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RTC North

Business Support Specialist Lesley Hawke brings a passion for SME growth and an understanding of business development, marketing strategy and overseas markets to the Programme Team.
Following her Business Studies education, her background includes Publication/Media advertising for the sports and education Sector as well as running her own business for 7 years. She is also a current member of the Institute of Export and holds a Foundation Award in International Trade from the British Chambers of Commerce.

In the last 6 years she has supported North East SMEs in her roles at the Department for Business and Trade (was DIT), at the Tees Valley Combined Authority as well as Membership Manager of NEPIC the Cluster organisation for the Process Sector supporting businesses across the North East and UK. All those roles allowed her to work closely with businesses to understand their growth strategy, their challenges and see their vision in order to facilitate their growth and in recent times she also helped North East Businesses navigate Brexit and supported business owners through the COVID pandemic.

With an extensive business network behind her, Lesley is often busy introducing businesses to each other to help establish strong peer to peer connections and most importantly encouraging localised business connectivity especially within the supply chain sector.

Lesley Hawke

Productivity & Growth Advisor

Graham started his own business writing and publishing computer games while studying at Manchester University in the 1980s. In the early 1990s he sold this business to Psygnosis, where he produced games, for instance in the Lemmings series. 
Psygnosis was bought by Sony leading to Graham being involved in many of the launch titles for the original PlayStation. In the late 1990s he moved to Nokia, initially doing games stuff. That developed into him being responsible for entertainment, content and games for Nokia’s smartphones, and ultimately the roll out of Nokia’s mobile services. 
In the early 2010s he joined a start-up online media company, growing one of their divisions to be the largest provider of licence free music to UK retailers. Late 2019 he sold this business to a PE backed competitor for a multiple of annual revenue. 
After a career break during Covid he then spent just over a year turning round a 100-year-old trade association.

Graham Stafford

Productivity & Growth Advisor

43 years with the first 27 years being spent firstly in engineering and maintenance roles, within microelectronics, and the latter 14 as an Operations Manager and Director, managing multi disciplined teams, up to 120 staff, delivering complex technology products to Global Tier 1 and OEM companies.
This was followed by 17 years in business support roles, including running my own Consultancy business. 15 of which have been spent working firstly for the Manufacturing Advisory Service programme, and latterly with RTC North on several programmes, including Innovate to Succeed, Scottish MAS programme, Offshore Wind Growth Partnership (WEST & TIGGOR), Tees Valley CRF and predominantly Supply Chain NE.
Areas of expertise are in Operations Management and Lean & Continuous Improvement and Value Proposition.

With the Durham Business Growth programme Jims’s primary role with be as a Productivity & Growth Advisor working with County Durham business owners, leaders and managers to improve specific business areas which, will in turn, result in increased productivity (process, people, systems) and a greater probability of successfully achieving growth ambitions.  

Jim Barr

Productivity & Growth Advisor

Steve Wilkinson, who joined RTC North in October, is an individual with a fervent dedication to the field of manufacturing. Throughout his extensive career, he has been immersed in the Manufacturing Sector, contributing to areas such as Research and Development, Technology Transfer, project and programme management (both in the Private and Public sectors), Continuous Improvement, process enhancement, and operational excellence. Steve has showcased his expertise in operations management across diverse market sectors.

In the past decade, Steve's professional journey has included notable roles within MAS (Manufacturing Advisory Service), a distinguished high-growth manufacturer. More recently, he has taken charge of the Cumbria Manufacturing Service and led the Lancashire Manufacturing Growth Fund programme.

