Group of diverse business people on panel discussion

North-west regional event: Manchester

Regional conferences | Jun 22

Organised in partnership with:

Small Business Charter Logo

Sponsored by:

HM Government logo

north-west regional event: Manchester

September 21st
9:00 am – 4:15 pm
etc.venues, 11 Portland St, Manchester, M1 3HU

Highlighted speakers

Ronan Harrington

Ronan Harrington Keynote Speaker and Consultant

Hannah Holmes

Hannah Holmes Dean of Business School, Manchester Metropolitan University

Paul Corcoran

Paul Corcoran CEO, Agent

This event has now ended

Designed specifically for alumni in the North West, this conference features a masterclass from international speaker and resilience expert, Ronan Harrington, on the art of building resilience to prevent burnout.

There will also be expert insights into how to use digitalisation to grow your business, an opportunity for delegates to engage with regional support for SMEs, and interactive workshops on sales forecasting, business planning and workforce development. 

At this event, you will learn:

  • how to be a resilient leader and prevent the risk of burnout.
  • what regional support is readily available to your business.
  • business planning, profitable sales forecasting and workforce development strategies. 
  • how you can use technology to scale your business and support your team.

You will also have the chance to network with other members of the Help to Grow: Management alumni across your region.


Thank you for taking the time to attend the Help to Grow: Management Alumni Network event in Manchester on the Thursday 21 September. It was great to see you there, we hope you enjoyed the day with us.

Some of our guest speakers have provided a number of resources to help you further explore the events discussed on the day. You can find these attached below in the agenda. While these do not form part of the approved curriculum material, we hope you will find them interesting and useful.

Please do take two minutes to complete the feedback form below if you did not manage to do so on the day. Your feedback is important in shaping the future of Alumni Network events.

Help to Grow: Management Alumni Regional Event (


08:45 breakfast

Breakfast and refreshments will be provided

09:30 Opening Remarks from the conference chair

Professor Hannah Holmes, Dean of Business School, Manchester Metropolitan University 

09:35 Opening keynote

Paul Corcoran, CEO, Agent  

Paul Corcoran is CEO and founder of Agent, one of the UK’s fastest-growing brand and communications agencies. In this keynote, Paul will explore the social values that underpin Agent’s mission and purpose and how it informs who they work with, how they work with them and the opportunities they create for the next generation.

09:55 digital leadership: leveraging technology to scale your business

Join our expert panel as they delve into the world of digital. This engaging session will explore how to leverage technology to scale your business, expand market reach through social media, conduct competitor analysis, and enhance operational efficiency and resilience. 

This panel brings together seasoned industry leaders who have successfully navigated the digital landscape and achieved remarkable growth by doing so. They will share their insights, experiences, and practical tips to inspire and guide you.

Key takeaways will include:

  • Practical strategies and tools for effectively analysing competitors’ digital presence, market positioning, and customer engagement.
  • How to leverage technology to achieve rapid growth and expansion.  
  • How to harness social media channels to increase brand visibility, engage with customers, and drive sales.
  • The role of automation, data analytics, and cloud-based solutions in streamlining processes, improving productivity, and adapting to changing market dynamics.

The panel will include:

10:35 Sourcing help for your business (panel discussion)

For SMEs, a certain amount of trial and error is inevitable when trying new things but too much can waste time and resources. Getting good information and advice early on is vital for business growth. In this session, our panel will outline the expert (and often free) support available to SME leaders in the North West. The speakers will discuss national and regional initiatives that SME leaders can take advantage of and provide a clear picture of what guidance is available and how to access it.   

The panel will include speakers from:  

  • Lewis Crowe, Head of Membership and Commercial, Greater Manchester Chambers of Commerce  
  • Alexandra Stewart, International Trade Adviser, Department for Business and Trade
  • Heather Waters, Regional Eco-System Manager, NatWest  
  • Delyth Edwards, Senior Manager, British Business Bank  
  • Andrew Kent, Project Manager, Innovate UK EDGE 
  • Janine Smith, Director, GC Business Growth Hub

During the panel, the speakers made reference to external links. Please see below for those links.

GC Business Growth Hub: Resources to support and grow your business | GC Business Growth Hub

Support for Your Business | Business Support Finder

Export Academy

International Trade Week, 6–10th November 2023

UK Export Finance

Innovate UK EDGE

11:15 Mid-morning break

Refreshments and pastries will be provided

11:35 Resilience workshop by Ronan Harrington

Conversation café

In the first half of this workshop, Ronan will be delivering a conversation café. During this session, you will be encouraged to collaborate with your fellow SME business leaders. The Help to Grow Alumni Network team will provide an insightful and entertaining question guide that will help you explore your leadership journey and learn from the experiences of those in your group. 

