South Ribble manufacturer gets boost with mentoring support
Pet and personal care products manufacturer Group55 Ltd has increased turnover by more than 40% and created twelve new jobs after receiving mentoring support from Boost – Lancashire’s business growth hub.
Stephen Turner, who first started up in business at the age of 25, formed Group55 in 1999, initially selling pest control products online.
Over the years, the company diversified to become a world leading manufacturer of dog grooming products supplying the largest pet retailers with both branded and private label products, but as the company grew their reliance on third party manufacturers became increasingly problematic. It was clear to Stephen that he needed to take control of the manufacturing process.
Today, Group55 manufactures a wide range of products for humans as well as dogs and export to more than 50 countries. The journey from a small office to a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility came with many challenges, but one of Stephen’s first steps in preparing for the challenges he faced was to speak with Boost.
Stephen said: “In the past I’ve embarked on various business support schemes to help grow the business but they didn’t work. The mentors had no related experience and they didn’t understand my business. I just thought it a waste of time.
“I was not convinced about mentoring until about two years ago when I knew I needed to make a dramatic shift in operations, which took me out of my comfort zone. I went looking for professional guidance and South Ribble Council recommended I speak to Boost.”
After an initial discussion about the business, Stephen’s challenges and goals, Boost delivery partner Orvia identified David Grant, a business mentor with a wealth of experience in strategic business planning, as the best person to support Group 55.
Growth Mentoring is a fully funded Boost programme where business owners are matched with a successful businessperson to offer 1-2-1 support in order to tackle the challenges faced in growing the business. The programme is delivered by Community and Business Partners and Orvia to established businesses across the county. Boost is Lancashire's Business Growth Hub and is led by the Lancashire LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) and Lancashire County Council and supported by funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
When Stephen first engaged with Boost in October 2017, Group55 had nine employees. The firm had just moved into a £2m facility on Matrix Park to begin Stephen’s manufacturing ambitions.
David Grant, Stephen’s growth mentor said “Stephen is an accomplished businessman and was directing the business very well. As his mentor I helped him to plan strategically, record the strategies and share his ambitions with the rest of his team.
“In the first meeting we discussed the need for an honest appraisal of the business and staff. The business direction clearly needed identifying, including customer profile, new product development and the introduction of a manufacturing facility.”
As part of the business appraisal, Stephen created a company structure and presented it to the team, with a commitment to improve team communications and engender honest and open communication channels across the business.
Stephen said: “The experience from David Grant was invaluable. He has a great mentoring style, by letting us make our own decisions. We went through the business, discussing where we wanted to be and what were our challenges. With his previous experience in manufacturing he had been there and done it, so he understood what I was going through at each stage.
“David was able to produce solutions and think differently to us which really helped to have a different perspective on the business. He listened, and then dealt with it in manageable bite size chunks.”
Since the mentoring support, Group55 now employs more than 20 staff – with new roles created in the manufacturing, technical and quality departments of the company. Turnover has increased by more than 40% and Stephen is now aiming to triple the turnover again by 2020.
Their laboratory and onsite manufacturing processes became fully operational in March 2019 with capacity for running three filling lines producing more than 500,000 units per month.
Ann Lancaster, operations manager at Orvia said: “The mentoring support has been invaluable and gave Stephen the confidence he needed to push forward with his manufacturing ambitions. Having experienced some ‘ineffective mentoring’ many years ago, Stephen was cautious about the impact the support could add to the business. However, the Boost mentoring support allowed Stephen to ‘just talk’ providing the sounding board he was missing as at the time when he was the only director on the board of his business.”
David and Stephen continue to work together to sustain the growth and direction of Group55. Since being mentored, Stephen has now qualified as a Boost Growth Mentor to help support other ambitious Lancashire business owners. Earlier this year, he started mentoring his first business client.
Stephen said: “After such a wonderful experience of mentoring, I can truly appreciate the impact it can have on a business and wanted to be able to do for other businesses what David has done for Group55.”
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.