Lancashire Forum

Lancashire Forum

A six-month programme, as part of Boost Business Lancashire, designed to help owner-managers, MDs and senior decision makers of SMEs to grow their businesses.

About the Programme

This six-month programme, as part of the Boost Business Lancashire, is designed to help owner-managers, MDs, and senior decision makers of SMEs to grow their businesses.

You'll begin with an overnight experiential, which is a two-day event made up of leadership exercises, focused discussions and peer-to-peer learning. Stepping outside of your workplace, you'll be encouraged to think about your business differently and reflect on your current practices. This experience is designed to develop trust amongst the participants, breaking down the barriers to learning and providing opportunities to connect your new knowledge to real-life situations.

Following this, you'll participate in a series of workshops to help you develop your business model in preparation for growth, and how to access finance to facilitate the growth of your business. 

Discover our testimonials.

Lancashire Forum Partner Logos

Programme Elements

The Lancashire Forum programme includes sessions each month, taking place over 1-2 days. You'll participate in a range of challenges, workshops and tasks to develop strategic thought processes and skills, and the focus on practical learning means there are no formal assessments.


An overnight experiential to build trust and start the challenge.


Access to Masterclasses from world-class speakers such as Jonathan Warburton, Edwin Booth and John Timpson.


Interactive workshops including Developing dynamic business models, Innovation and Branding, and Business Finance for Growth.


A company visit, with access all areas within a large regional business.


Learn from leading academics at Lancaster University Management School and business experts. 


Introduce a fresh perspective with our student projects.

Get in touch


To discover more about the Lancashire Forum, and how it could transform your organisation, please call 01524 593632 or email lancashireforum@lancaster.ac.uk

Alternatively, you can complete your contact details below.

Submit an enquiry

Your details

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The Benefits

The programme fully integrates into your business, so you will spend time actively working on your business not in it. The peer network provides the support and the University provides the challenge to your thinking and ways of working. The programme will provide you with the tools to develop a strategic approach to your business and ultimately generate the growth you need.

Lancashire Forum pays off for fast-growing new payroll specialists

Minhaz Moosa, MD of Intelligent Payroll in Blackburn, was unsure about how to grow his business. A conversation with Matt Hutchinson at Lancaster University Management School suggested that participating in the Lancashire Forum programme would provide him with some valuable direction - and he came away with the tools to develop a growth strategy.

Working at one of the world’s largest accounting firms Minhaz had become increasingly frustrated by outdated systems and processes. His business grew out of his conviction that he could provide a better value service for small and medium sized companies.

Intelligent Payroll, a multi-award-winning company providing outsourced payroll and pensions services across the UK, has been trading since the beginning of 2018. Already, thanks to what he learned and took away from the Lancashire Forum, the business has expanded and evolved beyond Minhaz’s original idea.

“My standout workshop was the Business Model Canvas,” he says. “It was so good to have an actual tool that tells you where to focus, what your value is and who your targets are – and getting it all on paper, on one sheet, shows you exactly what you need to do. It’s vital to our business and we’ve still got it pinned up on the wall”.

He outlines how the Business Model Canvas has fuelled both the growth of the team and the diversification of the business by showing them how related services go hand-in-hand. “Because of that, we’ve moved from basically being just payroll and pensions to incorporate the Construction Industry Scheme and now HR contracts, company handbooks and absence management software, with a dedicated HR consultant in-house.”

In fact the team soon grew to include one further full-time member of staff and two part-time members. Two additional new positions, one of which is an apprenticeship, are waiting to be filled. “I learned on the programme that you have to be flexible with how you employ people,” Minhaz adds. “The Employee Engagement workshop really emphasised the modern work/life balance, be that providing employees with flexible working options such as part-time hours and working from home, or employing apprentices and interns.”

Overall, the Forum has made him a better business owner, he believes. “It definitely gave me the tools I needed to grow the business, and the fact that you’ve got 15-20 other business owners to bounce ideas off – some just starting up, others more established - means every time you meet you learn something new.”

