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Case study


Spark Sessions helped me validate approach during period of rapid change

Liz Smith came across Be the Business Spark Sessions on wellbeing during the pandemic when her business was experiencing a huge amount of change. Deciding it was time to take better care of herself, the sessions sparked a new approach to leadership for the managing director.

LG Davis was established as a printing firm by Liz’s father and uncle in 1962. The printing business has expanded over the past 60 years to provide office furniture and supplies, workwear and branded items.

Liz began working at the business after university and never left, taking over from her father as CEO in 2006, just before the 2009 financial crash.

With limited leadership experience at the time, Liz has grown into her role and has found Be the Business support programmes to be invaluable.

“I really value everything Be the Business does. It's there to help you in many different facets of your business,” she said.

Overcoming the biggest business challenges

Having already received support from the Be the Business Mentoring programme, Liz was excited to get involved in the Spark Sessions.

“So far, I’ve been involved in three sessions including wellbeing, business resilience, and leadership,” she said.

Spark Sessions connect business leaders with experts and people going through similar experiences to help them overcome the biggest business challenges. Delivered online over the course of three weekly sessions, they are designed to give leaders the knowledge, confidence, and motivation to turn obstacles into opportunities.

During the pandemic, LG Davis was also going through a period of rapid change as it acquired two new businesses. This was at a time when Liz was putting her own wellbeing at the bottom of her list of priorities.

As employee wellbeing hit the headlines Liz realised something. “If you don’t look after yourself, how are you going to be able to look after a business?”

Putting ideas into practice

Liz became more aware of taking time out for herself and began enjoying walks along the canal next to her office. She continued with the Spark Sessions and used them as a sounding board for her company's approach to change.

“I needed a sanity check to know that what we were doing was right,” Liz explained. “Leadership and business resilience is key to dealing with any issues that might occur. I think we are very agile as a company, but I also needed to confirm that.”

Getting validation and advice from her peers was important as Liz navigated the tough journey of communicating change to a sometimes-resistant workforce.

“Change isn’t an event, it’s a process – it’s an ongoing journey. Sometimes we communicated change, and you think ‘great, we’ve told everyone about that’. But we needed to realise that there’s going to be a bit of fallout and you need to keep checking in with the team to make sure they’re okay.”

Creating the right team

This was an important lesson for the business leader – as the business changes, so will the people.

“A lot of people on the Sparks Sessions about leadership talked about having the right team around you,” she added.

“There will always be people who push back against change, but the culture of the business has really improved. You want to know your management team will communicate change to their teams and will give you their backing because they trust what you do. We have that now – we have a really great team.”

Liz has found that handling change in a forward-thinking way and putting employee wellbeing, and her own, at the top of her priority list has naturally led to a change in the people her business attracts and the culture within it.

“We’re working smarter and harder, which I think is what business is about. Our acquisitions have led to growth, yet we’re a leaner team. Now we’re focused on productivity and supporting each other, because no one can work at 100 per cent all of the time.”

Change is not an event – it’s a process

Looking to the future, Liz knows that change is ongoing. “I am more confident. Am I as confident as I would like to be? No. But do I feel better in my own skin? Yes. I think I am an honourable leader who looks out for all the people who I work with, and makes sure we also look after our customers.”

This is a big shift for the leader who always felt like it was her fathers’ company.

“I always felt like I was just overseeing it,” Liz revealed. “But I feel like it’s my business now. It’s been growing, and it’s been profitably growing, which it wasn’t initially.”

So, what’s next for Liz and LG Davis? She wants to focus on ambitious growth and is forcing herself out of her comfort zone.

“One of the sessions on leadership was about being comfortable with being uncomfortable, so I’m trying to make myself uncomfortable by getting out of the office and talking to people.

“I would definitely advise others to take on the support that’s out there like Be the Business. I don’t think I would be the person or the leader I am without the learnings I’ve had along the way.”

Looking for help with a business challenge? Be the Business aims to inspire leadership teams to create and deliver greater productivity. Find out more about Spark Sessions here.

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