Worcester Association of Carers - MRE Retail review

MRE’s Retail Review has been invaluable to our commercial ambitions.We have quickly implemented much of their guidance, and only a few weeks later are seeing indications of increased financial return.

The service was superb, with a speedy site visit and a prompt MRE report detailing key issues, observations and recommendations – and all of this achieved with diplomacy and professionalism.

I would recommended the MRE service to any VCS organisation with a retail platform.

Jim Smith, Worcester Association of Carers

Single Source Portions, Telford, testimonial for Sue Fry and Jill Hall

We asked Sue and Jill to create a management development programme with the aim of ensuring that our managers had the relevant skills to effectively manage their teams, a desire to achieve the company vision and the ability to understand the objectives, dependencies and limitations of the various departments in the company.

The managers who attended the course came from a range of departments, some individuals were newly promoted while others had been in the same job for many years. Sue and Jill successfully brought the managers together delivering a thought provoking and relevant programme that gave our managers the skills to communicate more effectively and have greater empathy for each other. In particular, we were impressed by the way they adapted their standard model training for the needs of our company introducing topical examples and relevant themes for the individuals attending the course.

Sight Concern, Worcester, testimonial for Sue Fry

Sight Concern

The project we worked on with Sue Fry at Rural Midwest Enterprises was to look creatively at different ways of working, as our traditional way of funding is changing and we need to explore ways to adapt.

At our initial meeting, when we discussed workplans for the Changing Future scheme it was very evident that Sue a lot about organisations such as ours and she was able very quickly to pick up the detail about Sight Concern. Sue had very good general knowledge of the sector, both locally and nationally. She was incredibly keen to find out about our organisation. Because our organisation is complicated – our customers should not need a future social care assessment because we help them be much more independent – this can prevent local authorities having to spend more money later, supporting our customers as early intervention pays dividends later.  We were looking at other national pathways from other areas to come up with better ways of working.

Her expertise was great; she had a really relevant set of skills that was up to date with the latest changes.

We communicated throughout the project by having an agenda for each meeting, which agreed with the original workplan. Sometimes we needed to do ‘homework’ between meetings, for example when we were working on the full cost recovery package.  There was plenty of time to ask questions.

The work was completed on a timescale that suited our organisation. We have been doing a lot of work around the issue of re-modelling contracts with the local authority and our meetings were timed to allow changes there to be taken into account.

We expect the work to have a very good impact on us as an organisation. One particular benefit of the work was to advise us about how to present information to the local authority in the most appropriate way for them. We had a lot of advice and guidance about presentation style and practical tips. Our message became less emotional and more objective as a result.

We are looking to consult Sue Fry at Rural Midwest Enterprises again in the future and are very happy to recommend her to others. I would give her a 10 out of 10.

Jenny Gage, Sight Concern

Nineveh Ridge Care Farm, testimonial for Sue Fry

Nineveh Ridge Care Farm

We had an initial meeting before I put in the funding application. Sue asked me many questions about the organisation, what our weaknesses were and about what help I thought was needed. This was useful when I completed the application.

Day to day management of our project again started off with an initial visit to cover the first areas of the plan. At each visit we carefully planned what we were going to do next. Sue did a lot of work with our staff, working around us and our availability, and helping us with our management structure and management systems. Sue is an amazing lady, very good at what she does. We didn’t stick rigidly to the plan as she was flexible as we started working through the project. There is no question about getting value for money with Sue.

We finished the project on time and the impact has been very positive. We worked on management, financial accountability and how to do a social return on investment calculation. Before starting work with Sue, we had gone through a period of very rapid growth from 2 to 6 members of staff and managing this felt a bit like a pressure cooker, as we have no experience of managing people before. What Sue did was brilliant - she really made me believe in myself and she had a big impact on the whole team. We are now all pulling together.

For our business plan she also helped by providing very practical advice, going through the pros and cons of decisions and she had a very thorough approach.”

The Changing Futures Fund is a very good idea, providing help for people like us. The Council are preparing us to be better equipped for the future, which is an excellent scheme.

Pippa Bannister, Nineveh Ridge Care Farm

New Hope, testimonial for Sue Fry

New Hope

The initial problem that we asked Sue Fry to help us with was getting a more robust financial structure in place; which didn’t exist at the start of the project.  Laura, our office manager, now has  a new spreadsheet system which we use. Sue also worked with us on a social return on investment chart.

