Help to Grow: Management Course | Kingston University

7 critical success factors for team success

“They just don’t seem to have any sense of urgency or initiative, when I’m out of the office they wander around aimlessly” This is probably the most common complaint I hear about teams, there are variations to the wandering including rushing about in a panic but with the same end result.

Just take a quick peek at your team right now; when you look over your PC screen are you looking at a team who manage themselves with lashings of initiative, who develop their own skills and strategies and are brimming over with common sense. If not, don’t worry you’re not alone and help is at hand with Ruth Wageman’s classic model of team design.

Wageman’s 7 key success factors for a self-managing team

1. Clear direction

All the members of your team should have a clear understanding of their purpose in the company and the long-term direction they are moving in. To check, just ask them, ‘What’s our purpose as a team and as a company?’ ‘Why are we doing this?’ ‘What do you think of the way we do things?’

Be prepared for surprising answers.

2. Real team tasks

Teams that recognise that they need each other to succeed at tasks will find ways to co-operate and work together. Managers can encourage this by making it easy for the team to meet regularly to make decisions and draw up strategies to tackle issues.

3. Team rewards

If they need each other to succeed the rewards should reflect this. Use team rewards to help direct how people work together and show everyone what is important.

4. Basic material resources

Don’t ask the team to do a 5-year forecast and give them an abacus to run their figures through. Sometimes finding the time or additional resources your teams needs is the most crucial thing you can do as a manager.

5. Authority to manage their own work

Giving your team real authority to change the way they work is essential if you expect to see teams who show initiative. This can be hard but if you constantly tell and direct staff you will have a team who wait for instruction.

6. Team goals

A high performing team will have goals that stretch them, that they really buy into and that they have to plan to achieve. Make sure that they play a real part in setting those goals.

7. Team norms

Your team needs one more magical ingredient that is tied up with my favourite topic, culture. Is there a team way of doing things that encourages contribution and solves problems and disagreements without needing to be ‘managed’? Norms are accepted ways of getting work done and you can help by rewarding behaviour that contributes to the team’s cohesion rather than saving all the praise for individual superstars.

It does take careful design and a lot of thought to come up with the right plan for your team but seeing your group come together and start to really innovate makes it all worthwhile.

You can find Ruth Wageman’s original work here.

Let’s get physical

We all know we should exercise, it’s good for our physical, mental and emotional health.  We are also fully aware that finding time in a busy schedule is an ongoing issue for lots of people and especially for small business owners who balance many plates on a daily basis.

Many people are conditioned to separate the mind and the body, however physically working out can help build the connections between the two, improving physical performance and can reduce stress and some find improves cognitive function.  The mini break away from your business can also help you re-frame opportunities, issues or challenges by providing space to find a different perspective to offer new ideas and solutions.

Regular exercise also (obviously) keeps you fit.  This has numerous benefits including your ability to reduce the chance of diseases associated with a sedentary lifestyle, improved energy and sleep and also keeping your physical self functional – for example avoiding back or knee pain from too much inactivity.  Reducing time off sick is always a win-win for a business owner.

Exercise can offer benefits socially and for networking through joining a club or activity with other likeminded peers.  Never underestimate the happiness of belonging and the knock on effect on your productivity (and longevity) particularly if your business role can leave you feeling isolated.

So what should we be doing?

The UK Chief Medical Officer guidelines state:

  • Adults should be physically active every day
  • At least 150 minutes of moderate exercise (can still hold a steady conversation) or 75 mins of high intensity a week (can only speak a few words at a time.) Or a combination of both
  • Strength train on at least 2 days of the week

I’d recommend to find something you enjoy and look forward to.  Allow yourself to be a beginner if it’s an activity you’ve not tried before, seeing improvements in a skill or performance is a huge motivator.  I’d also advise to try something that isn’t feeling like you are punishing your body; if you really don’t like running, don’t run – find something else.  Remember one of the benefits of regular exercise is that it should be stress relieving, not stress inducing!

Not having long periods of inactivity is also important, for example encourage getting up and moving around during the day.  Are there innovative ways you can incorporate movement into your business day for you and your colleagues?   Everyone is different and so having a “walk break” may not be suitable for all, so consider the diversity and inclusion of your team.

