November 17, 2014, by Kelly Cookson
My experience of the Growth 100 programme
Guest blog by Aaron Dicks, MD of Impression Digital.
When I launched Impression in November 2012 I knew just two things for certain; Nottingham was in need of a high-quality, good value digital marketing agency and that myself and my co-founder Tom Craig were the two people to bring it to market.
Beyond that, starting a business from scratch with no savings or investments, and no previous management experience proved to be a big learning curve. Despite this, I was determined to put in place all of the best practice processes and systems from the start that could be scalable as the company grew.
So when I came across the application form for Nottingham University Business School’s Growth 100 programme last summer, I saw it as a great opportunity for me to develop and mature as a business owner as the business itself was maturing also.
As it turned out, the programme came along at a vital moment in the company’s growth.
We were just moving from a part-time to full-time business and I had just taken the plunge and left my previous job. It was a critical moment in the growth of the business and also for me, just eight months out of university.
So having monthly mentoring sessions on topics such as management, finance, marketing and consumer behaviour through Growth 100 helped me to manage this change.
A big draw for me was the fact I wouldn’t have to take too much time out of work in a short period. If it had been more intensive than a full day each month, I would have struggled to justify it in the early stages of a company.
The organisers really seemed to appreciate how, for small business owners, work doesn’t stop just because they’ve taken a day out.
When I began the programme the business was based at home – now we have a new office in the Creative Quarter and a growing team of full-time employees. This growth has been fast and sustainable largely thanks to the lessons I’ve learned from the programme along the way.
It taught me how to step back from the day-to-day delivery for clients or ambitious business planning we all do at the start and, instead, analyse where we really were right then. It allowed us to carefully consider what steps we needed to take in order to become an established and respected agency.
I felt challenged on a monthly basis, being held to account to work hard within the structure of the course to develop business models that are then critiqued by other small business owners with whom I was working as part of a team. We all helped each other with shared knowledge and experiences because we all wanted to get similar things out of it.
Most importantly though, it’s shown me how we can be sustainable in our growth, from servicing clients through to effectively managing cash flow. How we can strike the right balance between growing too fast and not growing at all. This has been the biggest lesson from Growth 100 I will take away with me. I’d definitely recommend it to any business just starting out.