With many workers from businesses right across Oxfordshire using August to rest and reenergise ahead of a busy autumn, the county’s Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) are encouraging business leaders to make the most of the potentially ‘calmer’ period and plan for future ambitions.
OxLEP Business – who operate as the growth hub for Oxfordshire – are reaching out to business bosses to highlight how the summer months offer a real opportunity to take a step back from day-to-day operations, gain some much-needed rest, as well as organising and shaping future activity.
And although it might not be the ideal time for every single sector, OxLEP Business believes that the opportunity to find space to plan – in an otherwise often busy business calendar – is right for many.
OxLEP Business’ last impact report – which broadly looked at the impact delivered by the organisation in the 24 months post-pandemic – also gauged via its online business support tool what ‘needs’ businesses were highlighting as challenges.
The most common areas included; a need to grow customer bases, improve communication and marketing activity, as well as the requirement to upskill or expand a workforce.
Other areas highlighted was the need to develop a growth-focused business plan, guidance on how to launch a new product to market effectively and improving the access to finance to support business ambitions.
With that in mind, OxLEP Business hopes it can encourage leaders to use the summer break as a time to rest, reflect and focus on building plans for the future.
Helen Brind – Growth Hub Manager at OxLEP – said: “We are all guilty of thinking too much about ‘the now’ and not taking a step back to look at the future properly.
“Downtimes really do offer, particularly for SME leaders, the opportunity to take a step away and think about their own wellbeing and colleagues’ wellbeing, as well as use the time well to plan for the future.
“Good planning can help you to make your business more resilient. Having an up-to-date and well thought-through business plan can decrease the chance of major challenges occurring and – more excitingly perhaps – ensure that you can outline the steps you need to take to get your business where you want it to be.
“We encourage business leaders to think about this approach and, if we can support with this process too via our online business support tool – which leads to a bespoke action plan created for each organisation – then we are only too happy to help.”
Though planning during quieter periods is key for many businesses, OxLEP Business are also keen to remind leaders to think about themselves.
Helen added: “Rest is important for business leaders, so – that they too – feel refreshed and ready to take on the new challenges that lie ahead.
“Business planning is of course key and given that August is a quieter time for many means it’s a good time to do this – however, it’s also important for leaders to benefit from much-needed rest during less busy periods.
“Striking a balance between future planning and relaxation is important.”
OxLEP Business aims to simplify the business support landscape in Oxfordshire and help individuals and businesses to easily connect.
It does this by providing specific business support programmes for organisations that are starting out, growing, have a purpose beyond profit or are innovating, diversifying or pivoting their business.
And with many organisations still finding their feet following the pandemic, OxLEP Business believes it is ongoing programme of activity will be well-positioned to support Oxfordshire-based businesses of all shapes and sizes to achieve their future goals and aspirations.
Helen said: “Between April 2021 and March 2022, we provided over 6,000 hours of business support – valued at over £3,500,000 – with 388 jobs safeguarded or created through our engagement with a variety of businesses.
“Our role is very real and important to many organisations. At a time where businesses, not just in Oxfordshire, but across the country are seeking support to help their continued recovery from the effects of Covid-19, alongside the ongoing financial challenges brought to the fore by inflation and the cost of living, the role of growth hubs – including that of OxLEP Business – has never been more critical.
“We encourage leaders to head to our website and take a look at the webinars, networking opportunities and ongoing programme of support. We are certain that we can support many more businesses in the county to be the best they can be.”
OxLEP Business has an array of webinars taking place during August and September, as well as a number of ongoing sessions throughout the autumn including a new start-up club for early stage organisations, a ‘foundations to growth’ network and a women in leadership group.