Cranfield Business Growth Programme (BGP)

A Cranfield programme designed to drive the progress of ambitious business owners and managers

Cranfield Business Growth Programme

The Worshipful Company of Farmers' John Beckett Scholarship Fund is proud to support the Cranfield Business Growth Programme. The BGP has been been specifically designed by Cranfield to meet the needs of forward thinking owners/managers of businesses. It has already been successfully running for 30 years and as of 2017 the Worshipful Company of Farmers have been sponsoring carefully selected delegates from the agricultural industry to join the programme.

Although not targeted specifically at agriculture - participants come from a very diverse range of businesses and from all over the UK - agricultural delegates have successfully participated in the past – indeed the NFU Mutual sends a number of candidates every year.

The BGP is modular, run over eleven weeks and consisting of four two day modules, followed five weeks later by a Presentation Day and six months later for a follow up Progress Review Day. You can access a copy of the prospectus here BGP brochure.

The theme of the course is very much individual development with the following learning themes – Where am I now? Where am I going? How do I get there? And there is a particular focus on the '4 Ms' -

Markets : Money and Measures : Management : Me

Participants also get on-going access to Cranfield as alumni and can join the BGP club which extends their participation beyond the supervised length of the course and provides continued access to a counsellor.

The Company plans to sponsor, through the John Beckett Scholarship fund, its first delegates in 2017.

It is envisaged that alumni from both the Challenge of Rural Leadership and the Advanced Course in Agricultural Business Management would be potential candidates for this new course.

The 2018 Business Growth Programme

The 2019 BGP courses will start in January and September.

Follow this link Briefing Events Schedule fort a full list of upcoming 'Briefing' dates. The BGP 'Briefing Events are designed to help you assess your suitability for the course. Or to discuss the Business Growth Programme directly with a member of the team at Cranfield, contact Sharon Kennedy on s.kennedy@cranfield.ac.uk or telephone 01234 758122.

An interview with Richard Goring, an alumnus of the Cranfield Business Growth programme

Richard Goring
Richard Goring

How did you discover the WCF Scholarship opportunity? And how did you feel when you were recognised for a scholarship by WCF?

I was introduced to Cranfield by a friend of mine who was already involved with Cranfield. He suggested that I get in touch because he believed that Cranfield would help me with a “business perspective on the Estate”. So, I got in touch and was introduced to the Business Growth Programme. I attended a briefing event in London, which was useful, and I thought “this looks fantastic”. It was really applicable to what we’re doing on the Estate, and to me as an owner/ manager, trying to work out how I do that role to the best of my ability, when I am relatively untrained for it.

However, when I was told the price I thought, “Wow that is expensive” and ultimately, I felt that I could not justify it on the cash flow of the Estate at that point in time. It was then that the WCF Scholarship was brought to my attention. The team at Cranfield handled everything for me and the next thing I knew I was talking to the WCF. They wanted to know a little more about myself and the Estate. Fortuitously, we had just finished a whole Estate Plan and I was able to say, “this is what we want to do over the next 15 years, and how we want to go forward, but I don’t feel particularly skilled or able to necessarily manage or execute that process”. WCF looked at the plan and they came straight back saying “we would be really keen to take you on as one of our scholars”, which was fantastic, I was surprised but found it very encouraging.

In all honesty, I didn’t feel like I had quite enough soil under my fingernails to qualify for the Scholarship. When it comes to being out in the fields every day, I have to hold my hands up and say that in essence, I’m a land steward. I look after the land, but many others are actually farming on the Estate, driving tractors and looking after livestock. Whereas, I’m normally sitting in an office and trying to work out cash flows and see how we can keep the rural businesses going. When I expressed these concerns to the WCF they told me that I “very much fit within the rural capacity of trying to create rural businesses that are sustainable” and “if it wasn’t for people like you, the farmers would be struggling to find land to work on”. So that gave me the reassurance that I was alright to move forward with the Scholarship.

I must say, that having now done the Programme, it is more than worth its value, I’m not saying that we have suddenly discovered a way of making an extra million pounds but what it has enabled is a more sustainable life for both myself and hopefully the Estate. It has been a process of putting systems in place that can actually work and don’t depend on me. I have no doubt that we would have been in real danger of sinking had I not done the Programme and I really owe that to the WCF Scholarship, without it I honestly don’t think I would have made the investment into BGP, which, on reflection, would have been a huge mistake because the impact it has made is huge.

