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In December 2017, the Government released £650m of funding to increase the provision of apprenticeships within SME’s. Lighthouse has access to some of this funding, which covers 90% of the cost of Leadership and Management Diplomas funded by the apprenticeship levy. Here are three case studies outlining how three different sized SMEs are benefitting from this funding to develop their leaders and managers.

Family owned small-business looks to the future…

Phillips Brothers is a family owned business now in its fourth generation of ownership. They specialise in the supply of high-quality horse and poultry bedding. Established in 1894, its ongoing success has been built on smoothly handing the ‘baton’ from one generation to the next. Owner/Director, Jane Knapp recognised that to enable her and the other directors to focus more on growing the business, they need put a management structure in place. To equip their managers to take on these new responsibilities they have enrolled two of the team, including Jane’s son Rhys, on a Level 3 Management Diploma. Jane has also taken advantage of the funding available to undertake a Level 5 Diploma in Leadership and Management. When Rhys asked her why, with all her experience, she was completing the qualification, Jane explained, “You’re never too old to learn!”

Although it’s early days, Jane and Rhys are already benefitting from being on the programme:

“Since starting my journey towards my Diploma with Lighthouse I have grown in both self-confidence & self-belief in my Leadership skills. This is due to the content of the modules as well as the support & encouragement of the likeminded members of the group. My new-found knowledge & confidence has enabled me to instigate positive change from within my team of peers which will undoubtedly impact on our Company Culture & the teams that we lead. I am looking forward to the benefits of being part of & leading a high performing team.”

Jane Knapp

“My role as Production Manager is relatively new & working towards my Diploma in management with Lighthouse is providing me with the tools I need as a line manager to lead my team & manage my targets. I have now recognised my leadership styles & the need to adjust these at times depending on team members motivators. On the completion of the level 3 I intend to continue learning & developing with further ILM qualifications.”

Rhys Knapp

With generation no. 5 waiting in the wings, Phillips Brothers’ future is looking bright.

Tech start-up prepares to upscale…

There are well-documented differences between start-ups and scale-ups. Recognising these and adapting accordingly can often spell the difference between long-term success and failure for small businesses. Once you have a proven product or service, understand your market and have reached economic sustainability the focus needs to change if you are to ensure continued growth. This includes putting effective systems and procedures in place, increased specialisation of roles and a change in leadership and management focus.

Start-up leadership is entrepreneurial, leads from the front and is involved in almost everything. Once you reach the scale-up stage, the leadership required is very different: no longer do you need to do everything, rather you should be focusing on coaching and developing a team and individual skill sets. One thing that helps facilitate this is putting a management structure in place. However, a management team will only help you to step away from the detail if you trust them to do the job, and one of the best ways of ensuring this is to train your managers for the new responsibilities they are taking on.

One of our clients, a Suffolk-based innovative technology company, is at exactly this stage; with a staff of 37, they are scaling up rapidly. The Finance Director explained how they are benefitting from using apprenticeship levy funding to develop four managers:

“We have a highly competent team, especially in terms of technical prowess. However, we have recognised that our managers have never had any development in people management skills. Thus, at times they struggle to have difficult conversations and are less proactive that I would like. Much of this stems from inexperience in managing people. We have enrolled them on the Level 3 Management Diploma to develop their skill and confidence to take the business forward.”

Established SME prioritises Business Improvement Projects

There is a famous quote which is commonly misattributed to Darwin: “it is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” This insight is just as true in the world of business as in nature. No matter how well-established your business, the constantly changing environment and marketplace demands that we evolve, not just to survive, but also to thrive.

This need to change spawns projects. Whether it be developing a social media presence, migrating IT to the cloud, adopting agile business processes or investing in new machinery, most SME’s have an extensive ‘to do’ list. Most businesses don’t struggle to change because they don’t know what needs to happen, rather it’s making time to implement the changes required. These change projects often fit into the important but not urgent time management box, and as such end up being neglected until they become both important and urgent. At this point it can become a stressful fire-fight to implement something, anything to keep us from dropping the ball.


Proactive businesses recognise the transformative effect that it can have to prioritise these change projects by setting the time aside. TP Fire and Security is one such example: Steve English, Managing Director explains why they have taken the time to invest in developing both their senior leaders and managers:

“As part of the Diploma programmes our staff are undertaking, we will all take on change projects to drive the business forward. At the Senior Level, we are undertaking the Level 5 programme, leading strategic projects which will help to future-proof our business. The only way we will be able to do this is by giving greater responsibility to our management team, so by enrolling our managers on the Level 3 programme, we know they are gaining skills and confidence to manage the day to day business, thus freeing us up to focus on more important projects. They also see this as a huge vote of confidence from us in their ability which has a motivational benefit too, so everyone wins.”

If you have a long list of projects you aren’t making progress on, is developing your staff the key to freeing up the time you need to prepare for future success?

The Lighthouse Group


+44 (0) 333 323 9690