Case study

Ben Anderson: My experience of Help to Grow

Ben Anderson is the founder of AddQual, a Derby-based SME specialising in the qualification and development of components for aerospace, medical and power generation industries. He has recently completed the Help to Grow management programme and has been reflecting on the experience.

Key motivations and benefits

Ben joined the Help to Grow programme in July 2021 because he wanted to learn how to better market his company, position it appropriately and look for new markets. He explains: “Obviously Covid has affected everybody, especially in the aerospace sector, so we want to make sure that we can identify new markets and new sectors.”

During the 12-week leadership and management programme, Ben says he’s learned a lot and has already used this knowledge to improve the business: “Throughout the 12 weeks, I took elements of the programme and incorporated it into my day-to-day practice. For example, prior to Help to Grow, I felt we were weaker on the sales and marketing side. Now I’m considering the customer first in any technical advancements that we are considering; I’m asking, how would our customers benefit from this? What’s the value to them and therefore the commercial benefit to us?

“I have found customer personas a particularly effective tool. We deal with some large OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) and have multiple customers within those, who all have different wants and needs. The programme encouraged me to map these out and we’ve started to do this now.”

Ben Anderson at the Enterprise Centre.

Prior to Help to Grow, I felt we were weaker on the sales and marketing side. Now I’m considering the customer first in any technical advancements that we are considering; I’m asking, how would our customers benefit from this?

Ben Anderson
Founder or AddQual

Support from other business leaders

All participants on the Help to Grow programme get assigned a mentor, who offers them one-to-one, personalised support to develop their business growth plan. Ben’s mentor was Annette Rothwell, an experienced Vice President level executive and board member, who has supported CEOs within a range of global companies including FTSE100 listed aerospace and defence organisations.

“Annette helped us define our sales pitch and has transformed our approach to the business: before we had a bottom-up, product-orientated approach and now we are much more market and enterprise orientated.

We’ve updated our business plan and I have an objective to make sure that the key elements that we have identified are put into place. Annette is now a non-executive director of AddQual so continues to guide us.”

Ben also valued the insights from other Help to Grow participants: “I enjoyed having peers to talk to about issues that we all have. They often raised some good points that I wouldn’t normally have considered.”

Space and time to reflect

One of the most valuable aspects of the programme for Ben, was having the time and space away from his day-to-day job to work on the business, rather than in it. Ben explains: “It’s worth taking that step back and taking time out of your very busy week to digest and go through this particular course and process. It allowed me to look at where the gaps and issues were in the business. Sometimes when you’re close to something, you don’t see the obvious issues. It allowed me to think about the business from a different perspective.”

He also liked the way it was delivered: “All the course tutors were good, and the content wasn’t too academic; there was a practical aspect to it. For example, the subjects always linked to a case study so you could relate to the journey that business had been on.”

Tapping into the University's talent pool

Prior to joining Help to Grow, AddQual was already involved in a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with the University, so Ben was familiar with some of the expertise on offer here. However, he says the programme has made him keen to engage more with the University, particularly in relation to recruitment: “Sometimes we find it quite difficult to identify good candidates for our business, but we have two people that have come from the University of Derby and we definitely want to recruit more from there. It’s a good source of people, skills and knowledge.”

Hear Ben's initial impressions of the programme

This video interview was taken just after Ben began the Help to Grow programme — hear what his initial impressions were then.

Head and shoulders shot of Ben Anderson

View Ben Anderson Interview video transcript