Steve Gee is Managing Director of G-Force Logistics Limited based in Banbury. Started by Steve 20 years ago it is now one of Oxfordshire’s leading independent recruitment consultancies specialising in recruiting for both permanent and temporary positions in logistics, driving, industrial, PA/administration, marketing, HR and finance.
Having engaged with OxLEP several times over the last two years we spoke to Steve about his journey with OxLEP culminating in the benefits of his recent use of the Non-Executive Director for the Day (NED) scheme.
How did you first find out about OxLEP?
It was during the first lockdown when I was at home, like everyone else, home schooling my kids and thinking ‘what the hell am I going to do?’. I started to connect with others in my industry through LinkedIn to engage with as many people as possible who were in the same situation, so we could talk about what was happening. I then came across information on the Peer Networks programme on LinkedIn and realised this was what I needed. To be able to talk to senior business people in different fields, all under confidentiality agreements, was an absolutely amazing opportunity. That 18 weeks became so important to me personally and professionally and despite not enjoying being in the spotlight it got to the point that you wanted to be the one that the focus was on. Everyone listened intently within the group and even privately messaged after the sessions with ideas and support. We were able to be very honest with each other and we still have an active WhatsApp group now and regularly talk even though none of us have ever actually met in person.
We had all been hurled into the unknown with lockdown and it became a huge way for all of us to connect and get support.
After the Peer Networks support, I then engaged with the Skills for Business (SfB) offering which resulted in us taking on four full time staff on 15-month apprenticeships. Better still they were all fully funded by the apprenticeship levy share scheme which we were not previously aware of. SfB introduced us to a senior HR director at GlaxoSmithKline and they essentially paid for all of our apprenticeships including a level 5 operations manager and two consultants completing an REC approved level 3 apprenticeship.
How would you describe your engagement with OxLEP?
One of the things we wanted to do, after 20 years of me being at the helm was to future proof the business and create a better structure for the management level that was more strategic. It involved the top level moving away from operations and working on how we wanted the business to look in 12-, 24- and 36-months’ time. OxLEP’s support has not only supported this but it has helped facilitate that process.
I am happy to shout from the roof tops about how good OxLEP is and the benefits of engaging with them. My journey has become more and more focused the more I have engaged from Peer Networks to Skills for Business and now the NED for a Day support. You can’t get more focused than having an experienced business leader drilling down into your business to help with immediate issues. Liz O’Hara also invited me to join the eScalate programme, which has given me access to various ‘Power Hours’ which are very specific short and punchy one-to-one sessions.
What was the main benefit of the having a Non-Exec for a Day?
We have had two sessions with Mike Collet, our Non-Exec, helping us to really focus on what we want to achieve, and the immediate action needed to get us there. We knew where we wanted the business to be longer term but he really helped us break down what needed to be done in the next 12 weeks to work towards that. Our second 4 hour session was focused purely on expansion and looking at all the options available to us and the effect each would have on both the financials and operations.
Senior business people can find it hard to stop the merry-go-round and spend the time on the strategic side of their business. Anyone who takes the time to do that, especially throughout the pandemic and its aftermath will not only survive but will come out stronger. We are now full steam ahead, whereas I am sure many business leaders are back working ‘in’ the business fighting for their lives to get back to their operational level above the profit lines. This process has shown me that I have to commit the time as it has multiple benefits personally, for staff and from a business development point of view.
What would you say to other business leaders who have not engaged with OxLEP yet?
We all unexpectedly found ourselves in lockdown and the furlough process and had to become experts overnight on something that no one was an expert on! I discovered OxLEP at the right time when I really needed some advice and really needed something to help me. I have close professional and personal relationships with my senior management team but at the end of the day it is my business and my responsibility, which is a lonely place to be. There must be millions of business people in this position who would benefit from the support of experienced business leaders whether one-to-one with NEDs or as part of a peer network. I had to completely relearn my business so I could strip it back to its bare bones to understand how we could survive and then recover after the pandemic.
Now I don’t want to step away from OxLEP as they have been so supportive and am keen to look at and engage with other schemes and offerings that will help me plan for my business’ future.