Sue’s approach was very professional. Initially we had an exploratory meeting and a chat and Sue produced a diagnostic assessment for us from that meeting. We then got stuck in straight away with the work to be done.

We communicated between face to face meetings by e-mail, which was an effective way to manage our project. We found Sue to be professional at all times yet easy to talk to and it was easy to raise issues with her that we wanted to discuss. Our project was completed in the time frame allocated for the Changing Futures Fund work.

The work has had a lasting impact on the charity, it increased Charlotte's* confidence to carry on after the project using the systems and processes that had been designed and put into place. Charlotte* had used spreadsheets before but a long time had elapsed since she last used them.

I would have to give Sue a 10 out of 10. What was really useful for us was that she was able to get us to challenge ourselves and question our preconceived ideas; it was easy to do this through conversations with her. Because she was an outsider to our organisation, we found her more objective and it allowed us to question why we did things this way or that way and to think about whether there would be a better way to get our needs met.

We found the whole Changing Futures Fund an easy process, easy to choose a provider and working within the set time frame was good. Overall it was useful.

Jean Wilson, New Hope

* name has been changed

 Chief Executive of Age UK Birmingham, testimonial for Jill Hall

Jill has worked closely with me to define objectives, business planning and financial set-up and restructure; consolidation of staff contracts and the transfer of staff and volunteers to new contracts. Her coaching and mentoring skills are second to none.

Her help and support has been invaluable and I would whole heartedly recommend her to work with any sector/ organisation.

Catherine Heyward 

Chief Executive, Age UK Birmingham

Northumbria UniversityFaculty of Business and Law,

Northumbria University  -  research project, testimonial for Jane Holland

Jane worked for me recently to undertake a commercially sensitive research project on behalf of a National Higher Education steering group.  This involved interviewing UK University Vice Chancellors, producing  a report to tight timescales, and presenting results to a high-profile group of board members and stakeholders.  The project also involved significant desk-based research as it included an international H.E. dimension.

Jane has great people skills which enabled her to access and interview the target group.  They are busy people and difficult to contact directly, and in addition she was asking about strategic areas of their business which made it a challenging project to manage.  However she managed to obtain a lot of very detailed and high quality information from these interviews in a short period of time: the research was commissioned in December and the report to the Board was presented in the middle of February.

The Board were very impressed by the quality of her report and the depth of information she had managed to gather from these senior members of staff.  Jane is utterly brilliant at these complex research projects and the work she produces enables the customer to make sound commercial decisions because of her skill in providing the right insights based on clear evidence.


Director Of Review and Approvals

Faculty of Business and Law, Northumbria University

Sophie Symes Artist Jeweller, testimonial for Margaret Grey

Sophie Symes, artist jewellerI am an emerging art jeweller, I begun my training on the HND Jewellery and Silversmithing course at The School of Jewellery in Birmingham and then competed a Jewellery Design Top Up Degree at Hereford College of Arts.
I work with a mixture of medias, including found natural materials, precious metals and paints.

I draw my inspiration from the natural forms surround me in rural Worcestershire and from my love of surrealism and fairy-tales.

I set up business in August 2013 and was introduced to Margaret Gray as a mentor through the Princes Trust.

Margaret has met up with me once a month but is always available via email and telephone support. She has helped me with day-to-day time and project management, approaching funding applications and with networking to find new customers and galleries in and around Worcestershire.

As well as providing practical advice, Margaret has really helped me by taking a real interest in what I do, improving my self - confidence and keeping me motivated to make my start-up business succeed.  I really value the time I have with Margaret, who has gone out of her way to help me and makes me feel better after every session together.

I am now completing a graduate programme with Unit Twelve Gallery in Stafford where I have a work space and selling area where I showcase my jewellery.
Margaret has helped me keep track of the finances of the business, and has helped set up systems and processes to make paperwork like tax returns simpler to manage and easier to understand.  Margaret has been invaluable in making connections for me, providing a network of other business professionals whom I can approach to ask for specific, specialist help.

I would rate Margaret as  a 10 out of 10 for all her mentoring support!


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