Richard Jeffery of The Growth Company talks to BQ about the importance of choosing work that lights you up, active listening and being a yoga convert.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
Having started my career in business consultancy, I learnt about a wide range of ways to enable growth within businesses in multiple global market places. I saw many firms in international markets creating new products, disrupting supply chains and making big investments. But too many of our clients in the UK were not capturing the benefits of new innovations and emerging global markets. Having been born, raised and educated in the north I developed a passion to maximise the economic potential of the region I grew up in. I shifted my focus to ensuring that business leaders and companies across the north could achieve their full potential.
After working for the regional development agency, I launched GC Business Growth Hub in 2011, and have since developed the organisation into a multi-service operation forming partnerships with both public and private partners. We now offer support to SMEs across Greater Manchester and beyond, including access to finance, strategy and innovation advice, general business enquiries and international growth opportunities.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Having a clear vision that inspires people, that they can to get behind and commit to, is central to being a good leader. It is important that staff, clients, partners and the broader community can really buy into what you are trying to achieve. It is also really important to be able to adapt quickly as market and partner expectations change. To support that, it is essential to help teams build their resilience and adaptability.
What has been the biggest challenge in your current position?
For me, the biggest challenge lies in getting the initial buy-in from partners – particularly when your ideas go against the current zeitgeist. I encountered a lot of scepticism when I started GC Business Growth Hub in 2011, during the height of the recession, and experienced similar questions when launching our Global Scale-up Programme in the month that Brexit was due to take place. However, it is in times of uncertainty where innovative businesses flourish, so now really is the time to take advantage of the multiple opportunities across global markets.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I’ve been converted to yoga. Whilst I thought I’d be the last person to get involved when we set up a yoga group at The Growth Company two years ago, I’ve really got addicted to it! Outside of the office, I’m a keen runner, and also keep myself busy with my kids and going to gigs.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always used to love going for walks and bike rides in the Peak District when I was younger, so I used to think that being a park ranger wouldn’t have been a bad job!
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
I think it is really important to ensure we actively listen and engage when we have face-to-face time - it is so easy to be distracted by the multitude of devices we all carry. Since our move to an agile environment; being completely without assigned desks means we don’t get as much time together as we used to, so when you do gather together it is really important to actively engage and focus on what is being said.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
I want the business to be increasingly operating on a wider geography. For The Growth Company as a whole, that means working nationally to deliver schemes and provide funding for growth to SMEs across the country. In terms of the Global Scale-up Programme, our vision is to get a proven track record of helping businesses from across the Northern Powerhouse geographies achieve international success. We want to create advocates from a series of outstanding cohorts, and build deep, meaningful partnerships with a range of overseas markets.
What advice would you give to any aspiring business leader?
Look globally for opportunities and inspiration.
Take the very best advice you can find.
Set a vision and continue to keep the belief in your own abilities as you work towards it; not everything will work but if your vision is right you’ll find a way through.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
I’ve always had mentors from a very early stage, and the best advice I’ve ever received is to always do something that lights you up. I find that too often, people do things that they feel they should do, rather than what they want to do. Having a job that you genuinely enjoy enthuses you and makes you more motivated to work, and hopefully then lights up those around you.
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