In December 2014, Santander commissioned two Enterprising Women Level 3 Growth Programmes in order to extend the impact of previous pilot programmes to more women around the country.
The Programme, hosted in London and Nottingham were specifically designed for women turning over at least £500,000, and combined two days of strategic business development, one day of personal development and leadership and two half-day sessions on finance and leadership: ideal preparation for ‘Breakthrough-level’ female business owners.
We received well over 100 applications to participate in the Programme, and exceeded target numbers for final registration, accepting 17 women on the London programme and 16 in Nottingham. Women travelled from as far afield as Lancashire, Stonehenge, Cornwall, Cardiff, Edinburgh, North Yorkshire and Glasgow for the training, proving the wealth of ambition, and the need for more regional programmes in 2015.
The UK is a nation of micro and small businesses. 96% of all SMEs employ less than 9 people, 75% are sole traders, and women are at best only one fifth, with the majority of women-owned businesses at pre-VAT and micro level.
We reached across this spectrum to engage our clients. Our participants came from all different sectors and included both B2B and B2C businesses, and there was a good spread of businesses sizes represented. Most businesses (42%) employed between six and ten people, which was expected given the criteria of turnover for the programme. The second highest number of employees was over 21 people (23%) and also between two and five people (23%). With this number of staff a major HR challenge for the group was how to delegate effectively, how to trust and how to recruit the right people for the job.
We collect a combination of both qualitative and quantitative data from all participants in order to effectively assess the impact of our programmes and as part of our commitment to ongoing improvement and development. Overall, women reported substantial improvements across the board in their knowledge, skills and plans, and we were delighted to see so many respond “a lot” or “transformed” in particular areas. It is from the qualitative feedback where a richer understanding of the impact and learning from the course can be identified, and below are some of the comments made by participants on their feedback sheets:
“Very detailed information given, good balance of input and opportunity for discussion. Lots to think about and even more to go away and do.”
“As always, the opportunity to step outside the business, and focus on the growth of my business has been hugely beneficial. Bev Hurley is really inspirational and motivating.”
“It has been great to meet other businesswomen and learn that many of our barriers to growth are similar.”
“I’m working with a consultant at the same time as undertaking these sessions, and the two combined are exactly what I feel will be required to take my business to the next level.”
“We are now taking on an apprentice with the sole aim of freeing up time so that I can focus on growing the business.”
“The best part of the course is learning from and sharing with others – knowing we have similar issues. Being treated as proper companies and serious business people by Santander!”