Steven Armstrong

Steven Armstrong
Steven Armstrong, North East BIC Ambassador

Only Human

Meet Steven Armstrong

Here at the BIC, we know that being in business brings its challenges, as well as its rewards. But what if you could turn to someone who’s walked in your shoes when you need a word of advice? An experienced businessperson who’s prepared to share what they’ve learned along their entrepreneurial path to help you on yours?

Steven Armstrong is one of our new BIC Ambassadors, a small group of ex tenants and supporters who want to give something back to the business community by acting as an informal mentor. Here, Steven tells us why he’s so keen to get involved.

What I know about business: I started, grew and sold a successful business, and also recently experienced the sphere of a large PLC. I developed, Cedrec Information Systems to translate legislation into plain English to help businesses understand what they need to do. We started life in an incubator unit at the BIC and grew the business at the site, moving to nine different offices over 21 years. We went from two people in a cupboard to 22 people spread over three connecting offices! I went from knowing all clients individually, to managing a company with relationships with 1,500 clients around the country. I sold to a London PLC in 2022 and the firm is now known as Barbour Consolidated.

My connection to the BIC: I share my history with the BIC. I watched the BIC being built and basically grew up there so it holds a special place in my heart. We had the occasional bit of funding and formal support, but the ad hoc conversations with the team and tenants over a coffee and slice of toast were often just as fruitful. Being surrounded by other people running businesses is really helpful, the enterprising spirit gives you confidence. We eventually moved the business to Birtley because we needed more space and it made sense to buy our own premises. We were sad to leave and I would never have considered renting anywhere else because nothing comes close to what’s offered at the BIC.

It’s so much more than managed workspace. It embodies the spirit of entrepreneurship in the North East and to my mind always works with the best of intentions to help enterprise to flourish. That’s important because it helps to keep our businesses in the region, rather than seeing them uproot and move elsewhere. I’ve always kept in touch and now I’ve handed over my business, I have time to get involved in a new way.  

Why I’m happy to give up my time cycling to be a BIC Ambassador: I just want to be useful! I’d love to help other people have the same success and enjoyment from business that we have had. Business is interesting and this is a positive way to stay involved. This scheme is perfect because it makes the most of people, knowledge and expertise from within the BIC’s broader network.

What I’m offering to BIC tenants: I’ll provide mentoring support on a voluntary basis. It could be a one-off discussion or an ongoing relationship – we can agree that between us. Rather than formal, paid-for advice or consultancy, I’ll share experiences and offer inspiration on a very informal, free-of-charge basis. When you’re running a business, it’s easy to get too close to a problem and to forget what the ultimate goal is. It can be really helpful to parachute in some new energy and a different perspective from someone external who doesn’t have an agenda. I’ll be pragmatic and keep things simple by unpicking the complexities and mythologies that come with entrepreneurship. I built a company by simplifying legislation and I hope to do the same for running a business.

BIC Ambassadors

How this can help your business: I’m not an expert in any one thing, but I know quite a bit about lots of things! So, rather than going to an expert in a particular field who is going to try to sell you their solution, I can provide an informal overview. The answer is not always clear when it comes to raising money, issues with staff, clients, suppliers and the like, so together we can talk through the problem or look at opportunities. I can share my mistakes, and the trials and tribulations I’ve experienced along the way to help you find your own way through. I can be a sounding board and someone to blow off steam to! When you’re growing a business, it can be hard to find someone to just vent to if you need to. Running a business is not always remarkable. It’s full of day-to-day decisions that take energy and graft. I’ve been there and done it and if I can do it, so can you.

How mentoring helped my business: I recruited the expertise of a mentor early on in my journey and benefitted hugely from their input. It shaped lots of my decisions and my approach to business and I continued to turn to others for perspective throughout my career. Right at the end I sought the advice of Geoff Hill (also a BIC Ambassador) when selling my company because few people have had that experience and I needed some support. Nobody can go into business alone and it’s so much more enjoyable with friends.

To find out more about the BIC, click here.

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