There’s lots of options out there – see your local council, pool, parkrun or gym for ideas.  It doesn’t need to cost a lot and you don’t need to be an expert at something to see benefits.  A small, but regular, amount of your time could reap long-term rewards for your productivity, health and happiness in your business (and life.)

‘All I said was…’

Why is it that you can move an office location and most of the employees will come with you without a murmur but change the policy on eating bacon rolls at your desk in the morning and there is uproar?

Understanding the psychological contract can help you through this minefield.

A successful company director I know told me this story. When he worked at a large auditing company in the city, he introduced a system where employees were required to check in and out of the building whenever they entered or left. There was no real concern amongst the employees and the organisation collected better information about resourcing. The director, Tim, then moved to a creative agency and introduced the same check-in system. There was huge backlash, unhappy employees and threats to resign.

To make matters worse, Tim later found out that one of the key employees had gone to a competitor who had the same system that had led to him leaving!

Why are some changes easy to accept whilst other, perfectly reasonable improvements, lead to mass hysteria?

The answer lies in understanding the psychological contract between an organisation and its employees. There are explicit and implicit expectations that employees have about what the company should be doing for them. Often the hidden expectations only come to the surface once the contract is perceived to have been ‘broken’ in some way.

Tim recognised that his problem was in understanding the expectations and culture of the creative agency. Employees expected a lot of freedom to choose how and where they worked and the time they spent in the office. The check-in system felt like a restriction of that freedom. The auditing firm had no such expectation; their culture included timesheets and billable hours so they were not concerned about the change.

So why did a member of employees move to an agency with the same check-in system that Tim wanted to introduce?

Because they perceived the change as being part of something bigger that they didn’t trust. It wasn’t part of ‘how things are done around here’. The change itself wasn’t the problem, it was the perceived break of the psychological contract; the complex web of expectations that exists between organisations and individuals.

How can management deal with these expectations? Management can have no idea what aspects are important to their employees until there is a wave of dissatisfaction. The only way to get an understanding is for team leaders to spend time working out what their people value in the psychological contract and for senior managers to listen to the team leaders before they introduce changes.

Those bacon rolls could be far more important than you think…

For more reading: Denise Rousseau: Psychological Contracts in Organizations: Understanding Written and Unwritten Agreements. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, (1995).

Finding the positive

I’ve written a couple of #successtips on complaints management and a masterclass, so here’s a very quick blog on why it’s not all doom and gloom when a customer complains.

As my success tip states; a customer who complains to you, is giving you a second chance to get it right.  Things do go wrong, most people are able to understand and accept it as part of life. Having the ability to value that customer telling you and the mechanisms in place to put it right for them is more likely to convert a potential detractor to a promoter for your business.  Tell your customer how to complain to you (and to give other feedback) so that you can actively show them how important their custom is to you and that you place their opinion and needs at the heart of your business.

Looking at complaints and feedback received; these give you real-time customer insight into your business.  Your customers are telling you where they believe your product or service doesn’t match their expectation.  Are your customers telling you something they perceive is mis-selling or mis-delivering?  Have you changed something that they now don’t like?  Are there any common complaint themes that you can action?  To understand this you do need to monitor and record complaints in a way that is categorised and structured so you can then analyse them and spot trends.  This is free market research specific to your business – utilise it…

For shorter term issues monitoring complaints may enable you to spot an emerging issue before it becomes realised.  Is there a change in what’s expected or a series of feedback or complaints under one theme – it enables you to identify, react and mitigate further complaints.

When designing change for the organisation it’s always good to reflect on past complaints in that area, what has worked and what hasn’t worked in your customers opinion.  Again this insight helps you align your change strategy to your customer and helps decision making by understanding your customers perspective.

Monitoring complaints should also help you forecast potential complaints and get your business lined up ready to handle them, both in type of complaint and volume.  No-one likes handling a complaint, but if your employees are prepared and know what to do – with the support of your leadership – it makes it a far less stressful situation.

So while things inevitably will go wrong some of the time, focussing on the understanding and delivery of good complaints management can create valued relationships and support the long term strategy and continuous improvement of your business.

Growth sucks cash

Growing the business is challenging and often requires strategic planning, major changes in entrepreneurial strategy and substantial resources. In some cases, some firms find themselves “growing out” of business because of liquidity crisis which leads to firms unable to meet their financial obligations. The cause of this liquidity crisis is mainly due to the increased expenses as a result of growth and lack of planning. Owner-managers may also be focusing their attention on sales and revenue, rather than expenses and administrative challenges that accompany with growth.

