Photographer and founder of Fisher Studios, David Fisher, talks to us about how OxLEP Skills for Business has helped him and his business.
I received a discretionary grant from Oxford City Council which was administered by OxLEP, who also invited me to fill in a simple online form which resulted in them preparing for me a Personal Support Plan. The plan offered a range of business support opportunities including free 1:1 advice with a business advisor and the Skills for Business programme, both of which I immediately engaged.
Initially, I had a meeting via Zoom with OxLEP Business Skills consultant Kate Pullen. Kate got a sense of where my business was and what I needed - from this she was able to send me a training and development report which included a huge range of resources and materials plus signposting to other places I might find some useful help.
It was also hugely beneficial to have someone saying ‘if these are your goals, these are the skills you need’ and for me, leadership was where I needed to start, so I completed a six-week leadership and management course with Coursera.
The course was great because unlike reading a book which is generally one person’s opinion, it included modern, historic and multiple aspects on the subject. Studying a subject is so different from reading a book. Skills for Business also have lots of free webinars on all sorts of subjects, which are definitely worth an hour of your time. My feeling is that certainly for business severely impacted by COVID the best thing you can do is take advantage of this time and work on how you can improve your business because you were too busy to do so before, now is a perfect time.
Engaging with Skills for Business solves the big problem of 'where do you start?' You need some kind of framework or impetus to look at how you could be improving your business and planning for growth, or just a return to normal. It helps to have someone nipping at your heels and signposting you towards what would be helpful for you specifically.
I went from feeling unsure as to what I was doing to feeling much clearer about how to move forward. One of the key outcomes for me was the decision to take on a new staff member. I had deliberated for years as to whether it was the right thing, the right time, would history repeat itself… but I felt confident to make the move to recruit. Skills for Business had materials on the interview process and also the leadership and management course had given me a lot more information and helped to make it an impartial process.
I now have a new production manager, who I recruited during the pandemic and despite the current situation, I have never been more excited about having an employee and the future of the business.
In these challenging times, I think business owners need to keep on top of things mentally. It’s only temporary and I for one, want my business to be in a strong position when we come out of lockdown and COVID-19. I think it will be a challenging market place and only the best will survive.
There is no catch, there are lots of opportunities for businesses out there. OxLEP is a local enterprise supported by the government to support local business. It’s not trying to sell you anything, it’s trying to help.
Small business are the lifeblood of the country and OxLEP is part of the infrastructure to support those businesses with more than just cash. It seems to me that Skills for Business is of more value to businesses beyond a shot of cash because it supports in a different way and is available to all small businesses. It helps business owners get to grips with the potential of their teams and put plans in place for the future. Business owners need emotional support as they’re affected in all sorts of ways, as are their staff, and mentoring, training and the services OxLEP offers are all designed to support.
If a business owner is not continually working to improve their business they may as well just get a job and go to work. I would recommend that you contact OxLEP to see what support they can offer you, whether it is specifically Skills for Business or not, take that leap of faith and give them a try – your business will only benefit as we have all got to stay ahead of the game.