How to manage growth

Growth is a primary objective for most, if not all businesses. Growth can often happen without noticing, starting out an entrepreneur with a vision, and suddenly a few years later there are 10 employees, this is a scary but exciting change. It is therefore vital that you are able to take control and manage your own growth – don’t let the growth take control of you!

Here at HolyBrook we are at an exciting stage of growth and development  where we have seen an increased demand for our services resulting in the need to add 2 new members to our staff team in the last few months (you can read more about the team here).

Planning for growth

The most common reasons for business failure is due to lack of planning whether short-term or long-term. In order to achieve effective growth the first step is to plan – ‘If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!’- Benjamin Franklin. By regularly reviewing your business plan it ensures that you are regularly meeting the needs of the business. It also allows you to identify key growth areas to target, making growth more focused. Regularly assessing performance against targets means that you are more likely to achieve your goals, investigate and variance and act accordingly. By reviewing finances e.g. through the effective use of Xero, you can monitor patterns and pull off reports to help plan ahead financially. 

It is important to review the staff team so the business is able to support the staff through this period of growth. Making sure they’re kept informed by regular meet-ups and therefore motivated, keeping an eye on their workload, ensuring effective line management support is in place which you allude to in reviewing structures. Maybe consider short-term increase of resources like temporary or casual staff so you’re not over committed but able to meet short-term demands.

Effective communication

A common problem of growing too fast is that communication can become lost between employees. As the business grows, no one fully knows what everyone is doing – resulting in problems such as miscommunication, important information being lost and information being processed slowly from the top to the bottom of the hierarchy. If communication becomes ineffective it can cause productivity and efficiency to decline, which in turn can increase your costs.

Although difficult, it is important to ensure that you are able to keep track of employees whether you have 1 or 100. The solution to this could be reviewing your structure, holding weekly meetings, or using software such as asana and toggl to track what work needs to be done, what work employees are doing, and if there are any overdue work.

Reviewing the structure of the business

Poor structure can be a key indicator of failing to control growth, as well as the previous highlighted issue of poor communication, structure can cause other issues. Different levels of management may need to be established, upskilling existing staff and identifying new line managers to oversee direct reports. This means that higher levels of managements time can be freed up and offers development opportunities for other colleagues.

Expanding too quickly: the problems of rapid growth

It can be mistaken that the growth of accounts receivable means that this will be replicated through cash based growth, this may not be the case. Rapid growth can cause major cash flow problems- overall there are bigger outgoings e.g. as fixed costs increase so you would hope that an increase in income would also increase. It may be true that income increases in the short term, but it may not happen for the long term period. It is therefore important to understand whether this is long term or short term and  ensure that growth is sustainable. Make sure you ask yourself – ‘do you have the amount of resources available for the workload?’ or ‘do you need to increase employees so capacity can increase?’

Another disadvantage of rapid growth can be that the quality of your product or service can increase. Employees take on too much workload so focus on getting as much done rather than the task at hand, this can mean that the business can lose clients and brand competitiveness. To ensure that this doesn’t happen make sure to keep track of quality control and review client feedback as part of your business expansion to protect your clients satisfaction.

A lesson to learn

The common misconception is that all growth is good growth, but this is not the case. Unmanaged growth can lead to inadequate cash flow, costs can increase without revenue increasing proportionally which can eventually result in business failure. Not having the resources to increase capacity can cause growth to come to a standstill and taking on too much workload retrospective to the employees can cause stress and dissatisfaction upon your employees.

Therefore, it can be said that by reviewing your business plan as part of your routine and taking on these other factors will help ensure that your growth is sustainable and you grow the right way!

What winning an award can mean

RE award with Sir John and Sue ReynoldsOur founder Rachel Eden recently won ‘Entrepenuer of the year’ in the Sntander Thames Valley Venus Awards 2018, sponsored by Grandesco.  Here she explains what it has meant so far.

When I was nominated for the “Entrepreneur of the year” in the Thames Valley Venus awards It was very tempting to minimise my chances and to just appreciate that I was in the final three, after all I had been a finalist last year and that had been great fun in itself.  Of course the work we do day to day for our clients is the most crucial part of the job, however, I surprised myself by how much it meant to me to actually win.

