Local SME business owner shares experience of Peer Networks

Ummer Daraz is the Managing Director of Empace, and was recently interviewed about his experience of Peer Networks.

Empace is a structural engineering consultancy with offices in Yorkshire and London. Ummer leads a small team of structural engineers and technical designers working on a variety of projects from residential extensions to large scale commercial builds.

In this interview, which was originally published in the Asian Standard newspaper on 3 October 2021, he shares his thoughts on the Peer Networks programme run by Leeds Univesity Business School.

What made you apply for Peer Networks? “Running a relatively young , growing structural engineering consultancy can be a bit of a challenge at times. When I heard about this opportunity to form a peer group with other SMEs, I jumped at the chance to learn how other business owners have dealt with their challenges.”

What was the most useful aspect of the programme? “The programme was ideally timed in the evenings and spaced out enough to give us the time to digest our discussions and formulate our input for the next session.”

Why are Peer Networks important for small-business owners? “The fact that you are having an honest conversation with your peers means that you get an insight into the thought processes of other business leaders without the concern that there is necessarily any other motivation apart from the desire to help each other.”

What is the most important thing that you learnt as a result of Peer Networks? “I found all the sessions valuable and very insightful, covering a range of topics from finance to digital adoption. I took away a lot from the programme and I am actively trying to adopt a lot of the learnings.”

The one-to-one coaching session at the end of the programme was very useful, this helped to distil all the learnings from the sessions into an action plan that I have incorporated into my business strategy.

How has your outlook changed since you took part in Peer Networks? “The most important thing I took away from the programme was probably the realisation that nobody has necessarily had a smooth journey but we all had the right attitude in terms of our approach to learning from trip-ups and moving on, planning ahead and the desire to build a good team of staff that will support you through your journey.”

Peer Networks is a free peer-to-peer networking programme for SME business leaders who want to grow and develop their organisation for future success.

The programme is delivered locally by the University of Leeds on behalf of Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (the LEP) and in partnership with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and is funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Find out more about Peer Networks.

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