Nor does it end there. Although their six-month programme may be over, Minhaz and his fellow delegates have created a peer network that meets up every month to share problems, challenges and ideas, and to benefit from each other’s experiences. He has also been taking advantage of the University’s regular masterclasses. “They’re really enlightening, with some really good speakers who open your eyes to new possibilities that you didn’t even think of because you were concentrating on your own business. It’s definitely worth taking time out to get a new perspective. I’d like to do more.”

 

Intelligent Payroll

Lancashire Forum helps ClearTrace see the way forward

The light-bulb moment came during a lunch break on Lancaster University Management School’s growth-oriented programme for Lancashire SMEs. Adam Murfitt, MD of ClearTrace, found himself in the perfect place to seize the opportunity.

“The Lancashire Forum workshops already had me thinking about strategy, and particularly about the advantage of having stronger IT systems,” he explains. “So when a potential client got in touch, I was in the right frame of mind to solve their problem. The solution became a way of expanding our whole business offering, and our team.”

In the nine years since Adam first founded the company, ClearTrace had carved out a niche as a provider of expert medical cleaning services in challenging environments such as MRI and CT scanners. Now this major potential client was saying that they loved the company’s ethos but couldn’t afford the labour costs.

“Being in my Forum mindset, working on the business instead of in the business, I wondered if we could change the model around, strip out the staff costs and package up all the value-added services – the training, chemical solutions, auditing and so on – as the actual product, which could be provided for clients’ staff at a low monthly fee.”

“The key to making it work would be the IT. At the time I wasn’t very IT savvy, but I was on the Forum! I went back in and sat next to a fellow delegate, who it turned out developed IT systems... so to cut a long story short, we now provide this innovative solution around the UK, which is opening up all kinds of new business opportunities.”

Adam was already looking for ways to grow the company and realised that he hadn’t really invested in his personal development since graduating from the Management School in 2000. The Lancashire Forum provided him with the opportunity to develop his leadership skills in addition to focusing on the business growth. Since joining the programme, he has appointed six new members of staff.

A further attraction was the chance to become part of a large network of local businesses. Here, in particular, the Forum exceeded all his expectations. “I’ve made some very good contacts,” he says. “First with other people on the programme, like the chap who’s now our IT partner, but also on a broader scale. For instance, the boss of the company we went to visit is now an unofficial mentor and gives me some really good, sound advice.”

Going on the Forum has also helped Adam find funding to support growth-focused activities. This included the provision of two postgraduates who carried out quantitative and qualitative market research that the company is still using to target its business today. The Lancashire Forum is part of Boost, Lancashire’s business growth hub, from which he has had marketing support.

As Adam says, the Forum has been a key catalyst. “I wanted to give myself a shot in the arm, to spur things along – and it’s done that. It got me looking beyond the day-to-day running of the business, with a lot of modules on things like strategy, even a ‘strategiser’ tool that I’ve incorporated into our 90 day, 6 monthly, yearly and 5-yearly planning.”

“For the future, we’re now able to look at developing into all sorts of new markets – anywhere there’s a potential risk of infection. I’d be surprised if Lancaster University didn’t continue to play a large part in that.”

ClearTrace

Networking and growth for HR Savvy facilitated by Lancashire Forum

The powerful experience of participating in the Lancashire Forum enabled Preston-based company HR Savvy Ltd to learn from like-minded business owners and make a key senior-level appointment, says MD Tracey Murphy. 

Tracey and her team supply strategic and operational HR, employment law and training services to SMEs in Lancashire. When she heard about Lancaster University Management School’s growth-oriented programme for senior decision makers in the county, she could see the great potential value of interacting with such a peer network.

“Our growth strategy was at the fore of my thinking,” she says. “But I was particularly interested in meeting and learning from others who had trodden the same path. And it completely exceeded my expectations! The mixture of the quality of the guest speakers, the quality of the input from the lecturers – and the dynamics within the peer group – made it very powerful for me.”

“It’s great because you get free consultancy from each other,” Tracey explains. “You put a problem forward and people bring ideas, a different way of thinking, and help you see things from a different perspective, which is really eye-opening and expansive.”

