picture credit: Alaisdair Smith

Nicky Butler: MyEducation

Triple-accredited Strathclyde Business School in Glasgow has been delivering Help to Grow: Management since September 2021. So far, 160 companies have graduated from this 12-week part-time course at the University. Announced in the 2021 Budget, the programme offers practical management training delivered by world-class business schools across the UK. Aimed at leaders and senior decision-makers of SMEs to boost performance, resilience, and long-term growth, the high-quality curriculum offers the opportunity to build capabilities in leadership, innovation, digital adoption, employee engagement, marketing, responsible business, and financial management. By the end of the course, participants have developed a business growth plan, created connections, and widened their networks.

Nicky Butler is manager of MyEducation, which, since 1995, has sent young people into the world to experience new cultures, lifestyles, and languages. With offices in Denmark, Norway, and the UK, MyEducation is an independent organisation that values the importance of international understanding, and facilitates programmes for young people and adults to travel, study, and complete high school exchange programmes and language travel programmes overseas.

The company’s goal is to promote an understanding of cultural and linguistic differences among youth and adults, and to help them with their professional and personal development. It sends people aged from 12-70+ to many parts of the world, and the programmes which clients take part in require them to become active participants in family, school, and community life. MyEducation’s programmes are educational and cross-cultural, and allow students, host families and local people to be involved in a memorable experience which they will cherish for the rest of their lives.

The part of the company Nicky is responsible for opened in 2013, and had operated steadily for several years, showing strong signs of growth in 2019, only for this to be curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and, more significantly, by Brexit. As Nicky explains, Help to Grow came along at just the right time: “Brexit meant that we could no longer run the programme that was our main source of income, so in 2021 we started new programmes and also looked at ways to market the new version of the existing programmes we had. It felt almost like we were starting from the beginning again, so I was keen to get some support, guidance, and input from experienced professionals.

Strathclyde Business School had regular start dates for the programme and was an easily accessible location for me, so after a little research, I saw that Help to Grow, supported by Strathclyde, could be a real benefit to me and MyEducation.”

As Nicky does not come from a business background, most of the knowledge she has gained throughout her career was either self-taught or through support from mentors or short courses. “I know how to run the programmes that MyEducation offers, and how to ensure that is done to the highest level, but I hoped that Help to Grow would do just as it said: help MyEducation to grow. I hoped to gain advice and support to see the value of our company, how to motivate my staff and get the best from them, and also to reach a wider market within the UK.”

Help to Grow at Strathclyde had an immediate impact on Nicky, and its teachings were particularly useful as the programme coincided with Nicky taking up a new position within the company: “Help to Grow came at an ideal time for me, because I took on the role of CEO of MyEducation during the course. The concepts and strategies that we discussed on Help to Grow allowed me to develop ideas and strategy and take on my new role with more focus and determination. It also gave me a confidence to communicate and develop new strategies with the teams and bring us together to develop our path for the future of the business.”

As well as gaining knowledge herself as a result of completing the course, Nicky has been keen to ensure that her staff also benefit from the concepts and theories expounded in each of the twelve modules.

“The curriculum of the course was varied and broad, and a lot of information was covered in the twelve-week programme. For me, the most beneficial part has been looking at the vision, mission, and values of the company and what that means for the team and our clients. I also found the accounting part of the course very valuable as it showed new ways to track progress and to consider the financials of the business.

MyEducation has offices in the UK, Denmark, and Norway, so I have been able to introduce ideas and concepts to the teams and work together to form goals, values and much more. I am steadily introducing the teams to ideas from the course, and they are enjoying discussing the opportunities that we offer our clients and how the concepts can impact us as a business and them as employees. Every member of the organisation has been involved in developing new processes and I feel that we all have a better understanding of the ethos of the company.”

One of the most beneficial elements of the programme is the peer-to-peer learning which takes place each week, which quickly connects a group of key decision makers from various companies across a number of industries and sectors. Owing to personal circumstances, Nicky had to delay completion of the course, and re-joined with a later cohort. Rather than being detrimental, this instead proved useful, as Nicky got to interact with even more like-minded businesspeople.

“I gained a great amount from the course. Although it was a shame not to finish with my original classmates, I benefited from meeting two groups of professionals who were encountering similar issues to me, and they were also passionate about their product and their goals and were willing to share knowledge too. I was very grateful that the programme was run in-person and I enjoyed the time away from the office to properly focus on the content of the programme one afternoon a week. Talking with people of all ages and from varied businesses was a definite advantage for me personally and professionally. Messages continue to pass between the groups, with helpful sources of information and opportunities.”

When considering any challenges that Help to Grow presented, Nicky identified a common factor that affects us all: time. “Time is always a challenge for anyone in business, and the course did present a test in that respect: having to make an effort to find time to digest the information and to consider ways to apply it to the business.

“It would be very easy to complete the course and not put the knowledge to effective use, but I am determined not to allow that to happen. Each module generated a long list of ideas about how to apply the concepts presented, but finding the time to do it is a challenge. Any potential participant needs to be ready to ensure they don’t waste the opportunity and do apply the learnings to their organisation. Since completing the course, I have tried to continue to use my Tuesday afternoons as Help to Grow time, in order that I don’t lose momentum and really work to invest the knowledge I have gained back into the company.”

Making the effort to continue embedding the course teachings can prove incredibly valuable, and the team at Strathclyde, alongside the wider Help to Grow Alumni Network, are always keen to support ongoing learning. As Nicky points outs, “the Help to Grow organisation and Strathclyde Business School continue to offer opportunities for networking and knowledge growth beyond the course completion date.”

Overall, Nicky was delighted with the quality of the course and the passion of those who deliver it: “Help to Grow is an excellent opportunity for any business owner or manager. Joining the programme is a wise investment of your time and allows you to look at your business from a new angle and to learn from business experts. The Help to Grow team at Strathclyde Business School are supportive, friendly, and extremely knowledgeable. The people in your class also bring great value to the experience and offer fresh ideas and information too. For anyone who has a business that isn’t achieving what you want it to or know that it can, Help to Grow will give you the confidence to push forward and really see the benefits from your business.”

Help to Grow is delivered over 12 half days at Strathclyde Business School at a heavily subsidised cost of £750, for a business leader whose company meets the criteria of having 5 or more employees and has been established for more than 1 year. Two places are available for organisations with more than 10 employees. The third year of the programme at Strathclyde begins in August 2023, with cohorts planned throughout the year. Feedback has been incredible and places are competitive, therefore if you are interested in growing your business, register for or express your interest in Help to Grow at Strathclyde Business School here, or contact sbs-helptogrow@strath.ac.uk for more information.