Business owners and leaders from across Devon gained valuable insights into planning for growth at an event in Exeter hosted by The Oakwood Partnership.

Keynote speaker at the Business Growth Strategy Seminar was David Garman, who shared lessons drawn from his 35 years in senior management in the food manufacturing and service industries.

David brings practical experience of leading large corporations, including United Biscuits, Allied Bakeries and TDG, as well as helping SMEs to implement change successfully. He stressed that the principles of strategy are equally applicable regardless of business size. He also believes having a proper growth strategy in place is more important than ever in these times of political and economic uncertainty as the UK prepares to leave the European Union.

Oakwood Business Growth Strategy Seminar May 2017

His informative presentation outlined the key steps for business leaders to think about when devising a strategy for growth. These include:

  • Start with a vision – a big idea that will inspire and motivate your employees.
  • Assemble the right project team to develop your strategy – ideally this will be a blend of people within the business (but not just senior executives) and external consultants.
  • Collect information about your business, your customers and your competitors – this is best done independently to ensure customer feedback is honest and your strategy is built on solid foundations.
  • Select your growth engines – through rigorous analysis, identify the existing products or services, or adjacent markets you can expand into, that will drive the growth of your business.
  • Come up with a proposition that is compelling and meaningful if you want to succeed in attracting new customers.
  • Make sure your strategy is properly resourced.
  • Restructure the business so it is aligned with the strategy – this may involve bringing in fresh blood and letting people go if they are resistant to what you are trying to achieve.

Explaining the crucial difference between strategy development and business planning, David said:

“Business planning looks forward from the past, so naturally leads to the extension of what is already being done.Strategy has to work back from where you want to be in the future, so by definition it’s more ambitious and people are much more likely to be excited by it. It can help to create an organisation that is alive with possibilities, rather than defensive and too attached to the status quo.”

The event at the University of Exeter’s Reed Hall on Wednesday, May 17, was attended by around 50 delegates.

Jacqui Cousins, of Belvedere HR, said:

“It was a great opportunity for me to reflect about working on my business, rather than in my business.”

Pete Weeks, managing director at Daneswood, added:

“I found the whole thing really interesting. It’s a good chance to step back from your business and look at the things you don’t get a chance to look at. It raised a lot of really interesting ideas and things to have a good think about in the business.”

Ben Didier, director of Oakwood Consulting and Coaching, said:

“We were delighted that so many leading members of the Devon business community joined us for this event. The feedback has been extremely positive, proving there is a real demand for strategic clarity from ambitious businesses in the region.

“Many people commented that it was useful to step back from the day-to-day management of their businesses to think about the bigger picture.

“We plan to host more events like this in the future as The Oakwood Partnership works to help more business in the Exeter area to overcome their barriers to growth and achieve their goals.”

For more information, or to register your interest in upcoming courses and programmes aimed at businesses with high growth aspirations, contact Ben Didier on 07737 465312 or email