Help to Grow: Management Course | Kingston University

Leading by changing the rules of the games

In the quest to create new wealth, world top businesses  have applied unconventional strategies and innovative approaches. This would not have been possible without questioning the existing business strategy frameworks and radically changing the basis of their competition in their industries.

But what motivates a leadership team to get on a strategic transformation in the first place?

For some businesses, it is a threat from a disruptive competitor or environment such as Covid-19 and sometimes, businesses get on the bandwagon of global megatrends – one of those roadblocks when you are forced into a certain direction to survive.

However, strategic thinking and systematic planning for the future are perhaps one of the most imperative driving forces for wealthy companies why they introduce a core business to disruptive transformations while paving a path for new growth. It is surely an uncomfortable place for a business and its people to be  in but it is also the most fertile.

In order to better understand the transformations and the derivatives behind them, the Innosight research team came up with a methodology to evaluate strategic change efforts. In their research, they aimed towards the best practices across industries instead of being blindfolded by the metrics such as market value, revenue, or subjective and generic assessments such as ‘most innovative’. They name 3 methodologies to determine the legitimacy of innovation and transformation a business has achieved.

The first of them is New growth. Investigating quantifiable growth and questioning, has the business achieved measurable success at creating new products, services, markets and new business models? Using their primary metric which is the percentages of revenue outside the core, they look at the percent of revenue that falls out of their existing core growth areas.

Second of that is Repositioning the core. As the title suggests, it is to investigate whether the transformation reflecting from what the numbers has come from the applied change or is it still stinking old? An important question, how effectively the company transformed its old and core into a disrupted and new.

Lastly, Financials. If the numbers are not proposing the new growth, we may have a problem there in the long run if not the short. Has the return rate been reflected in the new areas? What is their market performance?  Have losses been recovered? Is it on a slow growth to revive the business? How are their new products or services performing on their balance sheet?

What questions are you asking?

Leveraging Early Adopters for New Product or Service

As a small business owner, launching a new business product or service, you’ll face plenty of challenges – especially when you’re introducing something entirely novel without existing competition. It takes considerable time and resources to build a superior offering from the ground up. But one critical piece that can help fuel your initial growth is securing those first few customers.

While acquiring any customers is difficult at first, those pioneers provide value far beyond just revenue. Here are three key reasons why cultivating strong relationships with your early adopters is so vital:

Word-of-Mouth Multiplier

Your first customers may not have other options, which makes them more likely to try your new solution. But even better, if they have a positive experience, they’ll naturally discuss it with their friends, colleagues and networks. This is how hugely successful startups like Etsy and Uber gained traction – through organic sharing from satisfied early users. Don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth referrals during your bootstrapped days.

Insightful User Feedback

There’s a reason these initial users were drawn to an unproven product – they likely weren’t fully satisfied with existing alternatives. Rather than just taking their money, work closely with these early adopters to understand their pain points, goals and perspectives. Support them, listen to their needs, and help them get maximum value from your offering. Why? They’ll reciprocate by providing invaluable feedback on what’s working well, areas for improvement, and ideas for new features. This kind of user research would normally require paying for focus groups and consultants.

Free Product Support & Training

Some SMEs creatively employ their first customers for tasks you’d traditionally hire staff for, like product support and training.  Your earliest fans are usually enthusiastic evangelists who happily wear multiple hats to contribute to your success.

The investment to nurture your first customers is well worth the effort. Not only do they provide critical early revenue, but their word-of-mouth reach, user insights, and hands-on assistance can push your start-up forward faster with limited resources. If you play your cards right, it’s like getting free marketing, R&D, and customer service all rolled into one. Embrace the power of your pioneering patrons.

To learn more about how to grow your business with our Help to Grow Management Programme:

Help to Grow: Management Completion Ceremony 2024

Help to Grow Management course is a 90% government-funded leadership growth programme for SME leaders, delivered by industry experts at Kingston University Business School.