The awards ceremony itself was of course a fabulous evening and I was surrounded by some amazing women and men, including my sister Miriam and our Coordinator Sabina.  However, there are also some ongoing business benefits.  I would recommend anyone who is sitting on the fence about getting involved in an awards process of any kind to consider them

The impact of having won the award, even in the last 3 weeks has been more than I expected, some obvious but others in areas that I wouldn’t have thought of, and I thought I would share them:

  • It is incredibly motivational for your team.  My team have walked with a bit of a spring in their step for the last few weeks
  • Existing customers are impressed – this is probably obvious but a number of our existing clients have been in touch to say well done, and offer comments on why they agree with the judging panel.
  • It’s a great marketing tool, again this is obvious but this has worked in subtle ways – I’ve not been using it as a reason to work with us, but it has certainly been a talking point that potential clients have raised themselves.
  • It’s really helps with recruitment: we were recruiting 2 new staff members during the process and just being a finalist was a good hook to help with promoting the benefits of working at Holy Brook.  I’ve noticed the business that won ‘Employer of the year’ has been using it in their latest recruitment ad (and I’d note that I think it was very well earnt… M4Promotions are a lovely team, and we use them for our promotional goods)
  • It adds to your credibility when discussing things with business contacts – this I have to admit is something I have noticed particularly with certain male business owners.
  • It’s a good chance to reconnect and motivate key suppliers and associates to work with you – I treat my suppliers as part of my team, so it has worked in a similar way to with my employees
  • You expand your network – I have met some amazing people including some who I have already or might in the future want to buy goods or services from or who might want my services in the future
  • There is always something you can learn from the other people in the process, the other finalists in my category ran very different businesses to mine, but were extremely impressive individuals as were the others in different categories – I have learnt a lot from listening to them.
  • Finally don’t underestimate how motivational for you as the owner or manager to have external recognition of your work and a chance to take stock of how your organisation has progressed.  As the founder of my business I don’t have a ‘manager’ or someone to tell me whether I’m doing a good job, so the external recognition is a great way to remind yourself that you’re on the right path.

I’m delighted to be a winner but many of the benefits from this year I got last year from being a finalist too, so if you are wondering whether or not entering an award is worth while, I would say go for it.  At worst you’ll get to meet some great people and learn from others in the same or related fields!

RE award with Sir John Sue Reynolds Miriam and Sabina

The press release for the awards ceremony is below:                                                             

Santander Thames Valley Venus Awards 2018, in association with Marshall Volkswagen, announce winners at Grand Ceremony!

Winners of the Santander Thames Valley Venus Awards 2018 in association with Marshall Volkswagen were announced at a Grand Ceremony and Gala Dinner at the Royal Berkshire Conference Centre, Madejski Stadium on 8th June 2018.

Over 250 guest, finalists and sponsors from across the South East, attended the Inspirational Awards Ceremony and Gala Dinner of the Santander Thames Valley Venus Awards 2018, held at the Royal Berkshire Conference Centre, Madejski Stadium on 8th June 2018.

The Venus Awards – dubbed by Channel 4 as “The Working Women’s Oscars” – celebrate the vital contribution that women in business make to the local, regional, and national economy, and are unique in that anyone can nominate a friend, client or family member.

Hosts for the evening’s inspiring celebrations were Tara Howard, founder of Venus Awards, and Robert Kenny, The Breeze Radio.

Every sponsor emphasised the outstanding calibre of their category Finalists when presenting the winner with their “Venus” trophy.   

Cheryl Adams, Regional Director, Santander Corporate & Commercial said: “We’ve been supporting the Venus Awards in Thames Valley since launch. It gives us the opportunity to celebrate the outstanding contribution of women in business across the region. We have seen the Venus Awards grow from something quite small to something so impressive and are very proud to be part of it.”

Andrew Lean, Marshall Volkswagen Franchise Director said: “It’s a delight to be part of the Venus Awards, we were also involved last year and it’s a really great fit for us and our business. The Winners ceremony is a fantastic night with a great buzz and atmosphere.”

This year’s Charity Sponsor is Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent. They provide specialist end of life care, aiming to help people live as well as possible with the effects of their conditions by offering care, symptom management and support from a multi-professional team.

