Nearly every business leader reading this will be familiar with imposter syndrome. That feeling that you are completely winging it, fake, in over your head and about to be found out at any moment.
Your own headspace can be a lonely and dispiriting place to be when wracked by doubt, weighed down by responsibility and challenged by new and seemingly endless challenges that threaten the stability of your business.
Many business leaders are still dealing with the fallout from the pandemic and a great many never made it that far. For one business the key to survival came in the form of a government-funded course called Help to Grow: Management.
Kevin Wilson Master Builders (KWMB) is a husband-and-wife SME building and joinery business, established in September 2007 and based in Stirling, Scotland.
After finding its feet and finally establishing itself after some difficulties during the last recession, the firm was struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic.
“I personally hit the skids mentally and genuinely thought we would lose the business,” says Managing Director Pam Wilson. “It got close! We had to deal with many lockdowns, no control, skyrocketing prices, material delays. We couldn’t see a way out.
“Then I gave myself a shake! I took control and went looking for solutions and decided we needed to diversify our income. With the ever-changing lockdown rules, it was difficult to continue with in-person work, so we moved to a bigger premises to up manufacturing. This allowed for a new stream of income while continuing to work safely.
“I had launched another business in Feb 2020, working on behalf of clients in their renovation projects. This proved to be fortuitous and now I have grown every year since and have built a fantastic project management reputation. I now work with clients all over the world. Did I think I would be doing that three years ago…Not on your Nelly.”
The key to survival and eventual expansion was in sourcing available help through local government grants and trade associations.
“I had never chased any funding,” says Wilson, “we didn’t need to. But with no small thanks to the Federation of Master Builders and local support from Stirling Council, I found pots of grants available and set about taking control to get our business back.”
The Help to Grow: Management Course provided the knowhow and enabled her to develop the confidence to push forward with plans to expand the business and create a much more robust company.
“The Help to Grow: Management Course very much came at the time of a phoenix rising… and a determination not to lose all we worked hard to achieve. It was like starting from scratch but reaffirming what you were good at instead of focusing on perceived failures or what could go wrong and the fear of losing it all! It allowed me to get the love for the business back.
“The support, the peer groups and mentor aspect were very beneficial to me personally. Business can be a lonely place. You hide the stress, anxiety, loneliness but to have a sounding board and get the stress out of my head removing stress was paramount for me. By this point I was back working full time and I often attended the online cohort meetings from the work van, covered in building rubble. Refocusing my mind on the particular session that day was a real boost for me. The shared experiences were also invaluable.”
Listening to positive advice galvanised Wilson’s mental strength and was an effective antidote to feelings of unworthiness. The message she heard was “You are better than you think, or tell yourself you are. Imposter syndrome is real! Give yourself a break.”
So effective was the course that the business not only survived but began to expand its small manufacturing element.
“It was a total 360. When we could go back to work properly, we had such a backlog of clients waiting, and fantastic [some award winning] projects we were working on in both build and manufacturing, side-by-side. The skills I learnt on the Help to Grow: Management Course helped those two aspects of my business work in tandem and thrive..”
Post-pandemic the business is different but no less challenging, but approached and managed with a new, more positive, mindset.
“My confidence has soared, and I am focused on the future. I have improved my social contributions and take part in Career Ready which allows senior school attendees to gain experience in our industry. We are part of the CITB apprenticeship scheme and, with my newfound confidence, I put myself forward for the role of Vice president of the Federation of Master Builders Scotland and was elected in September last year. I am a champion of people but didn’t always champion myself. Now I do.”
Wilson continues to get support through Help to Grow: Management and hopes her experience will be just as invaluable to other businesses in difficult circumstances.
“With the Help to Grow: Management continued support I am not alone, and I have access to fantastic resources which I often go back and re-read. And more importantly, the people, Naja and Sharon who led our cohort are an amazing support and I hope I can be a sounding board for others who will go on the Help to Grow: Management journey too.”
This interview comes courtesy of Help to Grow: Management, supporting SMEs across the UK. To find out more about the course nearest to you, click here.