Thriving companies from across North Wales praised two leading business programmes for having a positive impact on productivity, growth and staff development.
The inaugural North Wales Means Business Conference celebrated the success of the 20Twenty Business Growth and ION Leadership programmes.
Up to 150 people were at Venue Cymru, Llandudno to hear talks by speakers including Karen Warren of KW Inner Strength and Mark Boddington – one of the famous Boddington’s beer family and managing director of Silverlining Furniture in Wrexham.
He talked about the company’s celebrity and royal clients, why Wales is best and how they plan to increase their workforce from 86 to 130 people by 2022.
Employees and managers who took part in both schemes and reaped the rewards also took to the stage to explain how their businesses had benefited from 20Twenty and ION over past years.
Among them was Johanna Cooke, Company Secretary at AN Richards Ltd commercial recovery and repair in Froncysyllte, near Llangollen.
The firm has been at the heart of the motor trade in Wales for more than a century but finding a work-life balance was becoming a problem for the family-run management team.
“When I joined the 20Twenty programme we were – and still are – a profitable company, but the line between work and home had become invisible,” said Mrs Cooke.
“Success isn’t just down to the bottom line; my wish was for a better balance for my family and I, and 20Twenty helped me to achieve that.
“I really enjoyed the course, the great speakers and business minds who made it clear that no matter what industry you are in we all experience the same things, we are all human, we do not need to reinvent the wheel.
“We were in a bubble, but not anymore – 20Twenty was life changing for me and the business.”
Nadia McKane, Sales and Marketing Manager at Platts Animal Bedding Specialists in Llay, Wrexham, echoed those words.
The fourth member of Platts to graduate from 20Twenty, she said:
“The course sparked ideas and helped us to develop new policies and procedures.
“It wasn’t just academic, I was able to transfer processes and strategies to the workplace to try and improve communication, including a new intranet that will be unveiled soon.
“Staff are excited about our growth and developments, and that was driven by 20Twenty.”
David Lloyd-Williams, Managing Director of Bodelwyddan’s Principality Consulting is another to have experienced first-hand that training can bring positive results, having completed Level 5 of an ION Leadership programme earlier this year.
“I hadn’t done anything like this for so long I think the timing was perfect when I signed up, and I’m certainly glad I did,” said David.
“We’re a small team but we have noticed the difference, especially when we visit clients and work on change management or lean advice. ION gives you more of a structure, and it’s more likely the project will succeed.
“I really enjoyed ION and learned a lot. It opened a lot of doors and was, just as importantly, a lot of fun.”
Hosted by MC Gary Johnson, Associate Director at Innovation Relief, other speakers on the day were Ben Owen, from Mochdre-based Fast Way to Fitness and business leads from other top companies in the region.
One of the highlights was a talk by Mark Boddington, who explained why he turned his back on the family beer dynasty to pursue his dream of creating bespoke furniture.
“I set up the business at 21 and didn’t know anything, but I built it to the point where we were producing furniture for Russian oligarchs and celebrities, including David Bowie and Madonna,” said Mr Boddington.
“Sometimes it’s about luck and opportunity; I was once sat on a plane and got chatting to the man next to me. He took my business card and I thought nothing of it until 18 months later he called and told me he was Kevin Costner’s architect.
“The next thing you know we are creating pieces for superyachts, and our clients are billionaires and among the 1,000 richest people in the world.”
“We have created furniture that costs upwards of £100,000 but it was our move to Wales that saw us become a gazelle business (a high-growth company that has been increasing its revenues by at least 20% annually for four years or more) and reach a new level.
“We have done it through innovation, exporting and investing in people, which is hugely important – we will be spending about £180,000 on training next year, because we need to develop skills for the future.
“That and the move to North Wales will all contribute to further growth. Why? Wales is extraordinary, very proactive, supportive and innovative. I would advise people to move to Wales!”
The 20Twenty Business Growth Programme and ION Leadership offer a range of leadership and management qualifications, accredited by the Chartered Management Institute. Places on both are up to 70% funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) via Welsh Government.