The roll call of nominees, finalists, winners and sponsors is a testament to the growing appeal of the Venus Awards in the Thames Valley. This year’s winners will now progress to the Venus Awards National Finals to be held in the Summer of 2018.

 Winners of the Santander Thames Valley Venus Awards 2018 in association with Marshall Volkswagen are:

Networker of the Year Award sponsored by Prysm Group:

Jade Binsted
(Ribbons Media)

Marketing & PR Award sponsored by ShowState:

Nikki Ball

(Reading Buses)

Green Business Award sponsored by IKEA:

Julianne Ponan
(Creative Nature)

Employer of the Year sponsored The Breeze Radio:

Judith Tinker
(M-four Promotions Limited)

 Business Mother of the Year Award sponsored by Reading Chronicle:

Rachel Lambden

(Heritage Estate Planning)

Entrepreneur of the Year Award sponsored by Grandesco:

Rachel Eden
(Holy Book Associates Ltd)

HR Manager of the Year Award sponsored by Benefex:

Emily Murphy
(Ikea Group)

Inspirational Woman Award sponsored by Reading University:

Anna Sampson
(Boomerang Creative)

 Sales Director of the Year Award sponsored by Sandler Training:

Sam Stanfield

 Small Business Award sponsored by Local Buzz:

Anna Davis

(Therapists on the High Street)

Lifetime Achievement Award sponsored by Wise Owls:

Gerry Lejeune OBE

(Berkshire Community Foundation)

PA of the Year Award sponsored by Sandler Training:

Kate Napier

(Rank Group)

Influential Woman of the Year Award sponsored by Parfitt Cresswell Solicitors:

Katherine Knight

(Intelligent Health)

Customer Service Award sponsored by Marshall Volkswagen:

Nicola Butler

(Nikki Butler Medical Tattooing)

Director of the Year Award sponsored by Santander:

Sally Preston

(The Kids Food Company Ltd)

Finance Professional of the Year Award sponsored by Rapid Search & Interim and Firefly:

Elona Mortimer-Zhika

(Iris Software Group)




Should you publish your pricing?

Sabina ReedOur coordinator, Sabina Reed, shares some thoughts on whether as a business to business supplier you should publish your pricing or not.

Many businesses struggle with a decision about whether to publish their pricing information on their website or to have a price on application approach.

However, prospective clients may be deterred if they must approach you to ask about pricing, perhaps believing that if they have to ask the price if will be out of their affordability range, or that the offering may be too ‘cheap’ – or simply that it will be embarrassing to enquire and then find they can’t afford it.

This creates a dilemma – should you publish your pricing?

At Holy Brook we tend to be pretty transparent about our pricing – for our finance team for example we publish our hourly or daily rates, and our quotes are based on this and an estimate of the time we expect work to take.

Our reason for this is we know that when our customers are looking to make a purchase or obtain a service many businesses spend a lot of time and effort in conducting market research.  When doing so they like to have the facts to hand to enable them to decide.

Of course there are reasons to consider not publishing pricing.

One reason we often hear is that this may lead to the competition or new entrant to the market will find out what you charge and adjust their pricing accordingly, perhaps for a lesser quality offering?

However, if they really want to find out the chances are they already know what you charge. It would only take a call pretending to be a prospective customer or a conversation with a previous client to ascertain a price. In the age of social media, it is easy to access this information.

Alternatively it might be that you like to sit with a potential client and talk them through your service before they make a decision?  This often is right where the service is very personal, although we feel that it makes it easier for people to have a relaxed conversation about this side of things if they already know the sort of price range they are looking at.

Are you worried about deterring people who shop around on price? Don’t be, those people are firstly more likely to be put off by not being able to search and secondly if you are offering a unique service are unlikely to be a regular or loyal client anyway.

Branding also needs to be considered. Are you offering a service that has lots of market competition, or do you offer a bespoke or tailored service or product where no two contracts will be the same?  If, like us, you offer a bespoke service, it might still be worth considering publishing a starting price for the service or product.

