High demand for funded programme to steer Cumbria’s SMEs through future storms

Demand for a new Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) programme designed to help businesses prepare for an uncertain future has been so high, another cohort will be starting at the beginning of 2021.

The new ‘Business Model Innovation’ programme, running as part of Cumbria Forum, helps businesses explore their business models so they are prepared to flex and adapt to future disruption or crises. Large numbers of SMEs signed up to the fully-funded programme which began last month, and participants are already finding it worthwhile.

Ewan Pullan, Project Manager at Lancaster University Management School, said: “LUMS has been working with businesses large and small since the pandemic first began, so our experts were perfectly placed to create a tailor-made programme that responds to live, pertinent issues affecting so many small and medium sized businesses.

“Being agile and resilient isn’t always easy – and in a small business, managers can be so focused on the day-to-day that future planning and preparedness take a back seat. I’m delighted that participants who have signed up are already finding this a great investment of their time. It is a unique opportunity for business leaders to take advantage of the guidance, time out and headspace to assess their activities and plan for innovative business models they can flex, which can be vital for future stability.”

The first cohort of Cumbrian SMEs started in November and are half way through the online programme – run as three half-day sessions. Participants actively take part in workshops and cover topics such as identifying changing customer needs in the ‘new normal’, how to innovate to create new workable business models and how to build resilience to ensure businesses can withstand external forces. All this takes place in a safe and trusted peer learning environment to provide stimulus and challenge from like-minded business leaders.

Adam Pearson, Director of Adamedia Ltd – a video production company based in Whitehaven – is one of the participants part way through the programme. He said: “I signed up because working in a very small business can give you an overly linear perspective on things, so an opportunity for professional independent business advice, whilst also mixing with a range of other complementary businesses, sounded like a great way to broaden my experience.

“The programme has been neatly split into three half-day sessions – something I was able to confidently commit to in my diary. The programme has allowed me time to step back and reflect on the business – giving headspace to perhaps rethink how we approach certain aspects of our service offering, and also seed the idea of exploring potential new revenue streams. It has certainly been beneficial so far.”

Suzanne Caldwell, Deputy Chief Executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, the lead partner in Cumbria Business Growth Hub, said: “The feedback from the first businesses to join the programme is very encouraging.

“The disruption and damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which nobody saw coming, underlines the importance of having systems and processes in place that allow your business to cope with the unexpected. This programme enables SMEs to become more resilient so they’re in a much stronger position to ride out the next crisis, whatever that may be.

“Taking time out of the day-to-day running of your business to plan for future challenges is time well spent.”

The programme, delivered as part of Cumbria Growth Hub, is fully-funded, and available to European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) eligible businesses. The next cohort will begin on 28th January 2021. SME directors or owner-managers based in Cumbria who employ three or more members of staff are encouraged to register interest via www.lancaster.ac.uk/lums/bmi or contact bmi@lancaster.ac.uk

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