ES Precision are an award-winning laser processing and traditional machining company based in Kingston Bagpuize, Oxfordshire. The company is relatively new having started in late 2017 and its MD is Tim Millard who is currently taking part in the government-funded Peer Networks programme, delivered by OxLEP Business.
Tim shares his experience and is candid about his initial concerns when joining a Peer Networks group.
How did you find out and get involved with OxLEP Business and the Peer Networks?
I had previously engaged with OxLEP Business to apply for some match funding and Peer Networks was mentioned in an email from them. The one-to-one aspect was what really attracted me to the offering rather than the peer support or networking as I was not sure what that might entail having never done anything like that before. However, despite my trepidation I thought that it might be a way to meet other business owners who could be potential clients or advantageous strategic contacts.
How did you find the Peer-to-Peer support element?
Initially I found the peer support element of the group quite intense and I wasn’t sure what I would gain from it; there were no potential clients within my group and the types of business had nothing in common with mine. But as the sessions progressed it became apparent that although the businesses weren’t aligned, they all had very similar problems which was very interesting.
Once I understood the format and went to the sessions with a more open mind to this type of learning and sharing, I found the sessions very interesting. I was starting to get to know the business and personalities within my group, once I relaxed into the process I was able to think more clearly which gave me the opportunity to analyse my own issues as well as other people’s.
What has been the most stand-out element of this programme for you?
Although it took a week or two for the process to click into place in my mind I was astonished at how similar all the challenges were for such different businesses. Every single situation or challenge that came up for discussion had some connection with the business I am running now, or businesses I have run in the past.
Because the group is made up from business leaders the feedback from them comes from experience of both success and failure, it is practical knowledgeable feedback that you don’t receive from anywhere else.
How have you found the one-to-one advice?
The one-to-one element was most attractive to me. I was keen to get some expert advice on imports and exports to ensure that we were doing all we needed to be doing for now and in preparation for the future. I had attended countless webinars and online support resources but just got increasingly confused and really needed an actual person who could put me on the right path.
I was put in touch with an incredibly knowledgeable advisor who was able to cut through the jargon and the acronyms and answer my specific questions, so I was much clearer as to what I needed to do.
What would you say to other business leaders who may not feel peer support is for them?
I would recommend that all business leaders, if they can spare the time, should give it a go and not to judge from the first few sessions as the format takes some getting used to. You will get something from it. I am certainly looking forward to when these sessions can happen face to face rather than zoom not only for the interpersonal aspect of being together but also to help with the focus that each session requires.
Have you gained anything personally from the group?
I do a lot of talking in my own business but am not a natural networker or sharer. I certainly feel that once I got used to the process, I have become better at listening and engaging with other group members. Getting to know the other participants better has encouraged me to be more open. I found that I stopped coming up with the obvious answers and began ‘thinking outside of the box’ to overcome challenges. This new type of thinking and openness can only be beneficial to my business too.