Ultimately, it’s your choice whether you publish your pricing, however if you don’t it may be helpful to include a line or two on your site as to why you don’t have your prices on there. Or perhaps try a short trial of adding or removing your prices dependant on how you do it now to see if there is any change in new business enquiries.   You could even publish the pricing for some products and not others – depending on the type of product.

Financial Management Spreadsheet

Our new charity of the year – ASPIRE2

ASPIRE2-LOGO-for-website-261x300We are so delighted to have had some incredible charities apply to be our charity of the year once again.  This year the team got together over lunch and chose South Reading charity, ASPIRE2, which works with across 9 South Reading schools, particularly supporting disadvantaged children and families through outdoor learning, a community arts festival and holiday and after school activities. 

We’ll be fundraising and offering pro-bono support to them over the coming year.

We hope that many of our clients and others in our network will want to get involved in supporting them, so watch this space…

Santander Thames Valley Venus awards finalist

Our founder, Rachel Eden, is for the second year running a finalist in the Santander Thames Valley Venus Awards Entrepreneur of the year category.

Although only in their 2nd year, the Thames Valley Venus Awards are extremely popular, Venus Awards founder Tara Howard said: “We received more than 1,000 nominations and applications for the 15 award categories, which highlights the huge contribution that women in business are making to businesses in the Thames Valley Region,”  Launched in November, participants have been whittled down to the Finalists stage through a combination of sponsor and public judging.

20180417_143342The Venus Awards – dubbed by Channel 4 as “The Working Women’s Oscars” – celebrate the vital contribution that women in business make to the local, regional, and national economy, and are unique in that anyone can nominate a friend, client or family member.

The winner will be announced on on 8th June 2018 at the Madejski Stadium at an award ceremony and dinner in Reading.

We’re keeping our fingers crossed for Rachel.


The full list of Finalists are:

180417_VenusFinals_3056 (1)

Finalists 2018 in all the Venus categories

 IKEA Green Business


  • Cathy Cornish of Wild to Wonderful Garden Design
  • Victoria Lochhead of Frankie & Ruby
  • Julianne Ponan of Creative Nature


Parfitt Cresswell Solicitors Influential Woman of the Year


  • Louise Fetigan of Little Troopers
  • Katherine Knight of Intelligent Health
  • Emma-Jane Taylor of The Inspirational Mentor


Marshalls Volkswagen Customer Service


  • Nicola Butler of Nikki Butler Medical Tattooing
  • Jayne Tilsley of Wadworth Brewery
  • Lesley Wallace of Dream Doors (Basingstoke & Newbury)


ShowState Marketing & PR


  • Nikki Ball of Reading Buses
  • Sophie Comas of Rimu Marketing
  • Vanessa Hunt of Vanessa Hunt Consulting Ltd


Sandler Training Sales Director of the Year


  • Clare Waterfall of Cascade Software
  • Sam Stanfield of Powered by Pie
  • Rachel Gray of Experian



Sandler Training Executive PA of the Year


  • Robyn Thompson-Vango of Reaction Engines
  • Kate Napier of Rank Group
  • Sarah Heineman of Woodford Investment Management



The Reading Chronicle Business Mother of the Year

  • Debbie Whiteley of Pink Spaghetti PA Services
  • Rachel Lambden of Heritage Estate Planning
  • Sara Southey of The Southey Way



Reading University Inspirational Woman


  • Anna Sampson of Boomerang Creative
  • Louise Fetigan of Little Troopers
  • Julianne Ponan of Creative Nature


Benefex HR Manager of the Year


  • Hayley Fisher of Allied Bakeries
  • Ruth O’Loughlin of Oxfordshire County Council
  • Emily Murphy of IKEA Group



Grandesco Entrepreneur of the Year


  • Sue Randall of Oxford Fine Dining Ltd
  • Sam Willoughby of What’s on 4
  • Rachel Eden of Holy Brook Associates Ltd



Santander Director of the Year


  • Sharon Collins of Venture Life
  • Elona Mortimer-Zhika of Iris
  • Sally Preston of Kids Foods




Local Buzz Small Business


  • Anna Davies of Therapists on the High Street
  • Celia Smith of Bluebell Biscuiterie
  • Sarah Riggott of Sarah Riggott Ltd



