How business schools can fuel high growth companies

Since co-founding Impression at the end of 2012 I have learnt a lot about running a business in a short space of time. Although my degree in management and marketing provided me with a foundation, there is no substitute for facing the challenges of running a company.

Impression has grown continuously over five years and 2017 was yet another year of impressive growth. We moved offices to accommodate more employees, took on new clients across our service areas and significantly increased our revenue. As one of the directors, the way I work has been shaped and improved by a number of small business courses and initiatives that I have been a part of in recent years.

Participating in courses as an entrepreneur

I have taken part in two major courses since 2012: a three month long Growth 100 course in Nottingham in 2013 and, in 2017, an intensive nine month long course run by Goldman Sachs called 10,000 Small Businesses. Recently, I also joined the Small Business Charter’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence scheme through the University of Nottingham, which allows me to pass on some of what I’ve learned to up-and-coming SME owners in the East Midlands region.

There are a wide range of courses offered to entrepreneurs by business schools and other organisations around the country. London is no longer the only place to be for business - there is high-quality training throughout the UK. The courses give attendees actionable knowledge to take back to their businesses and the opportunity to meet other like-minded people, with whom to share experiences and advice.

The advantages of business courses

When business schools offer intensive courses or a range of smaller sessions, SME owners have the opportunity to fill in the gaps in their knowledge. Depending on different owners’ backgrounds and experiences, the gaps could be anywhere. Some don’t have experience with managing business finances, while others might struggle with the interpersonal people-management side of running a small business. Business schools equip owners to fill these gaps.

An owner who is widening their skill set through courses will be able to drive their company’s growth in a sustainable and strategic way. Those are two business buzzwords, but they make sense in this context. With the right training, business owners can be strategic in planning how the company should continue to grow their customers and team, and sustainable in ensuring that this growth happens at the right pace for the business to keep delivering quality products and results.

Good courses offer advice for both the short term and the long term. Short term advice tends to be immediate and actionable - insights that owners can take away and put into practice there and then. Long term advice, on the other hand, helps us to plan for the future of the company and implement practices that will set us up for continued success. In this way, entrepreneurs and owners can see results straight away whilst setting up for growth over a number of years.

Benefits I’ve seen at Impression

Managing the business through our high growth has been easier thanks to what I’ve learned on business courses. A key skill I’ve had to develop is the ability to delegate effectively, rather than feeling like I have to be personally involved in every decision. It’s natural for the director of a small business to be very involved, but it is important that other team members are able to step up and take responsibility. This helps them and the wider company to grow.

I have also been able to facilitate Impression’s employee growth, alongside my co-founder, with insights from business courses. As we’ve hired new people, we have implemented training programmes and processes that help them to integrate into the business and get their work up to scratch as quickly as possible. This means that new hires can contribute to the growth of the company at the earliest possible opportunity, which is positive for everyone involved.

Now that I’m part of the Entrepreneurs-in-Residence scheme, I am excited to work with other SMEs and help them to grow, even as I keep learning and improving things at Impression. Owners and entrepreneurs getting together and sharing knowledge is never a bad thing!


Aaron Dicks is Managing Director at Impression, a high-growth digital marketing agency with offices in Nottingham and London. He is currently an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of Nottingham Business School and is alumni of the University of Leeds Business School.