z A L B L I RA BUSINESS YOUR L E V TRA MEET YOUR NEW ONE-STOP BUSINESS TRAIN TRAVEL SHOP Hassle free booking No credit card or booking fees A single account for multiple users and departments Custom tools for managing travel and invoices Collect tickets when and where you want.



ENTREPRENEURS’ FORUM Together we can take on the world.


Independent Events

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National Safety Passport

Rebecca Philipson

Custom Gateway

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Offstone Publishing

Emma Black

Cascade Cash Management

Graham Purvis

Robson Laidler

Gary Boon

Shout Digital

Ben Quaintrell

My Property Box

Maureen Brown

Sullivan Brown

Andy Ramsey

AR Controls

Melanie Brown

Design Direction

James Richfield

The Morpeth Practice

Pete Crouch

Liquid Design Studios

Neil Sleeman

Platinum PPT

Penny Davison

Penny Print

Joe Stevens

Whispering Gibbon

Joanna Feeley

Trend Bible

Christine Taylor

Contact Field Marketing

Neil Forrest

JM Glendinning (Insurance Brokers)

Andrew Tomlinson

Andrew James Worldwide

Kirsty Gowans


Jake Tompkins


Scott Gowans


Eve Whitaker

Master Debonair

Lorraine Griffiths

Rubix Management

Simon Whitaker

Master Debonair

Jo Hand

The Human Group

Ashleigh Wright

Westray Recruitment

Ryan Harland

Digipro Media

Chris Henderson

Climb Creative


Simon Howatson

DC Reclamation

O’Brien Waste Recycling Solutions

Steve Jackson

Amicus ITS

Jane Jelly

The Associate Law Firm

Ryecroft Glenton

George Jenkins

Hive Estates

Carla Keegans

The Ethical Lettings Agency

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Imperator Group

Matthew McConnell

Certax Accounting

Shane McDonald


Eddie McKay

Big Purple Productions

Russell Mills

Mills Consulting Group

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We’re stronger together: technology

creative communication

40 Issue 6, March 2017

another creative communication by Hedley McEwan

Profile for Entrepreneurs' Forum

EF News Magazine - March 2017  

Find out the latest news and entrepreneurial updates from the Entrepreneur's Forum.

EF News Magazine - March 2017  

Find out the latest news and entrepreneurial updates from the Entrepreneur's Forum.