Recognising the unique and significant challenges faced by Black, Asian and Minority ethnic businesses, Action for Race Equality has been working closely with a range of local Islington businesses since February 2022, providing them with one-to-one consultancy support, themed masterclasses, and something called Action Learning Sets.
Action Learning Sets (ALS) were developed in the 1940s by Reginald Revans, a university professor and scientist, as a new way for managers to learn and develop together. They have been used in a range of platforms, including in the NHS and other public services.
Read the ALS write up below to find out how they work!
Mini has a family-run shop called City Flora & Plants that sells flowers and plants as well as collectible plants and plant pots. It also provides services to repot or revive plants, and deliver to homes, offices or events. The issue she brought to the ALS was around the delivery of her plants, with challenges including:
- Delivery companies asking for 20-30% of her revenue in return for their services.
- Delivering the plants is time sensitive and needs to be handled with care as they are delicate and expensive.
- Delivery is the new normal, so she needs to find a way to make it sustainable in the long-term.
Questions began by investigating her current delivery methods and challenges she faced with these, before delving into her knowledge of what competitors do and other forms of delivery, such as drop shipping or charging her customers a delivery fee, all of which she had considered before but thought would not suit her business or would increase costs for her customers.
The members were forced to think more widely about different schemes and routes (“Do you do commercial services?”, “Have you considered alternatives like Shared Bike?”).
Eventually, new ideas began to be shared which Mini had not previously considered, such as in-store discounts for people collecting plants themselves or offering on-going plant surgery support to customers.
However, the most enticing idea proposed was starting a subscription model to encourage regular customers to continue shopping with her.
After a long, fruitful discussion, the presenter was thrilled with all the new suggestions to take forward, especially:
- Creating a subscription service
- Instore collection discounts
- Attending outdoor markets to open up another income stream and broaden her customer base
- Ongoing service check-ins for the care of rare plants
- Encouraging local partnerships with trusted local shops to partner with where customers can collect orders
Reflections on this ALS were incredibly positive, with all members having take-aways for their own businesses. Some members related directly as they also needed alternative methods to deliver their products to customers. One business saw how she could expand the ways she delivered her products by implementing a ‘click and collect’ service in shops.
“This makes you think outside the box. It shows how we hold on to our ideas and how such a session makes you think and see things from what people are thinking.”
The facilitator also thought that this session was incredibly productive and engaging. Even though the presenter was very knowledgeable beforehand, the members were still able to prompt her to arrive at new solutions that could solve her challenge.