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The first Connect Yorkshire Masterclass of 2021 was a panel event with 2 Entrepreneurs in Residence David Grey MBE of OSL Group and Jacqui Hall of CNG, as well as 2 CY members in Mark Cowgill of Exa Networks and Dave Barber of Spark

The event was chaired by Richard Moran senior partner at Clarion and Chairman of our Board. The event focussed on working at home.

After the panel introduced themselves, the main subject was:

Communicating with your team

Dave Barber – Share everything with your team, remote working makes it vitally important that you communicate with your team. 

Richard – Can you over communicate?

Dave Barber – Yes, but change needs a comms plan

Jacqui Hall – There is still a need for people to be connected with each other and there are lots of different ways to do this

Mark Cowgill – We now have 2 comms sessions with everyone each week, generally on Tuesdays and Fridays

David Grey – People worry in a changed environment. First job was to try to work out what was going to happen, we looked at the worst case and we could survive till Sept/Oct 2021. We could not guarantee everyone’s jobs. Luckily we invested in a new IT system 2 yrs ago, so working from home was not a problem and people have adapted quickly, OSL have bought 31 companies over the years, and we always get a few who won’t work for the common good. 2% ‘awkward’ ones take up 80% of my time.


Simon Palmer – G&E have taken on a lot of recruits in the last 9 months. The challenge is how to establish them in the firm at a distance.

Mark Cowgill – Try to make them feel part of the culture; we have now restructured our employment team into the People and Culture Dept

David Grey – I have seen in person or on zoom every employee. Productivity is going up, possibly as a result of no chatting! But the human element is out of the window. We have an Apprentices Scheme, write down in a book something you have done which has helped the business move forward, then present it to the Board and the winner will go to one of our business connections in China or India.

Dave Barber – It needs a big investment in time, you must spend time with the team. It needs lots of touch points, 15 minute huddles every morning. Put people together randomly on zoom. Keep LISTENING

Jacqui Hall – More time and energy needed on staff. CNG has fitness, yoga and other things we do together. We’ve started having lunch online; I’m always available for a coffee, we all must refocus on the people and not on driving them.

David Grey – How do I know I’m doing well? Its very important that each person knows their role and how they’re going to be judged, where have they got it right and where have they got it wrong.


Mark Cowgill – We have touch points every am and pm about what project we have going on. Delivery is up, creative is down, speak to every employee for 15 mins every week (which can be painful) constant touch points

David Grey – Some can’t work at home (kids etc) it’s been tough and needs good support. I believe  there is a fundamental change on the way. We furloughed people quickly in March, as orders went down by 50% in 2 weeks, but are coming back. Sheffield City Trust reduced staff from 800 to 350, an example is Ponds Forge had to close. Have confidence in what you used to do

Mark Cowgil – Its led us to look beyond Yorkshire

Dave Barber – Celebrate success


Nick Butler