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Successful fully funded peer to peer programme is back to support Cumbria's businesses

Cumbria’s business leaders have made the Peer Networks programme one of the most successful in the country and they are encouraging other businesses to join the programme.

Emma Sherlock, Chief Executive Officer from Stan Sherlock Associates, a family run financial planning and mortgage practice, and Gary Martin, Head of Services and Capability at McMenon Engineering Services Ltd. have recently benefited from the programme and are keen to share the experience of how their businesses have benefitted.

The government-backed peer-to-peer programme is for leaders of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that want to grow and develop their business.

The programme is managed locally by Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (CLEP) and delivered by a network of delivery partners offering a range of different expertise covering topics including Tourism, Innovation, Net Zero, Women in Business and Collaborative Working Practices. It provides leaders with the opportunity to work through current issues using interactive action learning and discuss their own challenges and opportunities and get feedback from other business leaders.

We asked Emma Sherlock, Chief Executive Office, Stan Sherlock Associates and Gary Martin, Head of Services and Capability at McMenon Engineering Services Ltd. what they thought of the programme.

Why did you join the Peer Networks programme? What have you learnt?

Emma: “In 2020 we made a lot of structural changes to our company, and during that time the Peer to Peer Programme offered a support network of likeminded business owners. I could run ideas past people in a safe environment, and I knew they had experiences I could draw on for a sense check or advice. We worked as a team and they helped me see things from a different angle, one I may not have considered previously. The Peer to Peer Programme started at just the right time for us to deal with fundamental changes including COVID-19 and working from home, to name but a few things. The 1-2-1 sessions were brilliant and really helped you to focus and drill down on issues. Sometimes you just can’t see the wood for the trees when you’re running your own business, so the programme was able to provide some logical thought processes that helped us break down issues into segments and rebuild our ideas – invaluable. I’ve learnt to have more confidence in my decisions, the Peer to Peer Programme helped me to do that.”

Gary: “I was delighted to join the Peer to Peer Programme although I had many years’ experience in operational and business management, albeit in two specific sectors. My main goal for joining the programme was to understand how other businesses operated, understand the good practice that worked in other sectors and support others with my experience. The Peer to Peer Programme gave me a clear insight into a wide range of organisations and their operational business models from micro businesses to mid-size SMEs in a wide range of sectors. Through positive engagement and mutual respect within the peer group we analysed a wide range of business challenges. I found that by bringing a diverse group of people together you can analyse a problem or situation and establish a set of clear objectives to produce a development plan that will make a real difference to the organisation. This is an approach that I have used in our organisation and will continue to adopt going forward.”

From finance and HR to sales, marketing and more, Cumbria LEP’s expert facilitators give you the flexibility to create a trusted support network that works for you, helping you to build and strengthen your business and improve its overall performance.

If you want to know more or are interested in joining the programme, contact Amanda Wharton, Programme Manager on or 07920 877644.

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