Reflections; Goldman Sachs 10KSB

Published on 4th March 2022 by Wendy Perring

“We create sustainable places and spaces that nurture the soul”

Following on from our news roundup, Wendy Perring (Founder & Design Director) reflects on her experience completing Goldman Sachs 10KSB.

When a friend recommended that I apply for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business UK I was unconvinced. Unconvinced that the business of running an architecture practice would be considered a serious enough endeavour by the sponsors, or that I would even be considered as a ‘business person’. Marketed as a compressed MBA the #10KSB programme is run by the Said Business School, Oxford University. It is designed to provide exceptional business training, support, and practical learning to small business owners, which make up 99% of UK businesses, and social enterprises across the UK.

I am proud that PAD studio is a female-owned and led architecture practice. A practice that employs and promotes women and embraces diversity. Since founding PAD studio in 2013 I have juggled the demands of running a business, practising as an architect, and being a single mother to two children. Research shows that you are more likely to be a female brain surgeon than run an architecture practice, and whilst we learn a great deal during our training, we do not learn how to manage a business.

Like many, I felt most of the time I was ‘winging it’ and had been simply ‘lucky’. Lucky to have some fabulous projects, win a clutch of awards, work with a wonderful team of people and genuinely love what I do every day. I was doubtful if I could even grow my business, or go about doing it without compromising on the quality and design integrity that is so important to me. As someone who loves and respects the process of learning – I was keen to explore new skills which could help grow the business and critically for me, to gain confidence in my own ability as a business leader and in the decisions that I was making.

Alarm bells should have sounded louder asked by one of my interviewers how I was going to manage the programme whilst juggling my busy life, but I also know that if you want something done, ask a busy person! The intensive four-month programme involved a series of residential courses, online lectures twice a week and smaller group tutorials weekly, led by an experienced ‘Growth Expert’. All supported by guided self-study. Subjects covered were purposefully broad, covering the essential nuts and bolts of ‘Understanding your Financial Metrics’, glossed over by many of us that simply don’t know where to start to properly analyse our figures, to ‘Marketing’ and ‘Culture’ (my favourite).

The course introduced different perspectives from industry experts and a myriad of mind-boggling new tools to help us capture, articulate, and define where we want to grow our businesses. Fellow students were refreshing non-designers running a wide variety of businesses, from hair extensions that bring confidence to biodegradable bamboo sanitary products. Together we grappled with understanding and expressing our ‘Why’. Probably the single most important thing to get your head around as a business owner. We tend to know ‘what’ we do, but not ‘why’ we do it.

The main output of the course was an in-depth Business Growth Plan (BGP) which is developed over time using ‘Liveplan’, a piece of software tailored by the business school to work around the learning modules which were subsequently signed off by our growth expert at various stages. The most daunting aspect of this BGP is the five-year financial projection, which to be meaningful, must take account of your growth targets. It involves as much soul searching as it does the number crunching.

In presenting my final business plan to my cohort, I outlined my strategy for business growth over the next 1-3 years and beyond, setting out concrete growth goals and how we would achieve them. Moving forward we will focus on securing a smaller number of larger, higher-value contracts in both Domestic and Commercial sectors whilst developing and building on our strong environmental ethos and knowledge.

When I embarked on the course, I thought that it would force me to make the decision to either ‘twist or stick’, to grow or stay as we were. Throughout the programme, I realised that the decision to embark on the programme had already made that decision; the decision to grow. The course then simply provided the tools and confidence to enable me to implement that growth.

Although we finished the programme a few days before Christmas(2021), graduation was an unforgettable ceremony at the Sheldonian in Oxford in late January. Armed with newfound confidence and a detailed business plan for growth, signed off by experts, my task now is implementation. After all the proof of the pudding is not in having a good recipe, it is what the pudding tastes like.

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