On 27th March, as the sun sat on another year of business growth, it was time for us to gather and celebrate the remarkable achievements of our graduating cohorts of Year 3 Help to Grow: Management Course. This completion ceremony wasn’t just a symbolic gesture; it’s a testament to the commitment, hard work, and growth each SME leader has exhibited throughout their journey.


Following the musical welcome by Yao and Mihkel, Dr. Bahare Afrahi, Director Help to Grow Management at Kingston University and founder of Innovation Playground Kingston University Business Training, welcomed everyone. Dr. Afrahi gave a moving speech acknowledging the commitment of each SME leader and reiterated the importance of a strategic and innovative approach to growth. She also shared her views on innovative thinking and reminded of life as a pie to measure the quality of a life – if one section gets bigger, the others shrink.

Soon after the welcome speech, Help to Grow Speakers, Glenn Bowering and Juan L Soon joined Dr. Afrahi and handed out certificates to graduating SME leaders from a diverse background.

Among the graduating SME leaders, were Jennifer Walker, who is the Head of Growth at Bandstand and Tamsyn Jefferson-Harvey who runs a Business Accountancy Business joined by Jess Guard, Steve Bushill, Saša Gostić, Natalja Petkune, Conor Bath and many others. Graduating participants commented how the Alumni network, 1.2.1 business mentoring and networking opportunities make Help to Grow Management a unique knowledge exchange programme and bring invaluable support to SME leaders to last a lifetime.

Paula Middleton, Executive Consultant at Centre for Political & Diplomatic Studies Ltd, and Help to Grow Alumni, also attended and received a certificate on behalf of her colleague Marketta Brennan. Paula shared how this leadership management course has transformed her business growth. She highlighted how the applied learning of strategic innovation from Help to Grow has driven the success of CPDS.

Ahead of the networking event, Andrei Ceteras, our Help to Grow Alumni, founder and director of Medukcare spoke about the impact of Help to Grow Management on his domiciliary care business and shared a valuable insight on his business growth journey. He commended how the valuable knowledge of Kingston University speakers that helped transform his business post-covid and increased it revenue by 250% in 1 year.


To register for May cohort:


Kingston Business School, Kingston University | Small Business Charter

The art of noticing in a business world

Billy Beane, a baseball executive, who found remarkable success by bringing an unusual approach to winning baseball games. Wondered how he came up with his unconventional strategy to baseball team management that transformed the way baseball game world traditionally worked?

By paying attention to data analytics that others ignored.

To be able to lead a business using innovative approach requires one to become a ‘first-class noticer” as what Saul Bellow calls one – someone who disrupts the maddening circulation of business affair. Noticing is a vital skill for a business leader not to be consumed by the workings of running a business or leading a team. It is then, you experience what is already in front of you. It is then you are able to notice which previously seemed invisible and therefore a great possibility unattained.

So how can a business leader or a manager inculcate this art of noticing in their everyday business practices?

1- Listen deeply. You have an idea that you are sure of its success? Looking and listening is perhaps a first way forward. Listen to what others have to say, listen to what others have said about it before, listen to what hasn’t been said. Are you listening?

2- Be ready to fail. It is understandable to protect one’s business and one’s own credibility as a leader, but it is also a way to never succeed in areas you possibly could. Make allowances for innovation in your processes. Ideas you thought might not work, give them a chance.

3- Empathise. A problem that is not yours, put yourself at the front of it. How would you resolve it? A problem that is yours, how do you think others will resolve it? Remove your biases that come in the way to approach any problem.

Inculcating a habit of noticing, will connect you with unmatched possibilities, with right people who would become your rock and with a business that has an ability to navigate in difficult times.

To get more support on how to grow a business that is both stronger and sustainable, find out here:  (

How do the Best Business Leaders drive Innovation?

Have you ever wondered why an old-school, power-driven, leadership style is no longer effective in an AI-focused, complex, and cross-functional business world? And why something that has previously sustained business leadership and management for centuries has no relevance in the current and ever-changing economic climate?

Because it deters innovation.

It creates one-dimensional vision in a multi-facetted complex world.

It takes the power away from people to co-create the business with you.

