Sharing and building university and business perspectives of how to enable high growth in small firms

Lead Research Organisation: Manchester Metropolitan University
Department Name: Centre for Enterprise


This Knowledge Exchange project will bring together a private company - Winning Pitch (WP) - and the research team at the Centre for Enterprise at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School (CFE) to exchange dialogue and share mutual and different knowledge around small firm growth. Both Winning Pitch (and its associated High Growth Foundation) and CfE have been working to support small firms growth through leadership and entrepreneurship programmes. WP has done so from a pragmatic and experience -led viewpoint but with some awareness of research. CfE has based their approaches on learning theory and the literature on growth and small firms. This project will also allow both parties to articulate how their approaches differ and coincide, bring new understanding of commercial realities to CfE and build new understanding and appreciation of the application of research to WP. In comparing research themes with practical approaches, gaps will also emerge with the potential for new knowledge will also be developed which will engage both CfE and Winning Pitch teams and bring research and practice together.
Based in the Northwest region of the UK, Winning Pitch is a small firm with 25 employees, a specialist provider of high growth coaching services. The aim of its founder, John Leach, is for it to be a fully research led business to fuel their passion for supporting ambitious entrepreneurs in order that they realise their full potential and achieve levels of growth way above the norm. Winning Pitch offers tailored coaching services, underpinned by specialist high growth methodologies. These provide a suite of practical tools proven to deliver transformational performance - well defined business strategy, clear supporting implementation plans, enhanced sales, innovative approaches to changing markets, organisational and leadership excellence as well as investment readiness.
Winning Pitch has worked with over 5,000 businesses over the last 4 years, including high potential start -ups, growth SMEs and FTSE listed companies. Their quality and proven track record recently secured the contract to support 2000 small firms in the Northwest annually, working nationally in consortium with Grant Thornton, Pera and Oxford Innovation. The CEO of Winning Pitch is interested in research and sees its value. This Knowledge Exchange partnership will build on that to establish the role of research in delving high levels of support to high growth firms and co-develop knowledge with university partners.
CfE has a track record in working with small firms since its inception in 2001. With 28 members of the CfE team, activities include research, learning and consultancy. Recent enterprise programmes include the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative, which take a particular approach to SME growth. The research being carried out focuses on entrepreneurial learning in organisations and on the small firm growth journey. In this application we would bring two established academics and two new researches into the project as a share placement, to develop understanding of how research can be articulated, shared exchanged and co-developed between a university and a private sector organisation. This is a small firm which means that their commitment to working to understand research is clearly a priority given the time they have identified to work on the project with university staff.

Planned Impact

This project will impact first of all on both participating organisations. Researchers at MMUBS will gain key new insights into the knowledge exchange process to build on its previous experience, and will derive new understanding of the private sector, its needs, drivers and development opportunities. WP will take some steps towards achieving its strategic aims in exploring the role of research, given the recognition in its plan that delivery of support for small firms requires sound theoretical and pedagogical basis in order to provide firms with the best support in such challenging economic climates. Both will also gain from a robust partnership to support knowledge exchange on both sides. The individual direct beneficiaries will benefit as described above, by forming new relationships with project partners, by understanding the nature of work in academic and non academic environments, by exploring the process of small business development and the role of applying research in the process. The team will develop an action plan to share ideas with others in WP and its High Growth Foundation and the WP network and with CfE staff and staff in related disciplines at MMU (from the Faculties of Business, Education and Hospitality d Food Science, given that all engage with lending approaches to small firms in their research work). Planned impacts will also include activities with other organisations involved in research into small firms (via ISBE and BAM networks), knowledge exchange and business development in universities (AURIL and the Insatiate of Knowledge Transfer), those supporting small firm growth and those making policy in this area (e.g., via the All Party Parliamentary Group on Micro Enterprises).
The plan will break down activities into those likely to impact on groups and individuals both internal and external to project partners, identifying how aspects might impact upon them and indicating the best routes to communicate new ideas to them. This will include online and offline means to communicate ideas and encourage engagement.
The setting up of an online small firm growth group to explore key questions, with timed debates and ongoing twitter feeds will be part of this process. This is likely to include WP personnel, those from MMU and those from the other organisations named above. Offline means will include team members presenting findings and news about the process to other organisational members at internal and external events. This will include faculty-wide groups and university-wide enterprise and research groups at MMU. Broader academic knowledge exchange will be achieved via traditional means such as presentation of papers at national conferences (the British Academy of Management Conference for instance, to share knowledge exchange findings). It will also include non traditional techniques such as the series of 10 minute pod casts planned to take research into different groups in a non-threatening way, using simple language to engage with user groups.
The core WP team members will benefit by:
1.Gaining insights into the role of research and the way in which research can support activities
2. Identifying how to recognise knowledge developed as part of WP core activities and how this fits within a research context, with potential validation of tools and techniques and co-development of new activities to support SME learning and growth.
Description We have already submitted a Key Findings report for this project and received notification that it has been accepted.
Exploitation Route We have already submitted a Key Findings report for this project and received notification that it has been accepted.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Other

