First business mentor appointed to new Growth through Mentoring programme

The North East LEP’s new Growth through Mentoring programme has recruited its first high growth mentor.

Andrew Silver, a prominent North East business leader, will be paired with a business leader from a North East company who has ambitions to scale up their organisation.

Andrew said:

I’ve had the benefit of being mentored myself during my career and I know the value of having someone external to your organisation, who has the experience of growing a business themselves, on hand to offer advice and guidance.

The North East has a high predominance of SMEs and making sure that these businesses are able to access guidance through mentoring is hugely important.

Growth through Mentoring has been launched as part of the North East LEP’s drive to support companies to scale, helping to create more and better jobs and drive economic growth in the region.

Research has shown that, in the UK, only 22% of SMEs receive mentoring, despite its proven success in improving a business’s likelihood of experiencing growth.

Andrew continues:

I have a track record of leading businesses through periods of accelerated growth as well as developing senior managers to meet their full potential. I know that, by acting as a trusted adviser, a mentor can provide a useful sounding board, ensure the business avoids common pitfalls and help keep it on track.”

It’s also about networks – as a mentor, I can introduce my mentee to a wider network of people. I may not have all the answers myself but I probably know others who do.

So what makes a successful mentor-mentee relationship?

As a mentor, you have to be really good at listening and hear what your mentee is not saying, as well as what they are saying,” said Andrew. “You also have to understand that you are there to question and share insights and to help them apply the conclusions of the conversations and ensure there are clear KPI’s to measure performance.

From the other side of the relationship, a mentee should go into the process with an open mind, ready to learn and be clear about what they are hoping to get out of it. Have some milestones in mind – if we set out on this journey, what do you want from it?

I have two sons who are at the age where they’re about to step out into the big wide world and I know how important guidance and mentoring will be in their lives. As they start their careers, I’m looking forward to getting started in my own new role as a mentor with the North East LEP.

Find out more about the Growth through Mentoring programme.

Want to scale your business? Think franchise.

Colin Bell, our Business Growth Director, discusses the advantages of franchising your business.

Some of the world’s most scalable businesses are franchises. When the formula is right they can scale at a phenomenal rate. So if at the top of your new year’s resolution list is ‘grow my business’ then learning lessons from franchisors could help you to devise a scalable business model.

So what can we learn from franchises?

  1. In most franchised businesses, increased revenue has a marginal impact on the franchisor’s costs base. Accountants are likely to call this high operating leverage and investors like high leverage because as the business scales, they can see margins increase in parallel. However for the franchisor, the opposite is often true: as they expand, their costs increase at a higher rate hence the franchisor has moved the costs increase from them to the franchisee.
  2. Franchisees provide investment capital. In most franchised businesses, franchisees purchase the franchise upfront; so without incurring much cost the franchisor receives a cash injection that can be used to further expand and invest in their business.
  3. Franchisors build it once and sell it many times. To develop a franchised business at some point, the franchisor has made the decision to break from the day to day and to begin working ‘on’ rather than ‘in’ their business. This enables them to figure out why customers buy from them, what is it that they do that adds most value and then refining and structuring the business model in such a way that they can easily educate others (franchisees) on how they too can build a successful business based on their model.
  4. Franchises attract highly engaged talent. Franchisees have invested significantly in the franchise and unlike employees they can’t just walk away and get a new job. The result is that they are likely to be much more engaged and motivated than a branch manager appointed directly by you.
  5. Franchises can result in reoccurring and predictable revenue. Franchisors normally receive a predictable and reoccurring revenue stream from franchisees through both royalties and the purchase of materials. As well as contributing to the bottom line, reoccurring revenue can be used to cover operational costs.

Key questions to consider:

  • How can you develop a model that means when sales increase your costs don’t?
  • How can you develop a model that is cash flow positive – receives cash upfront before incurring costs?
  • How are you going to release the time required to work ‘on’ your business rather than ‘in’ it?
  • How are you going to truly engage and motivate your people?
  • How can you lock customers in and generate predictable reoccurring revenue streams?

