Advising a University Leadership Project​

For the last 11 years, ION has been able to deliver their project through UK and EU funding from WEFO and ESF (European Structural Fund). Operating in partnership between Swansea University and Bangor University, ION runs ILM accredited, Level 3 and 5 leadership programmes to SMEs in West Wales, North Wales, and the Valleys priority region. Overall, the course has made a significant contribution to the Welsh Employment Landscape and the economy by massively impacting their delegates through an experiential and immersive activity led program meaning they ‘get up and do’. They undertake a wide range of activities, so they learn new leadership skills, learn about themselves and reflect on what they want to do differently. This has resulted in a significant change in the delegates themselves and impact on their businesses.


The ION team recognized they would need external help to evaluate their options for the future because their funding is coming to an end in December 2023, so they needed to find new sources of funding and create a more sustainable future. They needed support to perform a feasibility study to understand the likelihood of ION being successful. They needed to know if there was a demand for the course, who was their target market, what they’d be willing to pay, and how it would be delivered. ION needed to explore the product they could launch and what would make it successful.


hgkc was recommended to ION by a consultant who had worked with both parties in the past and he knew that hgkc Director Kim Jones’ previous experience working in a similar function in a university was highly relevant. Kim was able to bring her unique perspective and understanding of the brief ION specified, and hgkc won the project. From the beginning, hgkc asked lots of questions and challenged ION as to what they were trying to achieve. It was clear to ION that Kim and hgkc understood universities and their funding structure so that ION felt guided and supported. hgkc kept in constant contact with weekly meetings, and ION were regularly updated about progress on the project. 


Our consultants immersed themselves into the program and visited both Swansea and Bangor to experience the course and visit the teams to fully understand what they do and how it is delivered. This helped build trust between hgkc and the client, they felt open to share with us and rely on our recommendations. As part of our approach hgkc developed a comprehensive research program supported by rigorous methodologies and standards to ensure the insights generated were accurate and robust. Research included the ION course as well as similar courses, providers, and the different delivery models of a Leadership and Management course. We interviewed eight external leaders and eight past ION delegates to understand what they were looking for in a course and what they felt about ION. Our team gained an understanding of the strategic options through a process of business analysis, financial modelling and risk assessment working directly with the ION team and their organisations.


As a result, the ION Swansea programme is in transition and will become part of the wider leadership and management offer within the University’s School of Management. The feasibility study and research hgkc provided enabled viable options for the sustainability of ION, albeit re-imagined for a 2024 cohort. It was the start of a business plan which highlighted the value of the course. The use of hgkc Associate Partner Stewart Redpath’s Brand Compass framework was uniquely valuable in showing how ION is perceived, how they perceive themselves, and how they want to be perceived, which is critical particularly at this decisive point in the programme’s future. Brand Compass helped ION focus on their brand and what the marketplace needs from the ION product. It helped the team understand what they needed to focus on in their future brand and what needs to be embedded. 


The report helped ION focus on what they’re good at and also what they don’t need to do, helping them to pinpoint and focus on what they have the capability to do whilst meeting what their target market is looking for. As a result, ION is continuing thanks to the thorough and persuasive research conducted by hgkc, which proved why ION was a valuable asset and accentuated the added value that leadership programs bring to the University’s continuing professional development offer within the School of Management.

Our approach is always to tailor the support we provide to meet the needs of clients; this has been the case with ION. Whether providing a valued external opinion, taking a more practical role to define the strategy, or help to build upon the skills, knowledge and experience of the team, we have been on hand as much or as little as required.

So, whether your company seeks business continuity and growth, intends to pivot towards new markets, or needs to be able to deal with a period of unprecedented change, our team of experts is here to support your journey, every step of the way.

hgkc was born from the realisation that together our combined practical experience and knowledge can offer our clients a broader, deeper and richer experience that will deliver better results faster.