Although in the throes of developing online training, the crisis required an immediate pivot for ECG. A leader in the community pharmacy market through its team of 15 and 70 freelance teachers, it provides training for pharmacists and works with the NHS, Boots, Superdrug and other multiples.
Lambert, who expects a £1m turnover this year, explains: “We have a one-stop shop for clients. For a community pharmacy, say, when they want to set up a new service, as well as the training we offer all the other elements including marketing support, legal documentation right through our partnerships.”
Seeing increasing outsourcing by the NHS was opening up opportunities for other providers needing training, she took Cranfield’s flagship Business Growth Programme (BGP) a few years ago which led to her restructuring the team, re-branding, moving offices and investing in IT.
“Having the right people to do the right job was a key takeaway and we now have an in-house web developer,” says Lambert.
“Those fundamental changes I made as a result of the course proved priceless when it came to lockdown. But as a healthcare professional I knew nothing about a pandemic involves a quick fix.
“That’s where Cranfield’s peer network made a huge difference too. I wasn’t lonely and had no desire to hibernate.
“I had an extended family I could talk to who were facing the same problems, offered options and were rooting for me to get through it. I had a safety net.”
Lambert was both a speaker and a participant in the lockdown briefings which reflected the business school’s famously grounded and super practical approach.
The BGP Response Programme took place from March to August enabling alumni and local businesses around Cranfield in Bedfordshire to access a stream of free support events, a breakfast club, webinar discussions and guidance on topics such as tax and making the best use of Government help as well as guides about the practical realities of ensuring businesses were Covid-secure.
It took a lightning pivot too for Stephanie Hussels, director of Cranfield’s Bettany Centre for Entrepreneurship, to set up the crisis response which resulted in some 2,000 SMEs taking part.
Helping save livelihoods “made it rewarding time,” says Hussels. “We worked very quickly getting the technology right. We were able to give back and nurture our network.”
Lockdown has also led to lonelyhearts flocking online and creating a 66 percent revenue uplift and a growth challenge for technology pioneer Ross Williams, a BGP alumnus and founder of Venntro Media Group whose platform powers thousands of dating sites and turns over £12million.
“We had the chance to scale and recruit which was a risk at a very uncertain time when others were reducing in size,” he explains.
“In particular the BGP network helped us understand the changing tax environment, the opportunities for delays and reinforcing lessons about cash flow, keeping hold of it and keeping control.
“We have taken a CBILs loan and the BGP events have been really helpful for connecting with other business owners to understand how they were faring and what they were doing in response to the crisis.”
Now Hussels and Cranfield are helping firms arm themselves with the tools to face Covid-19’s next critical stage with its Owning the Winter programme.
This covers Brexit, sales, talent management and organisation with a virtual conference on October 15.
Cranfield’s SME courses cover a range of companies and sizes starting with those with £500,000 turnover or less that are ready to scale up to £10 million ones, and programmes focussing on areas such as strategy, sales, financial fundamentals, selling a business and leadership.