A Week in My Life: Sue Barnard, Senior Relationship Manager - North West, British Business Bank
In her role at the British Business Bank (BBB), North West-based Sue Barnard works closely with stakeholders across the region.
The BEIS-owned economic development bank is headquartered in Sheffield and delivers the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF), which provides over £500m of investment to boost growing businesses in the North.
Barnard works to raise awareness of the NPIF and helps the bank develop a deeper understanding of small business markets to help reduce the imbalance in access to finance for SMEs.
She has a track record of backing businesses in the region - having spent time in her career working at organisations including GC Business Growth Hub; MIDAS - Manchester's inward investment promotion agency; and the North West Development Agency.
She told us what a week in her working life involves...
I’m very much an early bird and my Monday starts how I like to begin each day of the working week, having a flick through my emails and having a thorough scan of local business news before much of the Northern Powerhouse awakes! It’s a key part of the day for me - day-to-day, I work closely with teams that are a part of, or help to deliver, the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund.
Once I’m all caught up, I’ll run through all my social media notifications on Twitter and LinkedIn - I get a lot of requests for meetings and information from LinkedIn about finance and how the British Business Bank can support SMEs, so once I’ve gone back to everyone, I like to start the week by sharing good news!
What I share can vary, from new investment announcements from NPIF, to stories about how businesses we've worked with are performing, or editorials from the businesses we work with on how things are going. There are also a lot of events I like to get involved with, either attending or speaking, so today I give an early morning share to our upcoming ‘Equity Masterclasses’ event.
I’m a big advocate of starting the week, and indeed every day, with a bit of positivity and this is reflected in the type of content I share with my network. It can spark productive conversations and has helped to set people I work with on the right path more than once!
Once I’m up to speed with everything, I’ll then look towards our primary activity for the week, which often varies. At the moment, a lot of my focus will be on the Bank’s ‘Net Zero’ campaign, working to make the net-zero carbon economy a reality. A part of this includes an upcoming event that shines a spotlight on ‘#LowCarbonChampions’ businesses that are leading the way on sustainability.
For this, I've been asked to help with publicity, identifying possible speakers and encouraging relevant stakeholders to attend, so a lot of my afternoon is spent brainstorming and getting in touch with candidates that would be a good fit, benefitting them and the attendees.
I like to have an inbox where all emails are at least read and actioned, so that I can schedule my diary for the weeks and months ahead if I need focus time. After yesterday’s tasks, there’s a lot of this today!
It’s another really productive day, as I’m able to make progress on another key part of my role within BBB’s UK Network team - to gather intel. This time, that involves speaking with SME intermediaries around the North West to understand more about how they perceive net zero and its implications for access to finance.
It turns out to be a really productive investment of my time, as I’m able to arrange catch-up meetings with the University of Salford, The Growth Company’s Access to Finance Team, the University of Liverpool and Northwest Business Leadership Team.
Meeting all of these parties takes time, so a lot of my remaining day involves appointment making and mapping out meetings in my diary for the next few weeks.
I’ve also got to make time today to review NPIF Quarterly Fund Manager reports and comments on the Access to Finance landscape across the North West. Making sure as many businesses as possible are aware of and educated on the options available to them is really important, so I spend a lot of time liaising with NPIF’s Senior Communications and Marketing Manager to identify opportunities, whether this is support with e-shots, speaker opportunities or working on scripts for upcoming events.
Today I get to work on the script for an upcoming ‘NPIF - Equity Masterclasses’ event liaising with the two NPIF equity fund managers, Maven and Mercia. After a solid call, our script now extends to 13 pages! It’s a big priority to make sure we’re getting this right, as - so far - we’ve got 300 registered delegates set to take part and we want to ensure it’s a valuable use of their time.
Wednesday is a day I really look forward to, as outside of my day-to-day work I can look forward to #WellnessWednesday, a day I fully embraced shortly after the pandemic began.
It involves taking an hour exclusively for my own wellbeing, where it can be something as simple as taking a walk halfway through the day, or now that we’re able to, meeting a friend for lunch. Working from home can be draining, so it’s important to take a midweek break and give yourself something to look forward to in the ‘hump’ of the week - being sat at your desk for five days can take its toll!
Today I’ve been fortunate to have been able to arrange face-to-face meetings with key stakeholders from the Access to Finance Team at the Greater Manchester Growth Hub and Napthens Solicitors, based in Lancashire. While video conferencing has been revolutionary across the past 18 months, it’ll never quite match getting to know someone in real life, which always helps to develop a strong connection much earlier in the relationship.
Thursday is another busy day, as we have our regular meeting with the Regional Advisory Board, made up of the five North West LEPs. In these meetings we provide them with an update on how the NPIF Funds are performing and the activity that is taking place across their own sub-regional areas. It’s an important exercise that helps us align priorities and understand which areas are benefitting from the Bank’s activity.
Regularly, we’ll have reviews with the British Business Bank’s NPIF fund managers who work with us to deploy funds, and this helps to build a full understanding of what’s working well so we can constantly look to improve. It’s another key part of my role, as I’m constantly pushing for North West stakeholders to take part in the Bank’s 'Have your say', a feedback form where they can give opinions on how we’re doing and help us to take our working practices to the next level.
I wrap up Thursday by preparing for a couple of live events we have coming up. The first one is due in two weeks’ time, and it’ll be our first in-person for a long time. Extra prep is key since we’re so used to the virtual set-up - we want to make sure it’s a big success.
Fridays tend to be for wrapping up the week’s main tasks and this week it’s no different! Following a few emails in the morning, I review of some of our reports, such as Access to Early Stage finance, to ensure all is as accurate and informative as it can be.
I then have the opportunity to participate in a video blog for our Careers Internet Page. It’s really important to me, beyond just my role at British Business Bank, that we provide tools and resources for people at early stages in their career.
I’m a big advocate for Simone Roche and her work with Northern Power Women, which works towards gender equality in the workplace, so I will often work with the team and similar organisations that provide advice to women at an early stage in their career.
After reviewing my to-do list and achievements for the week, I’ll take a look at my schedule for next week and do some final planning, to ensure there are no surprises come Monday morning. Prior to the logging off for the weekend, I get to wrap things with the pleasure of putting together this piece!