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Growing my business with Help to Grow: Management – Stuart Hardisty

18 March 2024
Stuart Hardisty

Stuart Hardisty, Director and Economic Development Consultant, Hardisty Jones Associates, recently completed the Help to Grow: Management course at Cardiff Business School. Stuart is a Cardiff University alumnus, graduating in 1998 with a degree in Business Economics. He describes the experience of returning to the Business School like stepping back in time, reminiscing over lectures with academic staff and exploring the campus. Stuart tells us more about what the Help to Grow: Management course has brought to him and his business.

Can you tell us a bit about your career since graduating?

After graduating I spent two years working for Woodville Baptist Church in Cathays supporting students.

In 2000 I then joined DTZ Pieda Consulting as a graduate economist within a multi-disciplinary consultancy team. The team included town planners, development surveyors and regeneration professionals. I was the first economist in the Cardiff team, but one of about 40-50 across the UK business.  I remained with DTZ for 11 years, latterly leading its economic development consulting practice across Wales and South West England. This involved advising clients in the public and private sector on a wide range of economic development matters.  Clients included Welsh Government, Regional Development Agencies and Local Authorities as well as property developers and landowners.

In 2011 I founded Hardisty Jones Associates with a former colleague. We deliver very similar work for the same type of clients. We have two offices, Cardiff and Bristol, and have grown to a team of six, with plans to grow further in the coming years.

What were your initial expectations of the Help to Grow: Management Programme? Do you feel you achieved this?

I wasn’t aware of Help to Grow: Management until we received a letter from HMRC telling us about the programme and our eligibility.  Given it was a letter from HMRC we took notice!  As a company we were embarking on the process of writing a new 5-year business plan and the opportunity to gain some external input to the process was appealing.

My expectations were undoubtedly exceeded.  The taught sessions were really informative.  The peer group provided the opportunity to discuss how the ideas we had learned could be applied in quite different settings and provided fresh perspectives.  The mentoring was really valuable in working out how to filter what was most relevant to Hardisty Jones Associates and how we could implement it to help us grow.

What was your favourite module and why?

There were a lot of great modules. Module 6 – the “Building a Brand” module was really engaging and lives long in the memory – not least because of the session leader and some of the very funny interactions with the delegates. There were also some useful lessons along the way!

What was the most useful module?

The module on Vision, Mission and Values (Session 4) was perhaps the most useful given the exact issues we needed to work through as an organisation at that time. We have already worked through a number of the exercises that were suggested with our staff team to inform our future growth plans.

What skills did you develop during the programme?

There was a lot of content across the 12 modules, and there was something useful in every session.  I now have a full toolbox that can be used to help us tackle different issues in the business.  Some of the content was helpful reminders of ideas I had come across before, but lots were brand new to me.  One of the most important lessons was recognising we couldn’t do everything straight away, and developing a programme with the mentor for how we could implement the various elements over time.

Did you find the networking and connections to the other cohort members of the programme beneficial?

Being in a peer group was really useful for considering challenges in our own business differently.  We are a team of six and all think quite similarly. Discussing things with people from totally different walks of life and business types was really useful.  It is also reassuring to realise there are plenty of other people out there trying to figure out the same things!

What are you top takeaway points from the 12-week programme?

There are many, and we are working through them.   The main takeaway for us as a business is needing to have a twin track focus on both clients and staff. We have always had a really strong client focus, but as our team grows that becomes central to the effectiveness of the company.  The other top takeaways – you can always benefit from new ideas, but you need to think through how you do that for it to be effective.

Have you implemented any changes or made any improvements in your business since completing the programme? We would love to hear an example of a change that has been implemented.

We have already implemented a lot of things. We have worked across the company and with our clients to articulate our values.  We have revisited our purpose and mission statement. We have looked at how we deliver value to our clients.  We have looked at how we can make the organisation more resilient.  We have set out a 5-year growth plan.  We have established an action plan for implementing a series of other elements around marketing and branding that could not be done immediately due to capacity.

What would you say to someone considering signing up for Help to Grow?

Do it. Go in with an open mind to learn some new things. Then filter out what is really applicable to your organisation and what isn’t relevant (for now).  There is a lot of content, and we were able to work out through the peer groups and with our mentor what was important for us right now. I am very glad we got that letter from HMRC as otherwise we would have missed out on a potential goldmine.

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Help to Grow: Management is a 90% government-funded business development initiative accredited by the Small Business Charter (SBC) and delivered by Business Schools across the UK. The programme was launched in 2021.

The next cohort intake is in September 2024. If you’d like to learn more, please email Be sure to follow Cardiff Business School on LinkedIn for more updates!