The top business and management experts who understand the critical nature of innovation in business has named 3 specific roles required to lead innovatively referred in a Podcast on Harvard Business Review. If you miss applying these 3 roles towards leading your team or a project through and through, it can be detrimental for your organisation to innovate or to bring the agility that your
project needs.

The three roles known to be climacteric in leading a business requires innovating – Innovating the ways a business is strategised, innovating the ways it understands and positions its customer value proposition and innovating the ways a business inculcate its culture for the people who work for the business as well as the people the business works for.

First of them is to be an Architect – building a culture and capabilities for people who would be able to collaborate, experiment and grow in-line with your mission and vision, says Linda A Hill, an American ethnographer and business leadership expert.

She then goes on to introduce Bridger as a second leadership role a business leader needs to take on. What she means by Bridger is to get out of your organisation to create partnerships with external talents, tools, and resources. This will enable you to outsource specialised resources to deliver your project beyond your limited capacity. This in result will bridge the gap between you and unlimited business opportunities you may have missed by staying in your box and build multitudes of business communities.

Lastly yet unequivocally important is to become a Catalyst. And what it means to be catalyst as a business leader is to then really reap the benefits of designing the culture and capabilities and bridging the gap by co-creating the business capabilities on a larger canvas of eco-system. What this says is to use the trust and influence we have built to accelerate new organisation units without having a formal authority but mutual empathy, growth and real connections.

To lead your business innovatively, the Help to Grow Management course at Kingston University is a great way to develop an in-depth understanding of Strategy and Innovation.

Manifesting and your Business Success

I’m hearing manifesting increasingly often in small business terms. While I’m not convinced by the law of attraction, the idea of having a positive and repetitive belief about your vision and actions is something that could be of great value to you and your business.

I follow Mel Robbins and her podcasts and in one she discusses exactly this type of manifesting, she describes it as training your brain to believe in something that hasn’t happened yet. It’s a technique I’ve seen used in athletes – think back to try conversions in rugby and the kicker visualising the ball going through the posts before actually kicking it. You are literally training your brain to believe it’s happening and to take the action. David Hamilton in his book “Why Woo-Woo Works” also discusses this brain training and how visualisation impacts brain networks and shapes them to match this vision.

This vision should be realistic and align to your core values and with continued affirmative repetition helps that brain training to make positives actions and behaviours towards the vision. If you’ve taken one of our courses, you will be well aware that vision and values are central to our business training. So can you harness the power of manifesting personally and with your team to realise your business success?

Both Mel and David talk about the importance of repetition. Can you continually visualise the behaviours, steps and actions you need to take to realise your business vision? Mel also talks about how this prepares you for change and ultimately achieve your goals. Can you communicate your vision with your team, get them to visualise the steps they need to take, to bring them along on that journey? Socialising the vision and actions needed in a positive way so you all can visualise and so brain train to believe it will happen.

I know it won’t be for everyone, but if this is one way to build a positive mindset, self-belief and motivation for action it’s worth sharing.

2023 in review

2023 has been another year of uncertainty and change for SME’s with rising costs, interest rates and the cost of living crisis to name just a few of the challenges faced into.

We are proud here at Kingston to have supported 5 intakes of our Help to Grow Management SME leaders and decision makers through the year.  Providing a safe and open environment for discussing challenges, sharing best practice and supporting new strategies across multiple industries and business types.

It’s been great to continue to support our alumni with our regular lunchtime masterclasses and in person workshops and see our cohorts mix covering topics including HR hints and tips, web design strategy, the British Library on IP and an alumni led workshop on selling.

We held our annual completion ceremony in February 2023 – welcoming back previous completers from Help to Grow Management for an evening of music, food and a glass or two while networking.  A real celebration of their achievements and to collect their certificate from our programme director and the head of the business school.

Many thanks to our alumni who support us in providing case studies to bring the course to life for other participants.  We had a new series of static and video case studies this year that have gone down a storm!  It’s also been great to share our participants success stories beyond us here at Kingston, with our alumni featured in business events, press releases and the Small Business Charter website.  We love to see your progress and achievements on social!