Masterclass: from burnout to resilience

In the second half of this workshop, Ronan will be delivering a masterclass on how to avoid feeling overstretched and burnt out as an SME business leader.

Burnout is one of the most common causes of SME failure and places a huge strain on families, friends and communities. Ronan Harrington will show us how small business leaders unwittingly place themselves on a burnout trajectory, and how to create healthy high-performance cultures. Learn the art of scaling your business, whilst minimising your stress.   

Ronan Harrington, Resilience and Leadership Expert   

Ronan’s presentation is available here.

13:10 Closing remarks from the conference chair

Professor Hannah Holmes, Dean of Business School, Manchester Metropolitan University 

13:15 Lunch, networking and exhibitions

This will be an opportunity for you to grab some lunch, sit down, and network with your fellow alumni

14:15 Action learning sets

During this afternoon session, we invite you to attend one of these interactive sessions. The sessions will be running concurrently.

Business planning

Kevin Sanders, Director, 23 Degrees

In this interactive workshop, we will be using a 360-degree approach to business planning. This will provide you with a simple, easy-to-use single-page business plan.

Using a tried and tested model, all candidates will have the understanding to be able to complete this single-page 12-month plan. The plan provides actions to be taken in all areas of the business and signposts when these actions should ideally take place. The plan should be used over the coming months as a regular reference to ensure actions are being taken on time, to get the business to achieve its goals.

As an interactive workshop, every participant is given time to work on their own and in groups, to develop the methods and ideas that are generated during the session. Each participant will be provided with a workbook to complete, refer to and expand on in their own time.

Profitable sales forecasting

Andrew Ramwell, Director, Know & Do

On average, the failure rate for a UK business is 20% in year 1 and 60% in year 3. Running out of cash and no market need are high on the list of reasons. A lot of business failures could be avoided by better planning and more profitable sales (not just more sales). This interactive workshop will help you to frame your thinking around sales forecasting and understanding what you want from your business personally, professionally, and financially.

Andrew has worked with thousands of SME leaders across the North West, helping them improve their understanding of their market and their offer. Through examples and workbook exercises, he will talk you through a sales forecasting model that you can apply to your business. This will include how to steer actions if there is a market change or business shock, to help you build a more resilient business practice.

Key takeaways will include:

  • Practical sales forecasting models you can use in your business.
  • How to complete a sales analysis for your business
  • An understanding of your place in the market and how to ensure it’s profitable
  • How to prepare your sales strategy

Workforce development

Ilona Alcock, Co-founder, Elevate

Workforce development should be on the mind of any leader looking to future-proof their business. In this interactive workshop, participants will get an opportunity to learn how to engage their teams in development opportunities, how to effectively communicate the benefits of personal and professional development and the options that are out there depending on their sector, size and location. Participants will solidify their knowledge by sharing challenges and ideas with their peers in small sets as well as with the larger group.  

16:45 doors close


If you have any questions, please get in touch by email at

About our Speakers

Ronan Harrington

Ronan Harrington Keynote Speaker and Consultant

Andrew Kent

Andrew Kent Project Manager, Innovate UK EDGE

Delyth Edwards

Delyth Edwards Senior Manager, British Business Bank

Heather Waters

Heather Waters Eco-System Manager, Natwest

Andrew Ramwell

Andrew Ramwell Co-founder, Know and Do Limited

Alexandra Stewart

Alexandra Stewart International Trade Adviser, Department for Business and Trade

Brianna Harvey

Brianna Harvey Social Media Marketing Specialist, Digital Flamingo

Erik Nicolai

Erik Nicolai CEO, Workspace 365

Hannah Holmes

Hannah Holmes Dean of Business School, Manchester Metropolitan University

Ilona Alcock

Ilona Alcock Co-founder, Elevate

Janine Smith

Janine Smith Director, GC Business Growth Hub

Kevin Sanders

Kevin Sanders Founder and lead, 23 Degrees

Lewis Crowe

Lewis Crowe Head of Membership and Commercial, Greater Manchester Chamber

Paul Corcoran

Paul Corcoran CEO, Agent

Tom Mathew

Tom Mathew Commercial Director, Dunsters Farm

Susanna Lawson

Susanna Lawson Co-founder, OneFile and Circle of Trust

Other Events