Case study

Richard Franklin: My experience of Help to Grow

Richard Franklin is the Managing Director of Thermal Fluid Solutions, a company based in the High Peak, which provides support and maintenance services for thermal fluid systems. The firm has a global reach, with a second office in North America.

Richard completed the Help to Grow management programme in 2022, and over a year later, he reflects on how it’s benefitted his business.

Key motivations and benefits

Richard says he joined the programme because he wanted the time to step back and reflect on his business and its future direction. He was particularly keen to hear the experiences and perspectives of people external to his business and to find new sources of support and guidance.

He says the Help to Grow experience — particularly the guidance from his mentor — has been “quite profound” because it’s completely changed his thinking on how best to grow Thermal Fluid Solutions (TFS).

“I went into Help to Grow with a blinkered belief in how best to grow the business. But having talked it through at length with my mentor, Annette, it has completely changed my focus and the way we promote ourselves. We have found new opportunities and avenues to explore.”

With her expertise in organisational change, Richard’s mentor also recognised there were some structural changes that needed to be made to turn his team into a high-performing one. “Although these were hard to make,” says Richard, “they were certainly needed.”

When Help to Grow finished, Richard decided to continue using Annette as a mentor and guide and he still meets with her monthly now.

Richard Franklin, MD of Thermal Fluid Solutions

It’s 100% worth it. Only positive things came out of me doing this programme! But you have to go in with an open mind, and be willing to change your thinking.

Richard Franklin
MD, Thermal Fluid Solutions

Investing in innovation and expertise

Help to Grow also encouraged TFS to become a more cash-positive business, and this has brought huge benefits:

“In the past, we were always catching up on cash. Now we have cash in the bank to fund innovation, which is an enlightening move.”

Since Richard completed the Help to Grow programme, Thermal Fluid Solutions has also grown its turnover by 25% and increased its margin.

The firm has also taken on two new permanent members of staff, and is set to onboard two more research associates in 2024 through the University of Derby’s Knowledge Transfer Partnership scheme.

A Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) is a fixed-term partnership between a company, the University (the knowledge base) and a recent graduate (‘associate’). It’s part-funded by government. KTPs focus on a specific project which addresses a business need and should embed new knowledge and skills within the company.

Thermal Fluid Solutions’ first KTP will begin next month and will focus on devising a modelling tool which the company can sell. A second KTP is now being applied for and this will be linked to the first, but with a focus on data. Both KTPs will last three years.

“By working closely with the University through these KTPs” says Richard, “our research will gain more credibility. This also means we are investing in our own expertise, which is crucial because we want to stand as leaders in our field.”

Annette Rothwell, Sam Franklin and Richard Franklin of Thermal Fluid Solutions group
Left to right, Annette Rothwell (Mentor); Sam Franklin (CFO); Richard Franklin

Building networks and finding more support

It’s clear that Richard has built a strong relationship with the University of Derby. As well as the research partnerships, Richard has also explored graduate recruitment options for the future.

Although Richard doesn’t normally attend many networking events, he says he’s found the Help to Grow alumni events “enormously valuable”. “It’s brilliant to be able to step back, have open discussions with others, and remind yourself of what you’re trying to do as business owners.”

It’s for the same reasons that he fully recommends Help to Grow:

“It’s 100% worth it. Only positive things came out of me doing this programme! But you have to go in with an open mind, and be willing to change your thinking.”

Thermal Fluid Solutions group in factory environment wearing safety equipment
Thermal Fluid Solutions Group in factory environment wearing safety equipment