Now more than ever, SME leaders are driving change to support business growth — change that can come through diversification into new markets, overcoming supply chain challenges, and the move to hybrid ways of working.

At Sheffield Hallam University, our Help to Grow: Management course has supported over 100 SME leaders in the past year, from a range of diverse sectors including construction, engineering, professional services and hospitality.

Here are five ways people on the course are learning to develop their leadership skills and grow their business.

  1. Have a clear strategy

As a leader, you need to be clear on the strengths and core competencies of your business. What makes your business stand out? What value do you bring to your customers? And where are your future growth opportunities?

Successful leaders provide a clear agenda and set aspirational goals that inspire teams to find new and improved ways of meeting the needs of customers and society.

  1. Focus on your people

At the heart of a successful business are your people. Creating a value-driven business where employees buy into your organisation’s vision and mission means that everyone has a stake in your success, improving staff retention.

It also makes your business a more attractive place for new employees. According to the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority’s quarterly survey, over 90 per cent of local businesses say they are struggling to recruit staff at the moment.

On the course we discuss how to embed equality, diversity and inclusion practices into all stages of the recruitment cycle — to ensure you have the best people in the right place.

  1. Engage with your customers

Mission, vision and value shape the culture of your organisation — and your brand is a way to convey this to your customers.

On the course we’ll help you create an effective marketing strategy to ensure your business offer is clear, consistent and targets the most attractive markets for your business.

  1. Measure your performance

On the Help to Grow: Management course we challenge you to think about the current performance of operations in your business and whether it has the capacity to support future growth.

To achieve sustainable growth you need to be able to make effective financial decisions.This involves identifying and setting relevant metrics and key performance indicators to monitor the overall business performance. We’ll help you create a tailor-made plan and have the confidence to grow your business.

  1. Build a support network

On the course you learn alongside fellow senior leaders from a range of SMEs. We always find that despite coming from different sectors, many of the challenges and opportunities faced by SMEs are the same.

Our attendees tell us that being able to build a network with other SME leaders to support each other is one of the things they value the most about the course.

Hear from two SME leaders who recently successfully completed the Help to Grow: Management course.

Neda Arifi, marketing specialist at Evident, said: “I really benefited from my mentor’s insight and experience.

“Although I have a master’s degree in marketing management and more than ten years of experience working in international companies, the Help to Grow: Management course was an excellent opportunity to update myself with the latest knowledge of the UK market and extend my networks.

“Having both online and face-to-face meetings was great as I could save time commuting. It made it easier to fit the course around my hectic work schedule. And if I ever missed a session, I had access to all the course materials and could review them in the peer group session.

‘The most valuable part was how to implement the theory and the knowledge in our everyday business. The course had lots of insightful case studies, and in our peer group we shared our success and failure stories.

“What I loved most about the course, and what differentiates this from other courses, was the networking opportunities and the ten hours of inclusive mentoring, which was enlightening and inspiring. I really benefited from my mentor’s insight and experience. It helped me to implement what I learned from the course in my business.

“If you’re motivated and want to hear cutting-edge ideas about management, develop greater confidence and a better understanding of leadership, and be influential in your business, this course is definitely for you.”

Duncan McCombie, CEO, YES Energy Solutions CIC said: “You learn from others who have been there and done it.

“I signed up for the Help to Grow: Management course to update and improve my skills and knowledge. I wanted my business to take the next step to expand further and evolve our services, ultimately helping more people.

“As a result of what I learned on the course, we have increased our business by targeting slightly different activities. I’ve also increased my general confidence.

“One of the highlights of the course was meeting other business leaders. We still meet every month to talk through any issues we have and discuss how the course has impacted our approach – translating the theory into reality. It’s great to see others growing too.

“I can’t recommend this course strongly enough. It supports you to adapt, helps you maximise opportunities in your business, evolves your thinking or approach, and allows you to grow a more sustainable business. You learn from others who have been there and done it, evolving their experiences into your own approach.

“Whether you’re a seasoned leader or someone needing to build new skills, this course will develop your thinking, help you explore your options and consider broader possibilities, and take your business to the next level.”

100 per cent of our participants rated Help to Grow: Management as good to excellent value for money, with 88% saying excellent.*

*From a survey of participants taken in November 2021..

If you’re a senior leader in an SME employing 5 to 249 people, find out how you can sign up for Help to Grow: Management.

It’s 90% funded by the government, and 94% of attendees* say it helped clarify their leadership style to support growth in their business.

Sign up Go to shu.ac.uk/help-to-grow

*From a survey of participants taken in November 2021..