We spoke to one of our new management group board members, Fiona Shafer, who is Managing Director at MDHUB. As the premier peer-to-peer business growth network for Managing Directors and their Senior Board Directors in the South of England, MDHUB supports business leaders with a range of services, including confidential peer learning, leadership and management training and business support consultancy.

Why have you joined the Coastal West Sussex Partnership?

I’ve known director Caroline Wood for more than 20 years and have great respect for what she does.

It will be good to work with Caroline, to represent business voices and to promote the Coastal West Sussex Partnership and link it back to business, as I can represent MDHUB members’ views and feedback to them on the Partnership’s work.

What are your aspirations for the region?

We’re limited by the sea and the roads network here, so we have to be more innovative in how we do business. The more we can develop our tech and creative industries, the better. I’m excited about the plans for the Coastal Creative Technologies project and CreaTech (Creative Technologies) Open Innovation Network.

Fiona Shafer, Managing Director at MDHUB

As an organisation, MDHUB is interested in encouraging business owners and their teams to work towards understanding and developing the circular economy. We need to take more individual responsibility about how we can do business more smartly and sustainably. Along with working smarter, we need to build upon our fantastic manufacturing and industrial knowledge and heritage.

I was born and brought up in Sussex – we live in a beautiful part of the world. I’m a great believer in working collaboratively to sustain that and to ensure everyone has a good quality of life and an optimistic future.

Tell us more about what you do to support businesses through MDHUB.

We’ve been providing confidential peer learning and leadership development for 20 years. We have 14 leading advisors covering all sections of business, from marketing to finance.

We provide a confidential learning environment for senior management teams and come up with solutions to help grow their businesses sustainably. We provide many other services, including leadership and management training, coaching, and Non Exec Board support.

We’re currently running sessions on how to exit your business and we’re launching a beginner’s guide to the circular economy in the autumn to help companies rethink their business models.

What do you think are the biggest challenges for business growth in the region?

Recruitment is one of the top challenges now, as well as retaining good employees. Business owners are facing more requests for salary increases at a time when margins are being squeezed and the cost of living is rising.

Rebuilding and engaging teams is another issue – hybrid working is working on different levels for people. We’re currently providing a lot of team building sessions to re-engage and motivate employees.

A less-talked-about but substantial challenge is the risk of burn-out for managing directors. As Brexit and economic and political uncertainty continues, it is more important than ever that business owners keep fit and well and take time out in order to lead effectively.

Accessing financial support for capital growth is another challenge – if you’re a business owner under pressure, you might not know about support available. There is a lot of money around for investment however, particularly for green technology.

We all know Brexit is impacting our engineering and horticultural sectors in West Sussex. We are pleased to report our MDHUB members in traditional manufacturing seem to be navigating this more smoothly and are doing well.

What advice would you give to businesses in West Sussex in terms of where they can access support?

As well as the Chambers of Commerce and local authorities, people come to us and we signpost them to other organisations. Our programme of events and business support services for 2022 is here.

We work closely with the University of Chichester, Coast to Capital Growth Hub and Wired Sussex, who all provide support to SMEs – Innovate UK is worth looking at too.

But often the best advice comes from your peers in business who have been there and are happy to share their experiences with others, so they don’t make the same mistakes.

To find out more about MDHUB, visit: www.mdhub.co.uk