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Pathway to success
Do you want to have a more successful business, with a sure footing and controllable growth? Most business owners do, but they also want — and deserve — more time to enjoy the rewards of their labour and more time with their families.
Can you have both? A new business support group, the Pathfinder Club, thinks you can.
It helps business owners of all kinds make their businesses more successful yet develop a great work-life balance.
The club is named after the Pathfinder squadrons of World War Two.
These elite groups blazed a trail with flares for Bomber Command squadrons to follow. The concept was adopted after photographic analysis revealed that only one-in-five British bombers came within five miles of their targets.
The Pathfinder Club is led by John Harris, managing director of SMI (UK), a company based in Milton Park that works with business owners to help identify their goals and how to reach them as well as giving them practical help to achieve it.
It is co-sponsored by one of the business owners that Mr Harris has helped, Mike Foster of Kidlington marketing and finance firm the A1 Group.
He was so impressed by the changes that he had been able to make in both his business and personal lives that he felt that this needed to be brought to a wider audience.
Mr Foster explained: “I decided to take up one of John’s time-management programmes because it offered tools to make the theory actually happen. From my corporate days, I had taken many courses that were theory-based, but never really put them to action.”
But this time the effect was markedly different.
“I implemented the tools from the programme and it made a life-changing impact for me," Mr Foster said.
"In fact it created so much free time for me that I then decided to invest in a new business — the Treehouse play centre in Didcot."
Mr Foster was so impressed with his results that he suggested the club to give business owners access to Mr Harris’s knowledge and tools, with the added benefit of peer group sharing.
One of the first members was Carolyn McFarlan, director of Arrochar Associates. She has firm proof of the benefits of club membership.
She said: “We work mainly with organisations in the hospitality industry, supporting all aspects of their business, using training and consultancy. We are working with major companies and individuals so an increase in numbers of both is crucial to our success.
“Since joining Pathfinder and applying its principles we have seen the number of corporate clients increase by 75 per cent and attendance on open courses is up by 50 per cent.”
Her team tells her that she is now much more organised and focused in the way she approaches her business.
Ms McFarlan’s involvement with the Pathfinder Club helped her to decide to accept an invite to join a trade delegation of entrepreneurs and experts from the hospitality industry to China.
“I wanted to see what opportunities there were and it was absolutely amazing and fascinating to see the way businesses work out there and I am looking forward to seeing tangible results soon."
The group meets twice a month at the Steventon House Hotel, just off the Didcot junction on the A34.
Breakfast is followed by two brief and incisive sessions from Mr Harris, one on business and another on personal topics. Attendees also update each other on what has worked and what has been less successful, since their last meeting.
Once a month there is a more in-depth two-hour meeting after the breakfast sessions and once a quarter these sessions include 90-day planning sessions. All the activities ensure club members have something valuable to take away from the meetings.
The arrangement is designed to create precious time away from members' businesses, to reflect and plan, without being a huge commitment. Guests thinking of joining can attend meetings for the cost of the breakfast.
Club membership is available in different packages depending on the requirement with packages available from £2 a day based on a year’s subscription.
A mix of different businesses is important to the group, to bring in ideas business owners might not have thought of on their own, or in a sector specific group.
At the first meeting of 2012 there were representatives from marketing companies, lettings agents, training companies and accountancy practices.
Unsurprisingly, the vibrant Oxfordshire science sector was also represented.
Megan Morys, innovation manager from Harwell Oxford was there and the club welcomed Dominic Gallagher, chief executive of specialised software firm Photon Design, as its newest member.
Aimed at companies employing between four and 50 staff, the Pathfinder Club helps business owners grow their businesses.
But it also helps them deal with the consequences of that growth.
Training and practical help is given on effective delegation, time management, goal setting and progress measurement and many other aspects of running a successful business.
Mike Foster is firmly convinced of the Pathfinder Club’s effectiveness.
“The tools I have been given have improved my business and I believe contributed to my businesses being shortlisted for awards,” he said.
“A1 Group was again shortlisted by the Institute of Certified Book Keepers for Practice of the Year and the Treehouse play centre was shortlisted for Best New Site in the UK.”