PWC Masterclass: A lesson in Driving Growth

An understanding of what drives growth, as well as the right information to control and fund that growth, will significantly enhance your business, as delegates at our latest Masterclass discovered

Developing a growth mindset is key to business success but what information do you need – and what decisions do you need to take – to move your enterprise forward? Breakthrough addressed these issues in its latest Masterclass, ‘Driving Growth in your Business’. This one-day event was hosted by PwC My Financepartner on 4 November 2014 in their Reading office. The event had three main objectives:

  • To inform – by sharing current trends and experiences from growing companies
  • To inspire – by providing useful ideas for delegates to take back to their businesses
  • To interact – by providing networking opportunities with like-minded businesses and professional advisers.

“The Masterclass came about because both Santander and PwC are focused on supporting ambitious companies with a growth agenda,” says Paula Kemp, the Senior Events Manager at Breakthrough who organised the day. “We wanted to share our expertise and to include the latest insights from PwC’s My Financepartner product, which has been developed for dynamic businesses of all sizes. We had delegates from 10 diverse companies taking part, so we had a hugely productive, interactive roundtable as people communicated their ideas and experiences."
Asking the right questions
The first half of the day aimed to provide delegates with a good understanding of the theory behind successful business growth. It was divided into three sessions: an overview of The Growth Agenda; how the right performance management and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) could help control and encourage that growth; and the best ways to seek funding to support growth.
These sessions were run by expert speakers from PwC, among them My Financepartner Director Suzanne Houghton. “We talked about the four levers of growth: innovation, digital, customer impact, and globalisation. The questions we asked delegates were: ‘Where is your business on each of these levers?’ ‘Where does it need to be?’ ‘What information do you need to plan for growth, whether that’s internal figures or research from outside the business?’”
Santander representative Diane Fairbairn, a Relationship Director for Thames Valley, added, “This sparked some great debate, as delegates discussed examples from the wider business world, for example, are tech giants still truly innovative? The event also offered the opportunity for delegates to reflect on their own company’s present position, compared with where they would like to be.”
Controlling growth
The majority of those attending the Masterclass were Finance Directors and CEOs. This provided an opportunity to engage (and empathise) over common ground, but it also meant that speakers were able to challenge delegates’ assumptions about the best ways of measuring their position in the market.

“The Masterclass came about because both Santander and PwC are focused on supporting ambitious companies with a growth agenda.” Paula Kemp, Senior Events Manager, Breakthrough

“Finance Directors often look at the last three months of trading to analyse performance,” says Suzanne. “We asked them if that was enough to provide the information they need to plan for growth. What are the KPIs that will give them the right data at the right time? There were a few ‘lightbulb’ moments, as people realised that the numbers they needed wouldn’t come from the spreadsheet in front of them and they would have to source them elsewhere.”
Funding for growth
The final morning session looked at the importance of working capital as a means to fund business, as well as looking at external funding options that banks such as Santander could provide support on. This session asked the key question, ‘What do you write your business plan for?’ “Not surprisingly, many people said, ‘to get funding from my bank’,” says Paula. “PwC talked about the value of business plans as strategy documents for the businesses themselves.”
This theme continued into the afternoon session, which talked about the importance of cashflow in achieving potential and the link between profits and successful growth. “PwC demonstrated how important it is for growth to understand your working capital through the right performance management,” adds Paula. “This understanding lets you get the most from working with your bank, for example, with help to pre-empt cashflow difficulties, either with funding support from the bank itself or by the bank introducing the business to external funding partners. Santander’s Business Development Director, Mark Aston, then offered some insight into Growth Funding and Growth Circles and how Santander supports SMEs as they seek to expand.”
Bringing growth to life
What makes Masterclasses so effective is the sharing of ideas and expertise, and the opportunity to look at business challenges from another perspective. “A highlight of the day was a talk from experienced board member and company CEO Sam Pemberton. He discussed being an innovator on a board of innovators, and the struggle between them and the finance director of the company, whose job was to rein them in. His key message was that both sides need to be heard in order to develop solutions – otherwise growth can’t happen or won’t be sustained. That struck a chord with a lot of the delegates and made them consider how they might work more productively with the innovators in their own businesses.”
Networking sessions throughout the day also provided valuable opportunities to learn from fellow delegates. “We had a delegate from a smoking-cessation clinic talking with the founder of a baby food company and a bicycle manufacturer. The Masterclass gave them a unique opportunity to meet and draw on each other’s experiences,” says Paula. “It’s an example of Breakthrough supporting businesses beyond finance. Whether it’s on Trade Missions or Masterclasses, peer-to-peer networking or SME Summits, our aim is to give businesses the support they need to grow.”

“PwC demonstrated how important it is for growth to understand your working capital through the right performance management. This understanding lets you get the most from working with your bank." Paula Kemp

Tony Price, who leads PwC’s My Financepartner, agrees. “Whatever the size of your business, growth and all the things that go with it, are universally important. Looking at exports, working capital or your tax and legal frameworks – everyone I spoke to today felt it was high on their agenda. Having access to the right advice and the right support goes a long way in converting ambition into success.”

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