Richard Snell of IBM UK on Captured

Can you describe in a nutshell how Captured works?
Captured is led by Newcastle University Business School and allows managers from large companies to share their experience with micro businesses. It’s a development opportunity for smaller businesses but it’s also an exchange of knowledge both ways – we often find that the large and small companies face very similar issues and challenges and can learn from each other.

How do you define a micro business?
For the purposes of Captured, we concentrate on working with micro and small businesses which have fewer than 20 members of staff – it could be just the one person who’s running the business alone, as long as they have the ambition to make some changes, grow and transform their business.

What types of business can get involved with the programme?
Businesses from any sector can get involved. We’ve worked with all types of micro businesses from web designers and small retailers to coffee vendors, and we’ve seen managers from some of the region’s ICT, pharma and manufacturing sectors sign up, including: GlaxoSmithKline; Sage; HSBC and Calsonic. The mix of sectors is one of the things which makes it interesting and leads to cross-pollination of ideas.

How do you match the small firm owner with the right manager?
A lot of times, the sector of the two companies is less important than making a match based on the knowledge and experience of each person. Personality is also very important and we find that both sides of the partnership get out what they put into the process.

What are the planned outcomes for the businesses taking part?
The outcomes vary depending on what each small business wants to achieve, but they are all linked to business growth, whether that’s in terms of an increase in turnover, sales, or the creation of jobs, or personal growth, in terms of increased confidence, resilience, or motivation which will benefit the business.

And what do you hope the individuals will gain personally in terms of knowledge and skills?
People often realise that larger and smaller companies have a lot in common. A larger firm may have more expertise to call on in terms of specialists in HR, marketing and so on, but as a business they often face the same decisions as the smaller businesses they’re paired with.

Why do you think it’s beneficial to access guidance from outside your own organisation?
It’s always good to get a different point of view on your business, especially when, as is the case with the Captured programme, the person you’re talking to has no vested interested other than helping another business to grow.

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