She describes how in one workshop session the delegates were encouraged to pair off and discuss the biggest challenges they faced in their businesses. “I said I was afraid I couldn’t afford to invest in the new personnel I wanted. My partner in the exercise said ‘how can you afford not to?’ and also helped me see that instead of two roles, it could be a single appointment.”

Equipped with the newfound confidence to make the decision, Tracey acted swiftly and introduced a key appointment before the six-month programme had finished. “I don’t think I would have done that without the Forum, certainly not in that timescale,” Tracey says.

Now, the company has firm plans to grow, both in terms of revenue and profit margin, primarily by increasing the range of products and services offered to existing clients and better cost management. These include a suite of training courses that have been developed in response to a big need that smaller businesses have for help with line management capabilities. Identifying this need and rolling out the solution are actions that have come from Tracey’s experience on the Lancashire Forum.

She highlights the benefits of being able to step out of the business for a day: “Just having the space to take the helicopter view – whether that’s part of your own thinking or prompted by something somebody says in the group, or one of the lecturers, or a guest speaker – is of immeasurable value, because there’s such minimal time to think about strategic growth in the day-to-day office, with so many demands on you.”

For Tracey, however, the true highlight will always be the peer group. “That’s the biggest takeaway, without a shadow of a doubt. The forum was a safe, trusted environment where we bared our souls and built really strong relationships. I’m still in contact with the group – in fact just yesterday I had business meetings with two of them, one to discuss a strategic collaboration and the other about future work as referral partners.”

HR Savvy

Lancashire Forum inspires new vision for growth

Chorley-based Logma Systems Design Ltd, home of OneFit software, has created five new permanent jobs and increased its profit margins after participating in the Lancashire Forum, a business growth programme delivered by Lancaster University Management School. Audrey Odell, who set up the business and still runs it as CEO, says that the tools she gained on the Lancashire Forum has enabled her not only to restructure the company but also to rekindle the youthful vision that has sustained her business for nearly 40 years.

Building on its extensive experience of a wide range of industries, Logma specialises in providing Enterprise Requirement Planning in a modular form that is accessible for SMEs and puts them on a level playing field with larger corporates.

It was targeting this gap in the market that first brought Audrey into contact with the Management School, when she worked with them to engage students on a project examining barriers to ERP solutions in the region’s SME manufacturing market.

Having gained useful feedback from this project, she took up the invitation to join the new Forum. “Because our business had been through significant change, I decided it might be good for me to be made to focus on what I should be doing. So I went on the programme and it did exactly that!”

The six-month programme, part of Boost Business Lancashire, brings together like-minded directors and managers of Lancashire-based SMEs and provides them with activities and tools to stimulate self-development and business growth. As Audrey emphasises, this opportunity to network, across a fascinating cross-section of businesses in different transitional stages, not only enabled her to learn from others and to pass on what she had learned but also made her feel more confident about moving forward and bringing in fresh talent.

“I was holding back on going ahead,” she explains. “But based on the Forum – and the project, too – I’ve made the decision to restructure: minimising impact on our highly experienced core team by creating a collaborative team of new people who can share information and recognise their own training needs. It’s working brilliantly!”

It was going on the Lancashire Forum that put Audrey back in the driving seat, she says. “The tools that we went through supported me in what I needed to do, which were quite radical things. The experience handed me back that belief and that decision-making mindset. It put me on track – for making further changes and growing the business.”

Logma Systems Design
Business people

"This programme is a fantastic opportunity for growth orientated small and mid-sized companies in Lancashire, helping them grow skills and confidence in equal measure." Matt Hutchinson, Programme Manager 

Costs & Apply

This programme is fully funded, and available to European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) eligible businesses. Businesses must meet the ERDF criteria as below:

  • Based in Lancashire
  • Employ fewer than 250 full-time employees
  • Has an annual turnover less than £40 million
  • Has received less than £160,000 of publicly funded support in the last 3 years
  • Is business to business

Our next programme starts in June 2018. To discover more about the programme, please get in touch with us below.

 

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