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Friday, 01 August 2014

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Cumbria business mentors unveiled for 2012

AN EXPERT panel of successful Cumbrian businesspeople is preparing to give budding entrepreneurs the benefit of their experience.

Executives from a string of leading firms have agreed to act as judges in the Local Business Accelerators (LBA) scheme, which offers £15m of free advertising and mentoring to promising young enterprises across the UK.

The Evening Mail is backing the drive, led nationally by the Newspaper Society and fronted by Dragons’ Den star Deborah Meaden.

Businesses have until November 16 to enter and must be between one and five years old. Three local winners will each benefit from £10,000 of free advertising in this newspaper.

They will also get professional mentoring from local business people and today the identity of those mentors can be revealed.

Other judges will come from the University of Cumbria and Cumbrian accountancy firm Armstrong Watson, which are sponsoring the campaign.

To enter, visit www.accelerateme.co.uk.

Learn from mistakes

Name: Paul Graham
Age: 34
Occupation: General manager at Abbey House Hotel, Barrow.
Location: Lives in Ulverston.
What do you like about your job? The variety of the job. No two days are the same and I like the constant challenges faced everyday. What do you dislike about your job? Nothing. It’s a job you either love or hate.
How do you strike a balance between work and life? I enjoy escaping for a few hours on the golf course without email/phone and taking regular holidays to recharge.
What is the best bit of business advice you have ever received? Don’t be afraid to give something a try, but if it doesn’t work, learn from your mistakes.
What separates good businesses from bad businesses? Conviction, drive and determination. And listening to advice from those around you and taking it on board.
Can businesses still thrive in tough economic conditions? If the product is good enough, there will still be demand. It is all about being proactive and always looking to offer something that the competition doesn’t have to allow you to stand out.

Planning key to a good business

Name: Martin Cutbill
Age: 51
Occupation: Sales and marketing director at Furness Building Society
Location: Live in Cartmel, work in Barrow.
What do you like about your job? The variety of it, the fact that I’m working for an organisation with a high sense of moral and social responsibility and the fact that the members hold us in high regard and trust us.
What do you dislike about your job? Apart from there being an enormous amount to do, the other thing that’s difficult is that financial services have got quite a poor reputation and however good you are, sometimes you can be tarred with the brush of the behaviour of others and that’s frustrating.
How do you strike a balance between work and life? The way I manage it is that I’ll work long hours in the office when they are required, but when I leave the office, I leave my work behind. If I do need some thinking time, I’m a keen cyclist and going out on a long cycle and mulling over the issues is very therapeutic.
What is the best bit of business advice you have ever received? Imagine the business that you look up to and that is your ideal business and set a plan to become just like that.
What separates good businesses from bad businesses? I would say probably a lack of a plan of where you want to go as an organisation. How can you galvanise all the resources within your business if it’s not absolutely clear where you are going?
Can businesses still thrive in tough economic conditions? Some businesses perform incredibly well when the (economic) climate is poor because there are counter-cyclical businesses. But ultimately, even in a difficult climate, you will still find the best businesses survive and grow from strength to strength.

Keep it simple and you’ll succeed

Name: Mike Armstead
Age: 53
Occupation: Managing director of Wax Lyrical Ltd based in Lindal
Location: Splits time between Cheshire and Satterthwaite
What do you like about your job? I’ve got the best job in the world. I love the variety. Every minute of every day is different.
I’ve got 150 great people and because of my very broad previous experience, nothing phases me anymore. At 53, I’ve been there, done that and got the t-shirt.
What do you dislike about your job? The trivial things. They’re the sorts of things you can get sucked into – the minutiae. I like people to recognise when I need to know and when I don’t need to know.
How do you strike a balance between work and life? I think about the business every waking hour, but I’m only physically here, on average, three to four days a week. My style of management is very much strategy and guidance and you have then to give people time to get on with that. If I’m here all the time, I’m constantly interfering.
What is the best bit of business advice you have ever received? Keep it simple. I used to be a director of BP and somebody in my early days there told me that.
What separates good businesses from bad businesses? Attention to detail. A lot of businesses don’t keep an eye on their revenue lines and their cost lines. Business is simple. If you’re spending less than you’re earning, you’ll be successful.
Can businesses still thrive in tough economic conditions? Yes. It’s all about market share. If the market’s contracted, you just have to fight harder to get a bigger share.

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