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Skilling up for business growth

What happens when you align staff development to your long-term growth strategy? DBA member, Uniform, did just that three years ago and have since doubled in size.

As the saying goes, “you get out what you put in” – but this assumes you know what you are putting in, and you understand what you will get out.

This can often be a barrier when it comes to training investment: in reality the ‘out’ can far outweigh the ‘in’, yet still the training budget line can be one of the first to be cut when times are tough, with businesses struggling to justify the costs in the short term, rather than looking at the longer-term implications on, and opportunities for, their agency.

But what can happen when you take the opposite approach, and align staff development to your long-term growth strategy?

Uniform, a Liverpool based agency and DBA member, took this approach in 2013 with a Management Development Programme. At the time the agency’s staff numbers were hovering in the late twenties and their turnover was just over £2million. Uniform felt that in order for the agency to grow to the next level the senior team needed to be developed into a management team who would support the Board, drive operational excellence and develop a succession plan.

Having gone through a needs analysis of the business it became clear which areas needed more support, and which members of staff needed specific training, and in what areas. A 12 month programme of learning was developed combining internal shared learning, external consultants, bespoke learning modules plus identifying specific courses such as those run by the DBA, that staff would most benefit from. Learning areas and outcomes were catalogued so that learning modules could be matched against them to ensure that every part was covered.

Now, three years on, Uniform are over 50 strong, with revenues in excess of £3.5million and with a second office opened in London. Nick Howe, co-founder and MD of Uniform says, “It was critical that we supported our senior team in their development as they moved into more managerial and leadership roles. Planning a bespoke professional development programme over a 12 month period with a mix of internal and external training was key to this, and helped ensure our investment paid off for both Uniform and the individuals involved.”

From tailored internal mentoring, to identifying external courses every learning area was closely matched to outcomes and aligned to the four key areas of their business strategy – client service, creativity, operations and business performance.

Success measures were built into the plan and included improvements in overall business performance (financial and non financial measures), development and growth of key clients, and improvements in staff satisfaction. With the team sized doubled, and turnover having soared no one would deny that Uniform’s development plan has been a huge success. A structured approach – like they took – to assessing the needs of the business, enables goals to be set and measured, instilling greater confidence in development investment by focusing in on the expected returns.

Business growth does just happen; if you rely purely on ‘doing great work’ you may get more clients, and they may be more profitable, but to underpin this you need to develop the skills within your agency to effectively manage the increasing quantity and size of clients, to address issues and opportunities that come with this growth, and to prepare for the complexities that arise from being a larger business.

Building your business from the bottom up through a structured development programme such as Uniform’s, allows you to understand your strengths and weaknesses and address them in a coherent manner by investing in the right places. By better understanding the ‘in’ in your training investment, you’ll maximise the opportunity for the ‘out’ results to be far reaching for your business in driving long-term growth.

About: Adam Fennelow

Adam Fennelow is Head of Services at the DBA.

For more information on DBA membership click here.

Image credits: © Evgeny Karandaev


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