Wise Owls Lifetime Achievement


  • Jackie Chappell of The Ironing Lady Ltd
  • Gerry Lejeune OBE of Berkshire Community Foundation
  • Jo Cooke of Hoarding Disorders UK CIC



The Breeze Radio Employer of the Year


  • Judith Tinker of M-four Promotions Limited
  • Katherine Knight of Intelligent Health
  • Sambit Mohapatra of Siyona Tech



Prysm Group Networker of the Year


  • Amanda Ayres of The Business Girls Network
  • Aduke Onafowokan of The Sister Sister Network
  • Jade Binsted of Ribbons Media

Photograph: 2018 Finalists at Newbury Racecourse at the Thames Valley Finalist Announcement. Photo by John Rose of John Rose Photography.  

Meet the Team: Sabina Reed

IMGP8723We’re running a short series of interviews about our team members to help you get to know us better.  Here is more about Sabina Reed

What do you do?

As Holy Brook’s co-ordinator I arrange our quarterly meet ups, organise our systems, assist with bookkeeping and any other ad-hoc tasks.

We also have several bookkeeping clients that I work for as part of our finance team.

I’m currently ensuring Holy Brook is compliant under the new Data Protection Regulations that will come into effect from May this year.

2. Why are you a Holy Brook Associate?

I really enjoy working as part of a team with such a wide skill set. When we all come together we look at things from a different perspective giving new dimension to scenarios. It enables us to work with a wider range of clients on a variety of projects.

3. What do you like most about working/living in and around Reading?

I love the links Reading has to the rest of the south, you are a short journey from the capital or an hour or so drive to the coast with so much lovely countryside on our doorstep to explore. I think it is an ideal location for business

4. Who or what would be your ideal client or project?

I enjoy doing a wide variety of tasks and learning new things, so my ideal client or project would be a small business or start-up. I enjoy helping to put processes in place to get finances in order making it easier for business’ as they grow and establish

5.  What are your favourite things to do outside working with Holy Brook?

Things I love to do when not working include singing in a choir, gardening, exercising: Zumba, swimming, walking, cycling, spending time with family and friends, making things: from knitting and sewing, card making to making silver jewellery. I also enjoy cooking and baking. I’ve recently signed up with Free Cakes for Kids Reading.  Free Cakes for Kids Reading is a community service to families who find it difficult to provide a birthday cake for their child

Could you be our charity of the year?

At Holy Brook Associates we support our clients to improve the way they run their organisation.  This includes bookkeeping and financial management help, support in communicating with your audience more effectively and being more strategic and innovative in your thinking.

We are Reading based but work across Thames Valley, London and at times further afield.  We are a small team of skilled professionals and we aim to operate in an ethical way.

We aim to be an ethical organisation and give back.  Holy Brook Associates is looking for a charity to focus our pro bono and charitable activities on in 2018.

Our criteria

Holy Brook Associates is looking for a forward thinking charity who will really benefit from what we can offer.

We will chose our charity following agreement between associates based on the following criteria

  • How your mission and activities fit with ours
  • The benefits to the Reading community
  • How well we believe we will be able to support you
  • Your planned use of the funds and pro bono work we can offer you
  • Your ideas for how we can collaborate and support you

Benefits to you

Holy Brook Associates will offer the chosen charity:

  • pro bono work based on a needs-based consultation with our coordinating director (Rachel Eden)
  • support with events that your charity organises
  • Join in your fundraising activities
  • cash donations based on our activities

We are happy to consider other areas of support if you have ideas.

How to apply

We will be accepting applications until 24th April 2018.   Our application form is here or for an informal discussion please contact

Case study:  Charity of the Year 2016 – Trust House Reading


 From the Reading Chronicle 23rd February:
Trust House Reading received a cheque on Thursday 9th February for £260 from local training and professional services firm Holy Brook Associates, who chose Trust House as their charity of the year.

 In addition The Holy Brook Associates team have donated over 65 hours of time, which included creating and running a successful policy seminar with a follow up report making recommendations for improving support for local survivors of Rape and Sexual Abuse.

 Namita Prakesh, Centre Manager said “The seminar that Holy Brook organised has really helped us develop our vision and raise profile and the donation they are making will help to support our vital work