In this case, owner-managers need to search for short to long-term liquidity (cash injection) for the firm to ensure the going concern of the business. The cash injection comes in mainly two forms- debt, or equity. In some cases, owner-managers might opt for both if it is optimal for the firm. To address the liquidity issues of the firm, there are several options that owner-managers can consider when comes to cash injection:

Owner’s capital (equity)– This is when owners use their own money to meet the financial obligations of the firm.

Friends and family (equity or debt) – Some friends and family members who believe in the business may offer to help. But in return, they may want some shares in the company or interest payment.

Bank loan (debt) – This could be a difficult and long process as the business owner needs to prepare a detailed business plan to convince the bank for a loan.

P2P lending (debt) – This is faster than banks, but there may be limited investors and higher interest rates.

DeFi loan (debt) – A lot more accessible than bank loans and other P2P loans. The use of smart contracts (automated contracts) makes it process loans a lot faster than traditional lenders. However, the limited regulatory framework can make it difficult for small firms to navigate the DeFi lending landscape.

Share issue (equity) – Sell off part of the business in exchange for cash.

Overdraft (debt) – An overdraft is a way of borrowing money through your business current account. However, the interest rate associated with it can be high.

Invoice invoicing (debt) – A company uses an invoice or invoices as collateral to get a loan from a financing company.

Apart from those options, the firm can also try and negotiate with its suppliers to extend the trade credit. Selling assets would be the last resort for the firm, this can be painful for the firm but at least it ensures the going concern of the business, which allows owner-managers to plan their next steps.

Risk Management

As a small business owner or leader, you’ll know first-hand that risks come constantly from multiple angles and areas of the business. It’s a combination of understanding, preparation, prioritisation and planning to drive ownership of a risk, mitigating actions and planning should it occur, that enable you to make decisions, protect your business and drive your business forward.

Often combined with decision making, understanding the risks your business faces should be a key focus in leading and managing your business both day to day and strategically.  Do you know the risks across your business or of a decision or change you are planning?  Can you assess the likelihood of occurring and impact should it occur on your business?  Can you use that likelihood and impact to RAG status (Red, Amber, Green) the risks to focus on the most important, potential showstopper, risks to mitigate? Do you have actions in place to mitigate that risk or handle the outcome should it materialise and become an issue?

If you don’t already have one, it’s worthwhile creating a risks and issues log to manage your risks. Capture and categorise those risks to match to your business areas and RAG them for likelihood and impact.  If a risk is a green-green it shouldn’t need the same amount of time and focus as a red-red a potential show stopper.  As an SME leader, your time and your team’s resource are a precious commodity so using this technique to prioritise which risks to focus on is a good way to manage them, without losing sight of smaller risks that may change. State who owns the risk in your business and the mitigating actions and action plan should the risk occur, and it becomes an issue.

Socialise the risks and issues log with your team for input – team members are likely to have a different perspective so can spot different risks and mitigating factors and may challenge RAG status based on their experience in the business.  Give your team that platform to discuss, challenge and suggest.

Maintain awareness and continually update as those risks may change (either internally or external influences can do this.)  Having regular risk meetings with the owners of the risks to review and update the plan and for the highest RAG risks making sure your team can recognise potential red flags of the risk occurring and know how to action.

As the famous words of Benjamin Franklin state – “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail”

So prepare, prepare, prepare!

The Importance of Strategy

Strategy in business is important. Right?

It forms the foundation of all that we, as business owners, build our enterprises upon.

Strategy helps us define our business, gives it a set of values, gives it purpose and helps us understand what success actually looks like. It provides a roadmap for our business, shows us our destination and identifies useful stopping points along the way.

After all, who would set off on a journey without having some idea of where they were heading or how they would get there?

It’s surprising then that, according to a recent survey conducted by Barclays, a staggering 47% of small business owners have no formal strategy in place to support their business growth. Of that total, 25% have an informal, verbal business plan, whilst 23% have no plan whatsoever.

Why is that?