We are so much more than just a course.  Many thanks to our participants, alumni, expert speakers and programme team for all their work, open mind approach and continually seeking to improve and support.  Wishing you a super start to 2024!


Workshops and Webinars for business leaders

We are so much more than just a course…

Our alumni workshops and master classes have been running for over 18 months and are open to all Help to Grow Management Kingston alumni as part of the course and any micro or SME owner, leader or decision maker (for a small fee.)

Covering topics such as finance, HR, digital marketing, customer service, influencing and sales.  We are able to adapt and reflect the current business environment and requests from our over 300 strong alumni.

We source experts with real life experience and specialist knowledge to deliver these sessions and they are designed to fit around your busy worklife with a mix of online webinars and face to face workshops.

Always live and interactive, either an online lunch time masterclass or face to face workshop here in Kingston.  A fantastic way of both networking with fellow business leaders and applying specialist learning to your business.  Follow us on LinkedIn to see what’s coming up and register:

IP Essentials: Protecting your Innovations   Wednesday 22 November 10:30  (Workshop)

The Strategic Importance of a Good Website! 13th November 12:00-13:30pm (Webinar) (

Equality, Digital Inclusion and Women in Business

UN Women calculate that gender equality is 300 years away.

Just let that sink in.

That many events lately have pushed back women and girls empowerment – including Covid, natural disasters, conflict and digital advances. That there has been a push back on women’s rights across the globe.

This is an issue that effects all women and girls. Feeling safe, feeling empowered and protection of our rights has to be at the forefront of change makers and decision makers. 300 years just isn’t good enough.

Digital inclusion

Women are 27 times more likely than men to face online harassment or hate speech. Only 1 in 4 report it to authorities. 9 out of 10 limit online activities because of it.  These were all statistics I took from attending this year’s UN Women CSW67.

In a world that is moving at a rapid speed to online and digital – think about the impact on women and girls in that space. There is an urgent need to make that space safe. To ensure digital equality for women. To include women in the leadership and design of online space, to think about the impacts and checks and controls needed.

We can not allow a digital world to replicate the same issues and culture that lead to that harassment and hate behaviour. More women need to be involved in STEM, employed in decision making positions in innovative and IT businesses, be listened to in the innovative product space, be supported in the workplace and in business and beyond.

We need to do this together…raise awareness, promote STEM to women and girls, employ women in decision making roles and continue pushing for better.

Women in Business

The 2019 Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurs highlighted that only 1 in 3 entrepreneurs are female.  Male led SME’s are 5 times more likely to scale up their business to £1m than female.  Access to funding was one of the key barriers and differentiators between men and women entrepreneurs.

We are proud here at Kingston Help to Grow Management to offer a limited number of Women in Business bursaries with each cohort, to give access to the support and advice to grow their business.

The Rose report also states the need for local mentoring and networks – again an area where we can support through the Help to Grow Management course, with mentoring access to our experts and our alumni programme.

We need to do this together. What can you do as an SME leader? Be a change creator.

Identifying where value flow is blocked in your business

As a small business owner or leader one of the questions you may find yourself asking is; where do I start? Every bit of my business needs me and as soon as I focus on one area I’m worried about another.

The plumbing analogy might help you to focus on the right area. It’s a simple and visual way to model and analyse your business flow.

Looking at this diagram below, where should the manager focus their efforts to increase the flow through to the bucket?

  • Change the storage tank A?
  • Change into a bigger bucket H?
  • Change pipe section D?

Tank A could be sales coming in, which looks healthy enough so we could be tempted to increase the flow of value through the business by investing more in sales. But, when we get to pipe D, here we see the flow slowing, leaving E and F at half capacity at most. There is wasted capacity in E and F and the value flow (water) is limited by the time it goes through G and arrives in the bucket.

Some of your management activities may not always be this clearly dependent on each other but this is still a useful analogy to help you think about where the blockage in your business is.

Key points

  • Don’t ignore the thin pipes or obstacles
  • Make sure the thin pipeline is always full, any spare capacity here really impacts the subsequent flow
  • Don’t invest your time and resources where things are running smoothly if there is a blockage later on in the system