What were your motivations for joining the programme?

My motivation for joining BGP was simply to make our Estate Plan a reality. As good as the Plan might have looked on paper; there was a huge amount of business framework and structure that was needed to make it happen. How was I going to manage the change from a historic heritage Estate to become a rural business hub and an Estate ready for the future?

I recognised that to achieve that, I had to create sustainable models that work, so I knew that shift was going to take a lot of work and I was keen to get myself geared up business-wise, rather than simply being reactive and relying on what I thought and felt in the time.

I also had a close friend who had been working with me on the Estate, giving strategic advice and working on cash flow scenarios. He advised me to go on BGP and was wise enough to see how it would help to implement some of the more strategic elements of the Estate’s future.

What have been the key benefits of completing BGP?

One line has particularly stuck with me, “All of you as owner/managers will think you’re completely indispensable. The point of this Programme is to help make you totally redundant”, I was thinking, “what on earth are they talking about? There’s no way that’s right”. But sure enough, as the course went on, I went through a journey of understanding my value and identity, from being the one that everything goes through, directing and leading everything, to saying, actually what I really need to be doing is empowering other people to run the Estate; to be able to get the time to see ahead and to engage with new projects, so that the Estate can just run itself, as long as I put the right team in place to do that. It has been a hugely liberating experience, finally realising that I had to let this stuff go and step back, creating that team and watching them grow in the process, allowing them to step up to that space, starting to take on more responsibility, I began to release them to run their departments and do their day-to-day jobs with freedom and confidence, and it has made a huge impact, and that really started to take effect almost as soon as the course began.

One of the great things about the course is that it’s very practical, so when you go back and do your exercises with your team, they are able to engage with it and contribute, identifying how they can help and be part of the change. I think it really helped us make a step forward as a team.

Having access to a close group of businesses and your mentor throughout the course was also very helpful. They keep you going and probe a little further to really make you think about the business in different ways. When you inherit something and are looking after it, it’s quite difficult to get an outsider’s perspective. If you have grown up with it and seen it managed in that way, your thought process is “I’ve got to keep going to get it to the next generation”. When you have different people coming in from outside and saying, “What are you doing with that? Why are you doing it that way?” It makes you reassess and really think about your processes and assets.

We’ve also employed a Financial Controller and that has been brilliant, making a huge impact already. It may seem obvious but it’s so important having someone that properly understands the accounts, rather than me taking a look at the end of the year and saying, “I think that looks right”. The Financial Controller bridges that reality between cash flow, profit and loss, working capital and balance sheets, they understand those differences, and they translate it in to a language that we can understand allowing us to make the right business decisions.

All of those things have been really, really helpful, and they wouldn’t have happened in the same way without BGP.

As a Farmer/Estate Manager, how did you fit this into your day-to-day?

In the beginning, I thought “how on earth am I going to find time to get away from the business and fit this in?” The decision to go ahead was actually a joint decision between myself and my wife, Kirsty, I was really grateful that she gave me the time away on a Saturday, leaving her to look after our three boys. I then had to worry about taking the Friday’s away from the business as well. Now that I’ve done it, I realise it was exactly the right thing to do to force myself to get away. It was the first step to being made aware that the Estate does work without me and I don’t need to be there 24/7 and actually, it was great for the team to feel that they can get on and do things without me.

So it was part of the process of breaking out of that unsustainable cycle, of being indispensable. The reality is, you don’t know how you’re going to fit things in until you just do it and then you find a way. In getting your head above the day-to-day of treading water and just keeping afloat, you start to see more clearly, you actually get time out to think about these problems in a completely different way, and that was hugely beneficial.

Would you recommend BGP and the WCF Scholarship to others?

If you are in a season of change, going through succession, thinking about diversification, wanting to improve your management skills, or if you find yourself sinking, spending your entire life working flat out and missing out on time with the family, then I would wholeheartedly recommend BGP.

Any final thoughts?

As I said at the beginning, the most important thing has been to create a sense of independence for my team to be able to do what they need to do and for me not to be the lynchpin in all decisions. To watch the Estate grow in autonomy whilst I can help guide values, vision, and culture. And actually, the reality is that the team here are brilliant, they’ve got huge amounts of talent and potential that I don’t think I ever would have seen unless I’d let them actually go for it and that’s been a hugely exciting part of the journey over the last few months.

If you want to read more about the Cranfield Business Growth Programme, please visit: blog.som.cranfield.ac.uk/wcf