Virtually every business owner I have met has some kind of vision for their business in their head – but it is often unstated, almost sub-conscious. Nevertheless, that core belief drives them to growth and achievement. In the early days this, along with boundless energy, enthusiasm and hard work, can be enough to deliver some initial success. As time goes by and the business gets busier, many owners find that they simply don’t have the time to step back from the day-to-day to think about strategy. Planning becomes a luxury that they can’t afford.
The problem becomes compounded if sales dip, costs rise or competition bites. The business starts to suffer. Time, that most precious of commodities, gets harder to spare. Every free moment is spent putting out fires. Many business owners come to feel like they’re on a ship without a rudder, being blown by the winds of fortune, with no control over where they might land.

This can all be avoided.

Most successful business owners that I have come across are successful precisely because they have spent some time out of their business, thinking about strategy and developing a formal action plan. They understand their values and the purpose of their business in their customers’ eyes. They have a set of financial targets that they strive to achieve and they understand the means needed to achieve them. They know what risks they might be facing and they have a plan to minimise them – or even turn them into opportunities. Most of all, they understand their unique point of difference; the thing that gives them a sustainable competitive edge, the thing that makes them truly valuable to their core customer base. Because they know that, they know who their most valuable customers are and they know how to reach them.

Creating a strategy is not difficult but it does take a little time and focus to get right. And that’s not easy when you’re busy running a business. After all, when urgent meets important, urgent usually wins. I always advise business owners to try and make some time to step out of their business and think about what they really want to get from it.

Making that time is the first step. I have never come across a business owner that has regretted taking it.

Next comes the planning itself. This can be daunting, but it’s easier if you break it down into bite-sized chunks. I find the best approach is to divide the process into 10 simple step and to work through them methodically. They are:

  1. Personal aspirations – why are you doing this?
  2. Values and beliefs – find your culture DNA.
  3. Purpose – what business are you really in?
  4. Destination – what are your visionary goals?
  5. Future proofing – look outside. What are the risks?
  6. Know your market – and identify the opportunities.
  7. Look in the mirror – what are you great at? What can you improve? Where do you have vulnerabilities? What is your edge and is it real?
  8. Find your focus – build your strategy around it.
  9. Press the reset button – and get your structure right
  10. Make it happen – People. Sales. Performance – and measure all the way


And remember, a strategy isn’t just an obscure document that sits on a shelf in the office, gathering dust. It’s a living, breathing embodiment of your business. It should be visible, inspiring, feasible, time-specific, measurable and, above all, flexible and fun. You should use it every day, share it with your team, build on it as your business develops and use it as your guide to success.

Digitisation and Customer Service

As a small business owner or decision maker, you put a lot of time, effort and resources into finding new customers and employees for your business. Retaining and maintaining loyal customers and employees needs to be a key part of your business strategy to enable growth.
Digital advances have already had a significant impact on customer service for small businesses, and this trend is likely to continue in the future with increasing automation and AI. Here are some ways that digital advances could affect customer service for small businesses and what you need to be aware of as it can be both an enabler and disruptor to your business:

Improved communication

Digital tools such as social media, chatbots, and messaging apps make it easier for you to communicate with your customers in real-time. This enables you to quickly address customer queries, concerns, and complaints, which can improve customer satisfaction and loyalty. This also means that customers increasingly have an expectation for this level of communication, so having the processes and operation in place to meet this expectation is necessary.


Digital advances such as data analytics and artificial intelligence can help you personalise their customer service. By analysing customer data, you can tailor your communication, product recommendations, and promotional offers to each of your customer’s preferences and needs. There is also the need for the human personal touch and knowing your customers non tangible preferences. Building that relationship can really support your customer service team to have the ability to react and pivot to customer emotions, unusual situations, or requests.

24/7 service

With digital tools, you can offer round-the-clock customer service. Chatbots and automated responses can handle routine queries and requests, while live agents can provide more personalised support during business hours. It’s absolutely key to look after your staff if you are promoting longer opening hours – they are the face of your business.

Increased efficiency

Digital tools can help you streamline your customer service processes, reducing the time and resources needed to handle customer inquiries and complaints. This can help you operate more efficiently and effectively. Customers are becoming more aware of talking to bots, not always to the benefit of the business. Knowing your customer preference for an instant response vs human contact is another way to build your customer service satisfaction.