Research has shown that 71% of business leaders felt that they would be able to grow their business quicker if it were easier to find mentoring and a professional support scheme locally and they worked effectively (source: Scale Up Institute: Scale Up Review 2016) and the North East LEP want to help make that happen.

We have recently launched our Growth through Mentoring programme, where we match experienced leaders who have grown a business themselves, with ambitious SME owners who have the drive and ambition to grow their business.

North East LEP appoints Mentoring Co-ordinator to help drive business growth

We have appointed Helen Lee to the new position of Mentoring Co-ordinator, to help lead a new mentoring programme for businesses with high growth potential.
The ‘Growth through Mentoring’ programme is being launched as part of the North East LEP’s drive to support companies to scale, helping to create more and better jobs and drive economic growth in the region.
Colin Bell, Business Growth Director at the North East LEP, said:

The North East LEP recognises the importance of supporting businesses to scale – growing businesses are central to the health of the region’s economy.
One of the key barriers which business leaders face when it comes to growing their business is the ability to develop leadership skills and access to mentors who have experience of successfully scaling a business themselves.
Growth through Mentoring will bring business leaders from high growth potential companies together with these experienced mentors.

Helen will typically work with companies that have been operational for at least two years, have 10 or more employees and have the aspiration to significantly scale their business. She will be leading the drive to get high quality business mentors in the region on board, to provide the mentoring services to high growth potential businesses and therefore bringing business leaders and experienced mentors together to help boost business growth in the North East.

Helen Lee said:

Mentoring has a key role to play in achieving the North East LEP’s aim of creating more and better jobs for the area. It’s been proven to help companies grow and prosper, and yet only a small proportion of business leaders currently work with a mentor.

Helen, who has previously worked at Newcastle College, and as a Business Development Manager with organisations across the North East, will be the first point of contact for North East businesses who want to find out more about how mentoring can help them grow.

Research has shown that 71% of business leaders felt that they would be able to grow their business quicker if it were easier to find mentoring and professional support scheme locally and they worked effectively (source: Scale Up Institute: Scale Up Review 2016) and the North East LEP wants to help make that happen.

To find out more visit our Growth through Mentoring page, or contact Helen Lee.

£26m ERDF call for organisations to lead North East growth and tackle flood dangers

Innovation, high growth businesses and reducing flood risks headline a new £26m call for applications from the European Union in the North East.

The latest round of European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) investment earmarked for the region seeks expert partners to deliver maximum return on the £26m cash pot.

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership works closely with Government to ensure that the European Funding allocation is aligned to projects that help deliver the North East Strategic Economic Plan.

The latest funding round consists of:


• Up to £16m to promote research and innovation. The North East LEP has a goal of making the region an innovation hotspot in Europe.

Investment will concentrate on backing companies working in the North East’s four ‘smart specialisation’ areas of passenger vehicle manufacturing, subsea and offshore technology, life sciences and healthcare and creative and digital industries

• Up to £2.5m to enhance the competitiveness of small and medium sized firms. This investment is looking to increase the density of high growth SMEs in the North East LEP area.

These firms have a disproportionately high positive impact on regional growth – in 2014 it is estimated the North East had 600 high growth companies with a combined turnover of £2.4bn and 21,000 employees. A 25% increase on 2014’s figure could generate an extra £186m of regional GVA and create nearly 4,000 new jobs

• Up to £8.6m to address specific environmental risks, ensuring disaster resilience and developing disaster management systems.

In the North East LEP area there is a determination to reduce the risks from flooding and climate change. Local partners are being sought to find innovative and new ways to reduce flood and erosion risk to economic infrastructure and businesses, enabling them to survive, thrive and grow.

Andrew Hodgson, North East LEP Chair, said: “The UK is still very much in the European Union and until we leave it, the North East LEP is determined to take the maximum opportunities for the regional economy from the investment offered by the ERDF programme.