Description The end of award report outlined a theoretical model for 'growth mindset' based on our literature review, workshop series and engagement with Winning Pitch coaches. Together with the relationship developed as a result of the KE project, this model provided the basis for securing funding from the GrowthAccelerator Growth Observatory to refine and test our theory. This empirical work identified six proposed components of 'growth mindset': Market Expertise; Business Vision; Active Decision Making; Growth Drive, Sales Drive and Innovation Drive. The GrowthAccelerator research funding and the findings that it generated are directly attributable to the ESRC Knowledge Exchange award. The original award was geared towards finding new ways to support business growth in small firms and we have engaged extensively with practitioners in this area through our blog posts (on the Centre for Enterprise and GrowthAccelerator / Business Growth Service websites (which received 1789 views), an animated film on Youtube (523 views to date), workshops and webinars. In addition to academic outputs (those post-dating the Key Findings report are listed below) we have developed summary and full length reports which have been made available online and widely publicised under the Business Growth Service banner. The formal public launch of the empirical work has been delayed due to reorganisation and rebranding of the government's business growth support services and is now planned for spring 2015. We expect further impacts to accrue as a result. To date, the findings have been used to inform and adapt sessions on the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses programme delivered by the Centre for Enterprise within Manchester Metropolitan University where the PI and investigative team are based. In relation to Market Expertise and Sales Drive there is an increased focus on the value proposition and promoting an understanding of the business relative to the market place. This is combined with methods for managing sales and the role of the owner manager in helping other people in the business to sell. In relation to Business Vision, participants spend a full session considering and clarifying the mission and vision for the business using the 'business model canvas' approach. Scenario testing enables different future states of the business to be considered and the vision refined. To encourage Active Decision Making a session on risk now involves extensive discussion of heuristics and biases with participants encouraged to reflect on their decision making processes. Peer support accessed through growth groups ensures that decisions turn into actions. In order to stimulate Growth Drive the programme includes exploration of personal goals, drivers for growth and exit strategies in each business. A growth plan is developed using financial scenario planning to consider different growth rates and their financial implications. A golden envelope exercise encourages businesses to consider the potential impact of external funding and tends to increase growth aspiration. Innovation is a factor in the programme selection process. Selecting participants with the capacity for innovating helps to ensure that the conditions for learning and subsequent growth are in place. A recent progress report (November 2014 ) uses 'intervention off' control groups and shows the programme to account for between 10 and 25 percent net additional growth in employment terms and suggests a similar impact for increased turnover. The progress report states that "using the most conservative estimate, the control group analysis established a boost to employment growth of 10% after one year and this would lead to an additional 60,000 employees in these businesses; using an average GVA per filled job figure of £45,000 this would correspond to an additional GVA of £2.7billion in the UK economy after only one year" (p42). Implementation of the findings as described above has strengthened programme delivery and helped to achieve the portion of these impacts for which Manchester Metropolitan University (one of five HEI delivery partners) is responsible. We are aware that the findings are being taken up and used in different ways by the Winning Pitch coaches that we engaged through the project. The findings were also presented to the Chartered Mangement Institute at Holyrood, Edinburgh in January 2015 and our animated film will be shown by the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce in its public spaces and will therefore be seen by visiting businesses. We are confident that a much wider group of practitioners have benefited from the learning given the readership of our online material. While the ESRC award and the subsequent empirical research are complete we are continuing to develop our findings to support business growth. We are currently in discussion with the government's Business Growth Service about a further project to develop a toolkit based on the six suggested growth mindset components. Such a toolkit would have very widespread applicability and provides potential for further impact at a national scale. Specific activity to engage policy makers has included dissemination of the empirical findings at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Local Growth on 24th November 2014, Portcullis House, Westminster. Attendees included MPs, think tank representatives, policy officers and government analysts. The meeting was hosted by James Morris MP (APPG co-chair) with presentations by Tom Walker (Director, Cities and Local Growth Unit, (Cabinet Office, BIS, DCLG)) and Professor Henry Overman (Director, ESRC What Works Centre for Local Growth, London School of Economics). Interest in the research findings from policy focused audiences is evident by a number of enquiries into availability of the reports, for example from Department for Business Innovation and Skills officers) but the delayed launch date has limited the potential for impact to materialise in this sphere so far. Academic outputs not reported in Key Findings: McNeill, T., Schofield, C., (2014), The role of the individual entrepreneur in driving business growth, British Academy of Management, Belfast. (September 11, 2014). McNeill, T., Antcliff, V., Schofield, C., (2014), What drives high growth? The role of the individual entrepreneur in driving growth, Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Manchester, UK. (November 4, 2014 - November 6, 2014). (winner of 'best paper' in the Entrepreneurship and Small Business Realities track)
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Other
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Description Growth Accelerator Growth Observatory Funding
Amount £37,612 (GBP)
Organisation Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2013 
End 08/2015
Description Collaboration with GrowthAccelerator / Business Growth Service 
Organisation Government of the UK
Department GrowthAccelerator
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Undertaking a piece of empirical research to test and explore the theoretical growth mindset model developed though ESK000780.
Collaborator Contribution Finance for empirical research was made available through the GrowthAccelerator Growth Observatory. Other contributions included our partners' intellectual input through project meetings, introductions to potential participants in the study and making outputs available on the GrowthAccelerator (now Business Growth Service) website.
Impact McNeill, T., Schofield, C., (2014), The role of the individual entrepreneur in driving business growth, British Academy of Management, Belfast. (September 11, 2014). McNeill, T., Antcliff, V., Schofield, C., (2014), What drives high growth? The role of the individual entrepreneur in driving growth, Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Manchester, UK. (November 4, 2014 - November 6, 2014). (winner of 'best paper' in the Entrepreneurship and Small Business Realities track)
Start Year 2013
Description Presentation of research findings at a joint event held with the All Party Parliamentary Group for Local Growth at Westminster 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Generated lively discussion during the event and during the reception. Generated several requests for copies of the research report from Department for Business Innovation and Skills and other government officers.

Release of the report has been delayed by our partner organisation so it is too soon to identify impacts
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014