As digital advances continue at a rapid pace, they have the potential to revolutionise customer service for small businesses, enabling you to provide faster, more personalised, and more efficient support to your customers. They also have the potential to provide greater competition and customer switching and lose the intangible learnings from a person-to-person interaction. I’d argue you need to have the processes, culture and operation in place to make your employees and customers feel valued, beyond the digitisation. To make them feel more than just a cog in a digitised machine, but as part of an integrated community where they can belong and align to your business values.

Why Should Small and Medium sized Businesses join Help to Grow Management?

You’ve embarked upon the journey of launching your own business. It’s been running for over a year. You’re now unsure about the best way to move ahead and take your business to the next level. You may have many questions about what you have achieved so far and how to access expert help to support you to grow your business. Getting yourself enrolled on the 90% funded Help to Grow Management is an excellent first step to take.

Here are a few reasons to consider taking the Help to Grow Management course from a renowned business school.

Understand your business

Help to Grow Management helps you gain in-depth knowledge and understanding of the core elements of business and management. You may not have any business training or you may have undertaken training some time ago, so this acts as a great refresher with up-to-date insight and learning.

Kingston Business School offers Help to Grow Management which is specially designed for small and medium business enterprises. The course modules, run by experts, consist of everything from innovation and strategy to finance and digital adoption. These modules will help you gain deeper insight into your business and its potential. You also learn amongst a cohort of your peers, so there’s an opportunity for lateral learning and sharing of ideas, challenges and solutions to grow.

Develop essential management skills

Develop essential management skills required for any business. These skills will allow you to sustain your company in this everchanging business environment. It’ll help you develop the skills needed to respond appropriately to your business’s challenges and developments now and in the future.

Access expert help and support

Help to Grow Management is run by business experts and supported by your own personal mentor. All modules are live so you have the opportunity to ask questions and interact with the expert speakers. You also get access to one-to-one mentoring – choose your business mentor to suit your individual business. After completing the course, you’ll join the growing number of alumni and continue to be supported through the alumni programme of webinars and workshops.

Learn alongside your day-to-day work

A small or medium-sized business is often a juggling act of multiple actions, responsibilities, and commitments. Help to Grow Management has been designed to work alongside your day to day. The 12 modules are run in the afternoons at the end of the week and you can choose the time to suit you for additional peer calls to embed the learning into your business. It doesn’t take you away from your business, it gets you to focus on your business.

In Conclusion

If you have questions about the course, contact Kingston Help to Grow Management on – they are there to help you grow your business!

Help to Grow Management: What is it? How to register and eligibility criteria

Help to Grow Management has been designed specifically for small and medium-sized businesses to increase productivity, efficiency, resilience, retention and boost business growth. It enables leaders of these businesses to learn new approaches to apply to their business that supports their employees and business strategies. It helps companies to grow and introduces current business and management thinking that could better their business.

If you want to know more about this 90% funded course, read on. This blog focuses on what is involved, how to register and the eligibility criteria for applying for the course. So, let’s get to it.

What Is Help to Grow Management?

Help to Grow Management is a 12-week course launched and 90% funded by the government that gives you key insights across a broad spectrum of business topics that can be applied to your business and is delivered by experts from renowned UK business schools. The course involves 12 modules of practical teaching and one-on-one sessions with a business mentor that is matched to suit your individual business need. The course includes peer learning from a network of other business leaders, allowing lateral learning, brainstorming and collaboration across industry sectors. Help to Grow Management is delivered as a hybrid of both live webinar and face to face workshops to give the benefits of flexibility and in-depth support.

How do I register?

Sounds like something you and your business could benefit from? Consider registering yourself now, Kingston offer a new cohort intake every couple of months – so check out the dates that suit you. To apply, go through to this website, <> click on the Register button and fill in the short form. The Kingston Help to Grow Management team will be in touch with the next steps.

Boost your business performance, resilience, and long-term growth by learning from the best to drive your business forward.

What is the eligibility criteria to apply for the course?

This course is 90% funded and to qualify your business needs to be:

● Operating for at least a year
● Between 5 and 249 employees, if you have between 10-249 employees 2 participants can join
● Not a charity

The course can be taken by a decision maker or someone from senior management within your business with at least one direct report.

Next steps:

Go through to Kingston’s Help to Grow website to learn more about this course, see video feedback from alumni, see who runs it – and register!