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28 April 2015

A Winning Pitch for growth

“The Fund offered many advantages over more conventional and traditional funding routes..."

Winning Pitch

Winning Pitch is a North West company that is living up to its name. The rapidly growing coaching and business support specialist, this year marked its tenth year in business.

Over the last ten years the company has seen rapid growth and in spring 2014 Winning Pitch secured a £2.5 million investment from The North West Fund for Mezzanine and the Enterprise Ventures Growth Fund.

To date, the Winning Pitch team has worked with over 6,000 growing SMEs, increasing the balance sheet values of these businesses by a total of £182 million, whilst at the same time, providing the assistance to deliver approximately 5,000 new jobs.

We spoke to John Leach, the Chief Executive at Winning Pitch, about his experience of winning in business... 

What would you say has been the greatest achievement for the business?

The strapline to our logo and brand is 'everything is possible' and we strongly practice what we preach. The first manifestation of this belief was in 2008 when we secured a £10 million contract, against international competition, to deliver one of Europe's largest business support contracts. Over three years we helped over 1,000 high growth small and medium sized businesses. At the time we were less than £1 million turnover and only three years old.

What has been the biggest challenge for you, in building the business?

The challenges in running a business are wide ranging and come in many different forms. The ability to scale has probably been the most daunting for us. It almost feels that we reached ceilings at different points of our journey - these related to breaking the employee barriers of 10, 25, 50 and 100. As we have grown up so has the need to bring in a new breed of managers and leaders, particularly those who can support the inevitable challenges that ambition brings with it. Identifying, recruiting and retaining great talent I suppose has been the biggest challenge.

How did you hear about The North West Fund and what was it that made you apply for funding?

I heard about The North West Fund through a seminar I attended. The Fund offered many advantages over more conventional and traditional funding routes. I was particularly attracted to the mix of debt and equity funding made available through The North West Fund for Mezzanine. The mezzanine loan was very appealing as it did away with the pressures of personal guarantees required by the high street banks. Although, for us, the expertise that came with the money was just as important as the funding itself. We needed higher-level management support as well as finance - this made The North West Fund our preferred funding option.

How is your business changing/growing as a result of receiving funding?

The business has continued to grow at levels we had predicted, without the funding it would have been almost impossible to develop new markets and attract new staff. Testament to our growth is recent research published by market intelligence specialists Plimsoll, which shows that in our market place of 1000 active companies, Winning Pitch was the 6th fastest growing company in 2014. This would not been achieved without help from The North West Fund.

Are there areas of the business you would like to grow/develop further?

Winning Pitch will continue to grow in adjacent market sectors the most important at the moment being skills. Also high on our agenda for the coming financial year is, developing overseas markets, particularly in those economies where there is a desire to improve economic wellbeing through enterprise and entrepreneurial activity. We see promising prospects in emerging and growing international economies.

Having worked with thousands of companies which are looking to grow, do you have any tips for The Fund's future applicants?

Great companies in my view are the ones who balance innovation and entrepreneurial flair with good housekeeping and discipline. At the heart of entrepreneurial flair is customer centric behaviour, trying new things and making sure the customer's expectations are always exceeded. This needs to be supported with strong management, a firm grip on finances, regular management meetings all wrapped up in a performance culture which ensures the things that matter get done and get measured. Being able to demonstrate a great management team with a well thought through plan with clarity is paramount.


For more information about how you may be able to access mezzanine finance for your business please visit http://www.thenorthwestfund.co.uk/funds/mezzanine

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