“This new funding call presents a real opportunity for North East businesses and organisations which I urge them to pursue if they have a viable project which meets ERDF objectives.

“I would urge companies and organisations wanting to know more to visit the North East LEP website for more information.”

The North East LEP will be holding an information event giving more detail about the calls on 5 January 2017. To register to attend the event, please click here.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has extended the European Union funding guarantee to the point of Brexit, confirming that the Government will honour European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF) projects signed before Britain leaves the EU.

The 2014-2020 ESIF are planned to inject more than £437m into the North East. ERDF is part of the total ESIF North East allocation.


Scale-ups: the key to a growing economy?

A very small number of high growth firms can have a major significant impact on a regional economy.

In 2015 in the UK 22,500 out of 5.3 million firms created 40% of all new jobs – wow!

It is estimated that the North East has 600 of these “scale-up” firms. We need to identify, encourage and work with firms that are experiencing or want to experience rapid growth (over 20% increase per annum in sales or new jobs).

Does the North East want an exciting and better business future? Do you want an exciting and better business future? These are questions I asked myself after taking part, with a small team from the North East, in a three day scale-up event, in Manchester.

It was led by Dan Isenberg, a leading professor in entrepreneurial ecosystems. We considered what makes a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem, and in particular the three C’s: communication, capacity to grow, and cash – communicating the success of growing firms, as success breeds success; capacity to grow in terms of management knowledge and skills; and cash in terms of funding, finance and investment.

It was highlighted that the most important factor in triggering growth is the desire and motivation to grow. Has the North East got enough entrepreneurs with real growth ambition?

What came across powerfully was that creating more start-ups is not the sole answer to generating a more vibrant economy. There is a clear distinction between being an entrepreneur and being self-employed. In the North East we may have lost sight of this distinction. There is a need to make a policy shift to put more emphasis on scale-ups.

The North East LEP is facilitating a follow-up to this event and is working with local business people and academics to gauge a way forward. I can’t wait to find out more and I believe more is on the way from the North East LEP. The future is definitely scale-ups.

A scale-up is an entrepreneurial business that wants to grow fast and profitably. Are you such a business?

Roy Stanley, North East Entrepreneur

In conversation with Colin Bell, Business Growth Director: Leading your business through the different phases of growth

Colin Bell, Business Growth Director, discusses how to lead your business through different phases of growth.

At the North East LEP, our business growth programme exists to make sure that people have access to the support and finance required to start and grow a business. It’s therefore important that support is targeted at the common challenges faced when transitioning from one stage of growth to the next. Each transition tends to change the businesses structure, complexity, and what’s required from leaders as well as throwing up a multitude of challenges that risk destabilising the business and stalling growth.

So what are the main phases of growth and associated challenges?

Phase 1: Birth – the owner does everything!

You are the leader, you are the sales person, the receptionist, the technical specialist, the operations manager… are the business, it’s an extension of you! As the business’s major resource, you are working incredibly long hours, and family and hobbies feel like a distant memory. Generating a predictable cash flow to recruit additional resources is the short-term issue.

The major challenges include:

  • Defining your market and ideal customers
  • Generating enough cash to feed and develop the business
  • Coping with operational disorder and chaos
  • Maintaining the required levels of energy and tenacity
  • Attracting talent with limited resources.

Phase 2: Development – making the shift from manager to leader

Your business is in lift off; the orders are rolling in, you markets and customers are more defined, you’re utilising 110% of your resources but cash is beginning to build and a management team has begun to form. The business’s operations have become less reliant on your day to day involvement.
The major challenges include:

  • Maintaining the levels of energy required to grow the business
  • Motivating and aligning people’s efforts on the vital few things that will achieve the business’ goals
  • Developing the systems and processes required to consistently deliver your value proposition and control growth
  • Generating or raising enough cash to invest in the businesses development.
  • Identifying, attracting, recruiting and developing talent
  • Developing the trust, capability and confidence in people to empower them to own and take account for parts of the business
  • Developing the competence in others to sell – vital to breaking through to the growth phase.

