Pandemic-hit consultancy doubles turnover with mentoring support

A Preston-based training and project management business has doubled turnover and outlined ambitious plans for further growth after receiving mentoring support from Boost’s Growth Mentoring programme during Covid-19.

Xacom Project Controls, founded by Michael Higgins, is a consultancy that specialises in project controls helping business to manage risk and improve efficiency. Michael’s portfolio of major clients includes Amey Consulting, Poyry plc, Costain Group plc and DekTek.

At the start of the first COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, Michael estimated he had less than six months left in business, assuming his advisory and training work would drop off as clients adapted to the restrictions of lockdown.

He utilised the downtime to seek the support of the Boost Growth Mentoring programme to focus on rebranding and business planning to improve his marketing and business ‘message’ with the aim to winning further work.

With this new focus Xacom not only survived the pandemic but doubled turnover. Michael now has an aggressive target of doubling turnover year on year over the next five years.

“The Boost Growth Mentoring programme enabled me to take a step back and discover why we really operate as a business. Having the opportunity to have someone to talk to about the business has increased my personal confidence and put our business in a better place for continued growth.

Through my mentor’s guidance, we created new branding, increased our website traffic which resulted in an increase in training enquiries and subsequently that resulted in doubling our turnover."

Boost is Lancashire's Business Growth Hub and is led by Lancashire County Council and the Lancashire LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership). It is supported by funding from Lancashire County Council, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The fully-funded Boost Mentoring programme places an experienced mentor in a business to work alongside its owners and leaders to help them tackle the challenges they are facing in developing and growing their company.

Michael heard about Boost support through his connections at Society 1, the co-working space in Preston where he operates from. He received mentoring support from Paul Bury through the programme. Michael also received a Boost Your Recovery Covid 19 recovery grant from Boost last year. The grant was part of a £1.1m funding pot made available to by the Government to Lancashire businesses in their recovery from the pandemic.

Michael said: “Paul and I met regularly each week to discuss marketing and business development plans. The support was invaluable. Since receiving the support through the Boost programme, Paul and I have continued to maintain a working relationship.”

Paul Bury, Boost growth mentor said: “Michael was a pleasure to work with on the programme. He was enthusiastic and really engaged with the process which enabled us to make excellent progress and help empower the business to move forward. 

“Xacom is a high-quality consultancy and training organisation driven by Michael's passion and core values and it’s great to see the business grow.”

Michael is currently working with a global helicopter business and an international consulting and engineering firm, to review their schedules, improve operational efficiency and thus reduce costs and increase profitability.

Working with a small group of associates to deliver his projects and consulting work, he plans to grow his network of specialists and is also looking to develop a catalogue of e-learning programmes to reach a greater audience for his training programmes.

Councillor Aidy Riggott, cabinet member for economic development and growth, Lancashire County Council said: “Xacom is an excellent example of how support from Boost’s Growth Mentoring programme makes a real difference to Lancashire companies. We supported Michael during a critical period for his business and it has recovered and grown significantly since then.”

As a funded business support service, Boost helps Lancashire business owners and leaders navigate the local, regional and national public and private sector business support landscape, to find the right support for their business. Boost also delivers a number of funded programmes for start-up, established and fast-growing businesses.

CC Riggott added: “We can help your business too, by identifying the right support to help meet your growth plans. So, if you’re based in Lancashire, get in touch with Boost to start your growth conversation.”

Boost has received £3.65m of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for ERDF. Established by the European Union, ERDF funds help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations.  For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.