SYLO | Beyond HR & Databasix UK
SYLO | Beyond HR and Databasix UK are both Oxfordshire companies that have embraced the Peer Networks programme for their founder members and leadership teams. A result of their participation in the group is collaboration on an exciting new project.
Ant Parsons, Innovation Director at ALP Synergy who runs the programme for OxLEP Business comments “SYLO Beyond HR and Databasix are two exciting and growing Oxfordshire businesses that have really enjoyed and benefitted from the Peer Networks programme. It is great working with them. There are now well over 200 Oxfordshire businesses that have engaged and its fantastic that the business leaders involved all want to help promote the programme to others.”
We spoke to Kellie Peters, Data Rockstar & Chief Executive of Databasix UK and Sally White, Director and Co Founder of SYLO | Beyond HR to find out more about their, and their colleagues’ experience of Peer Networks and what benefits there have been for both their companies.
How did you find out about the Peer Networks programme?
K. We were already engaged with OxLEP running a GDPR course for small businesses and it was mentioned by Ant Parsons who runs the programme. We immediately thought it would be a great resource: the opportunity to bounce ideas off other business founders and to know you’re not alone in trying to build a business. My business partner Regina joined the next group and found it incredibly useful.
S. We’d already been working with OxLEP advising start-up businesses on HR issues and delivering some workshops with OxLEP’s Start-up Club. It was during those conversations that the benefits of having the opinions of external likeminded people was discussed and Peer Networks was mentioned. I have since completed a Peer Networks programme and the other co-founder, Sarah Stevens, has started in a group recently.
Have you found the networking element useful?
K. This is not networking where you’re pitching your services and doing your 60 seconds, which we are both very comfortable doing. This group required you to be prepared to come to the table to share your challenges and your advice.
S. It allows you to have more in-depth conversations with likeminded businesses, sharing experiences and challenges in a really supportive environment.
K. It’s been really good to forge closer relationships with other business leaders, discover our commonality and be supporting other OxLEP businesses. It is nice to get a sense of how each business runs. It doesn’t matter that the businesses in the group were all different. For me, it was nice to discuss what it’s like to be a co-founder of a business during the pandemic and how people found recruiting staff members. It is nice to speak to people who are at the same level professionally and have the same concerns.
S. The types of businesses that were in my group came from diverse sectors but this enhanced the experience. Hearing different challenges and sharing solutions had relevance to our business and was also useful as we’re involved in providing Business Strategy as well as HR Consultancy support to clients. It certainly added value to my experience.
What about the time commitment for you both?
K. My business partner Regina found a group with a time slot that suited her and the dates that worked best. There are dates and times to suit most preferences. We felt that knowing there was a time commitment for the programme enabled us to block out and ‘protect’ that time so we could focus with no distractions.
S. I found that the time was utilised really well. Our group agreed on a way of working and how to get the best out of the time so we could all be very focused. It didn’t take long for us to become comfortable working with one another.
K. Because you have committed this time from your business it requires preparation so you can think about what problems you want to bring to the group to make the most of the session. This made us really think about what were our genuine concerns and what we might learn from bringing them to the table.
How have you found the one-to-one advice?
S. Although we only had a couple of sessions, it was great for SYLO in that both myself and Sarah attended the one-to-one element of the programme, the coach was happy to work with us both. The choice of the area we might look at was down to us and then we could decide who of OxLEP’s coaches and experts would be best to work with.
K. We already work with a business coach and have not got to the one-to-one stage of the programme yet. We all have different challenges and the additional focused advice offered in the one-to-one session could be utilised to help with specific issues like marketing or finance.
What would you say to other business leaders who may not feel peer support is for them?
S. There is absolute value in talking to other people, hearing about their challenges and discussing possible solutions with experienced peers. As a business leader, there are few opportunities to do this.
K. Joining a Peer Networks group is permitting yourself to work ON the business and not IN the business. All too often we are trying to juggle the two but this is a real opportunity to look at the future and see where you are going. It’s also a chance to know you’re not alone, an opportunity for you to meet other people and know that ‘these problems aren’t only mine!’. It’s a safe space to ask those types of questions.
S. I don’t think businesses understand how wide the offering from OxLEP is and that Peer Networks is just a part of that. Free events get overlooked, like the online marketing training that happens on Thursday evenings. Engaging in any way with OxLEP might then give you the confidence to get involved in Peer Networks as well as getting a better idea of the wrap around and wider support that’s on offer for Oxfordshire businesses.
What has been the most stand-out element of this programme for you?
S. We focused our minds on business strategy and now we’ve got that set out for the next 12 months. The group was a creative space to inform that planning – what are the goals, what is our why? It definitely impacted on these things for us and when you’re running a business you get diverted in many different ways. Being brought back into that space to focus on the next 12 months was really energising and positive.
How has working together in Peer Networks increased your collaboration?
S. Managing your Data Protection for the people in your business is such a big issue and what you do is key to enabling a business to grow. It was spending time together in the group that gave us the idea to collaborate and we pulled together our expertise to design an accredited Workplace Data Protection Diploma. We’re so proud of what we’ve designed and delivered and already we have had wonderful feedback from our first cohort.
K. Together SYLO | Beyond HR and Databasix UK designed the Diploma in Workplace Data Protection, a five-module course that combines HR with data protection. Each of the five modules are CPD accredited (thanks to Sally) which is massive in terms of the opportunity for delivery. The entire course was designed in the time of the pandemic so it’s all online and can be delivered entirely remotely, which we’re very proud of, and we will soon be launching our third cohort.
More information on the Diploma in Workplace Data Protection can be found here : https://www.dbxuk.com/hr-training/the-diploma-in-workplace-data-protection
Can you list your top three benefits of Peer Networking?
- I have gained more confidence as a leader.
- Solidified that we can focus on the business and not always be in the business.
- Knowing OxLEP is not just one and done. Finding out about all the other services and grants that are available.
- The opportunity to take a step away from the business in those sessions.
- To have a safe space and protected time to work on the business - that’s rippled into more time preparing and revisiting what we’ve learnt.
- The contacts that I’ve made and that I will keep in touch with. I now have another professional support network.
Ant Parsons, Innovation Director at ALP Synergy who runs the programme for OxLEP Business, comments: “SYLO Beyond HR and Databasix are two exciting and growing Oxfordshire businesses that have really enjoyed and benefitted from the Peer Networks programme. It is great working with them. There are now well over 200 Oxfordshire businesses that have engaged and it's fantastic that the business leaders involved all want to help promote the programme to others.”