Phase 3: Growth – becoming a leader!

The business has begun to get real traction, you’re attracting some great customers and employees and are known within the industry and things are feeling a little more stable. Stability, however, can result in a loss of the restlessness and entrepreneurialism that’s got the business to this point.
The major challenges include:

  • Developing the leadership capability required to take the business to its next level
  • Reigniting your entrepreneurial spark and reconnecting with your vision and purpose
  • Packing your business full of the talented people needed to deliver growth
  • Providing the opportunities for talented people to grow their career within the business
  • Making sure that the business’ systems and operations continue to deliver the value proposition
  • Having visibility of and understanding what causes either good or bad performance
  • Nurturing, enhancing and maintaining the businesses culture, value and purpose.

Phase 4: Expansion – Mastering Leadership

Your business has been successful, you’ve expanded geographically, perhaps made a few acquisitions, but it’s likely that your market is becoming more crowded and competitors are approaching your customers and your staff. Growth requires something new to differentiate from the competition and to retain profitability. It’s time to break the mould and rewrite the rules of competition creating a culture capable of developing and executing the ideas that will disrupt the market.

  • Developing a culture capable of generating and moving forward the new ideas that will fuel your next growth curve
  • Breaking down the silo mentality and sub cultures that has formed over time
  • Communicating and having presence across a larger business
  • Keeping people aligned to the businesses vision and goals and living the businesses values and purpose
  • Developing effective governance and keeping an increasingly complex group of stakeholders happy.

To find out what support and finance is available to support your growth then please visit

Free digital technology programme launched to help North East businesses grow

Businesses in the North East can now access a free digital technology programme thanks to a new initiative from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP).

The programme, aimed at SMEs, will focus on utilising technology to promote business growth and expansion.

Growth through Digital Technology is a partnership between the North East LEP and some of the technology sector’s biggest names including Microsoft, BT, Google, Uber and Nominet. Local partners including Federation of Small Businesses, Asian Business Connexions, Sunderland Software City, Digital Skills Academy and the Department for International Trade are also supporting the initiative.

The first event on Thursday 24 November – delivered by BT in association with Uber and the SME Centre of Excellence – will focus on using technology to deliver faster and more profitable growth. Speakers include Mike Jones, an entrepreneur with a number of small businesses, formerly founding MD of BT Local Business, a BT division serving over one million SME customers; and Senior Operations Manager at Uber UK, Gemma Bloemen.

Colin Bell, Business Growth Director at the North East LEP said: “We’ve teamed up with organisations including FSB, BT and Nominet to help small to medium sized businesses in the North East LEP area use digital technology to scale up.

“Our series of free masterclasses and seminars will cover everything from selling online to attracting new customers. We’ll also be looking at how digital technology can be used to control costs and finances, as well as build long-term business resilience.

“We’ll be helping businesses access free advice from experts in the field so they can draft and implement a digital strategy that works for their business.”

Chris Yiu, General Manager at Uber, added, “We’re really excited to be involved with the North East LEP. There is a fantastic tech scene here in the North East and we really want to play a role in making it a leading tech hub.”

Designed for businesses looking to expand their digital presence and use new technology to grow their operation, Growth through Digital Technology will provide SMEs in the region access to expert help as well as supporting tools and techniques via business support platform, the North East Growth Hub (

In addition to the series of free masterclasses and seminars, funding to support businesses in developing a digital technology action plan has been secured via Northumberland-based enterprise agency NBSL and the North East Business Support Fund.

Colin continued: “This is a fantastic programme and one that many businesses could really benefit from. Research has shown that organisations that adopt digital technology grow faster and enjoy higher growth profits. That’s something we want more companies in the North East to achieve.”

Some of the free masterclasses businesses can sign up to include; ‘Attracting customers with killer content’, ‘Using the cloud to manage operations and mange performance’ and ‘Using digital technology to trade internationally’.

