Husband and wife team Lennox and Georgina Thomas run GGT Solutions, a London-based IOEE Academy that specialises in enterprise training and consultancy. We interviewed Lennox about the business, its services and why becoming an IOEE Academy was a significant step.
Lennox Thomas’ professional background lies in the recruitment sector and before setting out with GGT Solutions he worked for two of the UK’s largest recruitment companies, advising them at board level. Georgina’s background is within the private equities and venture capital sectors. She has worked with two of the top investment houses within business support roles. Her day-to-day role at GGT Solutions is very much operational, whilst Lennox focuses primarily on business development, client engagement and sales. Both are also involved in the hands-on delivery of specific projects and enterprise programmes. Launched in 2008, GGT Solutions employs a core staff of 12, and enlists the support of several expert freelance agents in delivering its services. Lennox says:
“When Georgina and I got together we decided we’d rather work for ourselves and we could see how our previous experiences running other people’s businesses gave us a good grounding for running our own business.”
One of Lennox’s past roles, with recruitment organisation Blue Arrow, had been concerned with training, supporting and developing teams operating across a substantial branch network. Today, training also forms one of two main parts of GGT Solutions’ offer, the other being enterprise consultancy, as the entrepreneur explains:
“We have the training side of the business, which is geared towards career development. Then we also have the consultancy side. Through that we support organisations to develop and improve the way that they work.”
The consultancy work GGT Solutions delivers for other organisations is often focussed on boosting employability. For example, Lennox and his team undertake projects with social housing providers, as well as central and local government organisations, running training programmes on their behalf and consulting with them in the development of bespoke programmes tailored to their specific client bases. Additionally, GGT Solutions runs its own internal training programmes on behalf of external organisations. Its flagship initiative is the Annual Enterprise Programme, which is run on behalf of A2Dominion, a social housing enterprise that has 36,000 properties located across London and the South East. The programme, which Lennox and Georgina designed and now deliver together, invites A2Dominion residents to flex their entrepreneurial muscles. Interested parties living in A2Dominion properties then apply to the organisation for a place on the programme. Once the housing association has contacted the interested resident, it selects the most suitable candidates for the Enterprise Programme. This year, a total of 17 individuals were given places on the scheme, which sees the group come together every other Saturday for a period of six months to develop their business ideas, knowledge and skills. As experienced entrepreneurs Lennox and Georgina feel there is real benefit in delivering the programme themselves:
“We support them to develop and validate their initial business ideas, which are all quite unique. For example, last year we had one young lady who is currently running a tutoring business, another pair who are working together to start an events management company, and a woman developing cosmetics products – it is very diverse and the ideas are very original.
“Housing associations like A2Dominion have recognised that being a social enterprise is about more than just providing a roof over residents’ heads. It’s about social cohesion, community, and it’s about supporting people to develop and promoting self-reliance.”
Initiatives like GGT Solutions’ Annual Enterprise Programme are run to generate a social return on investment and create opportunities for A2Dominion residents to become future pillars of the communities they live in as employers and, ultimately, as investors themselves.
The programme is now in its fourth year and the sheer variety of business ideas to pass through GGT Solutions’ training rooms has impressed Lennox:
“The housing association has huge reach so we’re seeing some very diverse entrepreneurial thinking. In turn, we’re responding with ambitious programme content.”
As well as helping participants write commercial business plans and giving them all the essential business skills they need to sustain their start-ups, the scheme culminates with a Dragons’ Den style showdown and ultimately offers financial support to the ‘winning’ participant each year. This award is delivered in the form of seed funding to start their business. However, there is tremendous value in every GGT Solutions programme for all of the participants.
“Each person who completes one of our programmes leaves with a completed, commercial business plan that can be presented to a bank, an investor or any potential stakeholder in their business. Very few businesses drop off any of our programmes. Right now, enterprise is at the core of the government’s agenda and it’s good for communities, for individuals, and for businesses themselves.”
Career development and carer advice is the other major focus of GGT Solutions’ services. Lennox, Georgina and their team are enthusiastic about highlighting the value of entrepreneurial endeavour as a career option in its own right.
“We see close to 7,000 people a year on some sort of career journey and many of those people explore the option of enterprise or becoming a business owner. Really, we want to encourage people to get involved in entrepreneurial activity, whether that’s as an entrepreneur or an intrapreneur within an employer’s business.”
Last year, GGT Solutions applied to became an IOEE Academy and in August secured the coveted status. Lennox explains why this was important to Georgina and himself:
“We deliver a wide range of services, everything from supporting people on a one-to-one basis and pop-up enterprise programmes that last two to three days, to the long-term initiatives. For this reason, we felt accreditation was important. Our content is always really high quality but we felt becoming a rubber-stamped IOEE Academy would give us that additional gravitas, higher visibility and greater credibility.”
To find out more about GGT Solutions, you can visit www.ggtsolutions.co.uk/