For years, Unlocking Potential gathered leaders of high-flying (£500k+ turnover) Cornish businesses together for their Future Focus programme. The aim was always tohelp those  businesses to think big, think laterally and think ahead.

Future Focus was about innovation, ambition and horizon-scanning. And even though the task of getting busy business leaders to: 1 read what they’re sent; 2 say they’ll turn up; and 3 actually turn up is far from straightforward, the team at Unlocking Potential have some numbers to say they managed the task pretty well.

Just over three and a half thousand delegates attended Future Focus events. Over 85% of them agreed that as a result they were “more excited about the future of their business and were more confident to try something new”. More tellingly, over 2,800 of those delegates signed up for another event or worked more intensively on another topic within the programme. All the participants said that they saw an increase in turnover and
profitability, or expected one.

So far, so smashing; but what about now? Different times call for different strategies, hence the return of Future Focus. Role-modelling the agility and dynamism they talk about to businesses, since March 2020 the team have been undaunted: finding and refining new ways to deliver their programmes to all kinds of Cornish businesses. Which is not only why the second Future Focus exists at all, but why it exists in the form it does: still ambitious, still about innovation, now (foreseeably) online and appropriately interactive, one-to-one and peer-to-peer.

So yes, the ‘Uber Labs’ have to wait. These were trips out of Cornwall in which business
leaders not only got to enjoy each other’s company, but went to see, first-hand instances of innovation and outstanding practice nationally. There is a promise that ‘great brands’ have been lined up to host them again in 2021 but those plans are obviously on hold.

In their temporary absence, however, Future Focus offers Innovation and Future Planning
workshops delivered via facilitated webinars, where a Business Development Manager
works with businesses one-to-one. And there’s further support through a new online diagnostic tool: UP Interactive. A great deal of the team’s time since March has,of course, been spent perfecting their webinar and virtual-meeting game, honing their craft. This will inform and enhance their delivery of labs in which local business leaders share experiences and emphasise the learning potential of the peer-to-peer experience.

The first Labs have covered topics like ‘Maximising online sales in Quarter 1’ and have reaped feedback like “We came out with a list of ‘to-dos’ a mile long and spent the whole of Sunday planning. We would not have done this without being inspired by Future Focus!” Neil & Debbie Gregory, Elixir Health.

And “Realising the potential of selling on Amazon was an eye opener I can’t wait to put it into practice. This could be a game changer for my business.” Libby Panton, Coral & Moss.

Added to this, one crucial difference between Future Focus’s first and second iterations is
the increased participation of The University of Exeter, specifically its Business School.

They’re all set to continue their ‘Mining Breakfasts’: monthly networking events with a specific focus. These events – academic speaker, insights from local business leaders – differ from the new element which the university is bringing to the programme.

Academic-led workshops will explore how businesses can become more resilient an contribute to a more balanced economy. Plus, they can create bespoke research reports for
businesses who want to explore how they can transform products and services toward a
more circular economy.

And, as to balance the academic approach, the pragmatic hands on approach of the Cornwall College group and Future Focus makes this ERDF-funded programme comprehensive for those businesses who want to push beyond horizon scanning.

The programme also offers grants and coaching for innovation (even offering salary
subsidy and mentoring for the recruit). The experienced and insightful team delivering all
of this will not only be that critical friend but will guide businesses to help re-imagine their
futures and bring into focus with practical and achievable vision.

Unlocking Potential’s programme director is Allyson Glover, and she linked Future Focus’s
underpinning spirit with a wider business mindset in a (hopefully) post-Covid landscape.

“Future Focus has always been about stimulating and encouraging innovation. The aim of the programme second time around, in partnership with the University of Exeter is to get people out of their day- to-day, to re-energise business and help those with aspirations to lead change. That seems to be an important goal at the best of times, but at a time like this, its function seems especially crucial, which is one reason why we can’t wait to get started.”

If you feel that occasionally spending time looking intently and creatively at your market, your sector, your future and your leadership in the company of your peers represents a sound investment (as well as an interesting exercise), contact Future Focus and start your conversation today.