GC Business Growth Hub explains why now is the time to focus on leadership
GC Business Growth Hub has provided its pointers on how to keep leadership skills razor sharp during this critical period, with the support of Caroline Moran of Clear and Rob Hewson of Huey Games.
The resilience of many Digital, Creative and Tech (DCF) businesses throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on leadership in the sector, with countless invaluable lessons learned by business owners and senior management teams.
Those businesses that have found ways to successfully adapt their working practices and services are now taking the opportunity to upskill employees and find new avenues for growth, not only supporting their own development, but extending greater resilience to the supply chain and to parallel, tech-reliant sectors too.
As many organisations begin to implement new hybrid working patterns this summer, strong leadership will continue to be critical in managing the ongoing change.
Hone your listening skills
Caroline Moran at Clear has found that listening has been vital to managing the change her business has experienced over the last year.
As a live events agency, Clear was part of the first wave of businesses to take a significant hit by the initial coronavirus outbreak. “We quickly went from having a full diary, often with competing priorities to manage, to having absolutely nothing in the schedule at all. It was all quite scary,” said Caroline.
Caroline’s team at Clear work with a number of household brands such as Kellogg’s, Warburtons, and Pets at Home. She said: “We’ve really listened to our clients to understand what has changed for them and what they are now looking to achieve. It’s been important to reflect the right mood for each client and by listening better, we’re no longer just jumping straight into a brief.”
Making a conscious effort to also improve listening across the business has had other consequences too. “I’ve seen members of the team really grow in their own confidence. By ensuring that everybody has a voice and can be heard properly, everyone has had more freedom and flexibility with their own ideas.
"We’re getting different people involved in parts of the process they might not have been previously. As a result, the work they’ve delivered has been incredible and I’m really proud of what has been achieved.”
Plan thoroughly and then empower your team
As the saying goes, great leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.
Rob Hewson, CEO of Huey Games, is a natural storyteller, part of a skillset that has helped his business - a boutique video games developer based in Manchester - to thrive. But he admits that his tendency to develop a good story can be troublesome too. “I always found trying to do a business plan can be a real nightmare because I would just be looking for the bigger narrative rather than thinking about the finer details," he said.
Rob has participated in GC Business Growth Hub’s Creative Scale-Up Programme during lockdown, as well as Creative England’s Games Scale-Up Programme. “I’ve learned lots about business planning over the last year. Understanding how to measure and use KPIs properly, as well as developing a robust sales and marketing function driven by a CRM, has helped me to set our business strategy in a much more structured way. I’ve been given the tools and advice to feel like I’m the architect and engineer of my own business plan, rather than just writing another story that sounds good.”
Rob has seen the staff headcount at Huey Games more than double as result. With further growth and recruitment in the pipeline, he said: “We’re constantly learning and because of that, we can grow the team. We’ve employed a couple of members of junior staff straight from university and they have the ambition to move into management positions.
"We’re supporting and guiding them on this journey and it’s great to see them taking the opportunity with both hands. Programmes like Skills for Growth have been a huge help in getting their personal development plans in place. It’s fantastic for us as a small business because training can be difficult and expensive. I can tell they really value it too.”
Trust in your instinct
For Caroline Moran, “Being in an unknown situation while keeping confident about our judgement and abilities has encouraged us to think differently and come up with some great ideas. It hasn’t always been comfortable but we’ve flourished in many unexpected ways as a result. We’ve delivered a great number of digital and hybrid events throughout lockdown. We’ve focused heavily on getting the tech right and we weren’t afraid to ask our partners and associates for help along the way.”
Caroline has participated in various business support programmes delivered by GC Business Growth Hub, which have helped to influence the direction of her leadership. “Being part of the Exceed programme has meant I’ve got to know other business leaders facing similar problems, who I’ve been able to talk to during challenging times. The support from the programme has brought lots of clarity; the fantastic modules providing new tools, benchmarks and reassurance to take forward the business in my own style. You need to trust in yourself and the others around you to get the most out of it.”
Rob Hewson added: “We were already working remotely before COVID hit and had considered an office, but we were never sure when to make that move. Now, we’re wondering whether we do need an office. The world and technology has moved toward us in many ways. As we grow, we recognise we’ll definitely need to bring people together in person but that might be for meet-ups in shared spaces, and meals out, rather than traditional office work.
“Whatever we might choose, my sense is that it will be our associated management skills - how we communicate, deliver effective project management and keep people motivated by enacting a duty of care - which will prove to be most important over the coming year."
If you represent a small- to medium-sized DCT business based in Greater Manchester, GC Business Growth Hub is currently inviting applicants for the next cohort of its fully-funded Exceed programme. Business leaders can invite who they deem appropriate from their team and if preferable, their entire workforce can attend, which makes Exceed particularly well-suited to businesses that are empowering more leaders.