The programme’s first event, ‘Delivering faster and more profitable growth’, takes place on Thursday 24 November.

Award winning firm finds space to grow

Sunderland-based interior design and architectural company Space ID has expanded at the North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC).

The award winning company, founded in 2008 to provide design services across the UK for the hotel, bar and restaurant sectors, has gone from strength to strength and has recently taken additional space within the BIC to accommodate their recent growth.

The three Directors of the company, Mike Simmons, Marc Hardy and Phill Young have pushed the company forward since the initial set up by bringing together their individual skill sets to provide a comprehensive design service to their clients. The team covers all areas of design from initial concepts, 3D visuals, site surveys and local authority applications through to full design packages and on site design management to realise their client’s projects and aspirations.

Director Phill Young explains: “The market has greatly improved within the construction sector and we have taken this upturn as an opportunity to expand.”

“We have a range of new projects in various stages of design and construction at present situated around the UK and are taking briefings on future works.

“Having recently recruited two interior designers and with plans for a possible further two members of staff in the future, the extra space was not only needed to accommodate the expanding team but will also help us to maintain our links with Local Universities.

“We teamed up with the University student placement scheme which allows the next generation of design talent to gain hands on experience within a design company. In fact, one of our newest team members originally came to us on a placement from Teesside University.”

Phill continues: “The BIC is the ideal environment for businesses just starting out and needing incubation space, but it also has room for growth. With flexible lease terms and on-site business support, companies like ourselves can plan their expansion wisely.

“The Jupiter Centre suits our business needs, and the location is perfect not just for ourselves but for clients travelling from all over the UK. Being based just off the A19 and slightly outside of the city centre is very convenient and there is more than enough car parking space. We can also see the benefits and opportunities that the new bridge will bring once complete.

“Moving offices couldn’t have been easier, the BIC staff were brilliant and the IT and telephone systems were set up immediately, so we were never without access.”

Donna Surtees, centre manager at the BIC commented: “Here at the BIC we pride ourselves on nurturing business success whatever the sector or size here in the North East.

“We are delighted to provide a dynamic and supportive environment to accommodate the growth of Space ID. I wish them the very best in their new office and with their plans for further expansion.”

For more information on Space ID check out their website, look them up on Facebook or alternatively, contact them directly on 0191 516 6832

For more information on Space at the BIC contact the team on 0191 516 6066


Businesses invited to put their head in the cloud

Businesses in the region are being invited to join a free workshop with leading technology firm techUK to learn how to implement cloud computing in their organisations.

Delivered in partnership with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP) and Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), the SME Cloud Clinic takes place on Thursday 20 October at Newcastle College.

Designed to provide SMEs with an introduction to the benefits of cloud computing, the event features a panel of expert speakers and the opportunity to meet with cloud computing service providers.

Colin Bell, Business Growth Director at the North East LEP said: “Cloud computing is an increasingly popular way for businesses to operate thanks to the flexibility and mobility it provides.

“This course is part of techUK’s popular Cloud Business Guide for Business Leaders that provides help and support to organisations looking to implement cloud computing.

“Operating in the cloud has shown to improve business efficiency and encourage greater scalability; something we’d like to see businesses across the North East benefit from.”

Cloud computing has grown in popularity in recent years as more and more businesses take advantage of using the internet to access files, data and programs, rather than a traditional hard drive.

Speakers at the event include David Aspindle, Head of Sales and Marketing at MDS Technologies, Jeremy Lilley, Programme Manager Cloud, Big Data & Analytics at techUK and Richard Stinton, EMEA Solutions Architect at iland Cloud Services Provider.

A free copy of techUK’s Cloud Business Guide for Business Leaders will be available to all attendees.

techUK’s Newcastle SME Cloud Clinic takes place at Newcastle College from 08:00-10:00 on Thursday 20 October. Places are free but must be booked in advance from

For more information about techUK, visit