Business planning during a time of change
Jo Towler, Executive Director of Candoco Dance Company, spoke to AMA editor, Jacqueline Haxton, about how Creative United's Prosper advisor Marina Norris helped Candoco develop its Business Plan during a time of organisational change.
Formed in 1991, Candoco creates and presents exciting pioneering dance with disabled and non-disabled artists. Sharing best inclusive dance practice through outstanding productions, projects, training, advocacy and collaborations, we drive forward thinking and expand expectations of what dance can be.
Last summer we needed to write a new business plan for 2018-22 during a transitional period for the company. Stine Nilsen and Pedro Machado, the Artistic Co-Directors, were leaving after ten years and we’d just recruited two new Artistic Co-Directors, Ben Wright and Charlotte Darbyshire. Although Ben and Charlotte were appointed in June 2017 they didn’t formally take up post until 15 January 2018 — around three weeks before the Arts Council England deadline for NPO business plans.
We had the challenge of developing a business plan that gave a structure for the next four years, yet was flexible enough to allow Ben and Charlotte’s input when they started their new roles. At the same time the application process for Prosper came up, so it seemed the perfect opportunity for us to be involved.
We were lucky in that we had Marina Norris assigned to us as our Prosper business advisor. She’s been absolutely brilliant. Marina already knew about the work of Candoco and has a lot of experience in supporting cultural and arts organisations to develop their vision, strategy and business models. She also has a good understanding of the challenges facing inclusive arts organisations.
We first met with Marina in August 2017. We talked through where the company was currently at and we looked at areas of possible development. What came out of our discussions was that it felt like it was the right time to focus on the Mission and Vision of the company as part of creating the business plan.
Prosper has given Candoco an injection of expertise in business planning during a transitional time for the company.
I took part in one Prosper webinar and the rest of Candoco’s Prosper credits we used on mentoring support from Marina — having bespoke sessions focusing on our Mission and Vision. Marina facilitated two sessions with the Candoco team and trustees — one on our Mission and the other on our Vision.
It’s unusual that we focused on our Mission before our Vision but because we were in a transition period and waiting for our new Artistic Co-Directors to take up post and instil their vision, we focused on what we do — where Candoco is now — rather than trying to encapsulate what our Vision is and what they want it to be without their input.
With Marina’s help, we started to distil into discrete strands what Candoco does and refreshed our Mission Statement, giving it a clear, simple language of what we do. We also have a Vision that’s a work in progress — we have some ideas on the table, which we will revisit during the planning for the next iteration of our rolling business plan at the end of 2018, when Ben and Charlotte will be established in post.
It was fantastic to have a consultant working with the company for the last several months. We have one final session in the next two weeks to round everything off. We’ve maximised Marina’s time as much as possible, and staff and trustees have really enjoyed the sessions we’ve had with her, and have appreciated her input.
Prosper has given Candoco an injection of expertise in business planning during a transitional time for the company. We’ve found Prosper really useful and it’s a shame it’s coming to an end.
Images courtesy of Candoco Dance Company. Face In by Yasmeen Godder. © Hugo Glendinning, 2017