Steve Wilkinson

Productivity & Growth Advisor

After starting his career as an Engineer in Mechatronics in the automotive industry, Graham delivered a highly successful career in trouble-shooting for corporate divisions, eventually leading North American operations of an Automotive tier 1 from $30Mn - $300Mn of acquisition-fuelled growth, and developing a number of Asia-based strategic alliances before returning to the North-East and leading year on year double digit growth as GM/MD designate of a manufacturing SME.  Instead of taking on the full-time role of MD, he set off to build his own international consultancy business (based out of Scotland) which gave verifiable support on many large long-term global consultancy projects to corporates and blue-chips for 8 years, before supporting growth in over 80 SMEs (5 of them with 10 x multi £million growth within 3-4years) since.  

During his international consultancy phase, he became an accredited Corporate Executive Coach to senior leaders in this space, and concentrated on his specialist knowledge in areas such as Strategic Operational Excellence (Six Sigma MBB), Innovation and commercialisation, as well as people and culture development for areas such as Manufacturing, Engineering, and Service-based organisations.  

He was awarded EF Business Mentor of the Year in the North-East in 2019-20, and is currently a strategic advisor (NED) to a host of businesses from £250k-£200Mn. He is also currently Vice-Chair for Durham Business Group which led to him working part-time with RTC North and the Durham Growth Programme.  After suffering long-term illness himself, he also gives pro-bono support and advice to a number of national and local CICs and charities in areas close to his heart; education, entrepreneurship, and disability, as well as being active in his local church.

Graham Sleep

Productivity & Growth Advisor

After completing a Maintenance Apprenticeship with Rothmans, Steve then spent the next 17 years in First Tier Automotive supply, climbing the career ladder in two companies,  from Production Engineer to First Line Manager to Manufacturing Director.

During this time, he lead initiatives such as ‘3 Day Kaizen’, ‘Set Up Reductions’ and ‘Change Agent Training’, studied Management, and this remains his core value.

The next 13.5 years were spent with one company in the automotive aftermarket, spending the last 8 years as UK Engineering Manager with a brief dual role as Production Manager.
During this time some key achievements were ‘Major tooling design changes’, ‘Design of 4 Generations of Press machines including in process robots’, the implementation of ISO 50001 (2nd in Country), completing a NEBOSH Certificate, as well as successfully managing maintenance and facilities.

The last 2.5 years before joining RTC North, Steve has been self-employed, where the company developed into an Interim Management Service with a structured approach to managing and empowering teams.

Steve Turnbull

Productivity & Growth Advisor

A career of 2 distinct halves.
15 years+ spent within the manufacturing sector (both batch and FMCG manf) for a number of large companies- lead roles included: Product testing & analysis/ Supplier quality assurance/ Total quality management/ Statistical process control/ Company-wide sales forecasting (UK & EUR markets)/  Operational management inc. responsibility for multiple departments and staffing.
20 years+ within the SME business landscape with multiple roles including: Including: Joint-ownership and management of 2 small companies / 10+ years within multiple funded programmes (inc . Invest for Growth / Growth Accelerator / Supply Chain NE) / 3 years General Manager of a Comms sector small company / 5 years as small company commercial business improvement consultant.
Specialisms include, Performance management, Continuous improvement, Strategic planning & Business owner development.

With the Durham Business Growth programme John’s primary role with be as a Productivity & Growth Advisor working with County Durham business owners, leaders and managers to improve specific business areas which, will in turn, result in increased productivity (process, people, systems) and a greater probably of successfully achieving growth ambitions.  

John Heslop

Productivity & Growth Advisor

Graham is an experienced change management consultant with over 15 years working with businesses of all sizes across all sectors to implement change and manage business transformation.

Prior to this, Graham worked for some of the largest manufacturing companies in the world on systems implementation projects (SAP, ORACLE and MS Dynamics) to improve processes within logistics, manufacturing and customer service.

Graham has also worked with Public and Third Sector organisations – primarily on the implementation of customer service improvements – including the design and development of multi-channel contact centres
As well as being a qualified PRINCE2 practitioner and ISO9001/14001 Lead Auditor, Graham is a LEAN Six Sigma Green Belt and a judge for National and International Customer Service awards

With the Durham Business Growth programme Grahams primary role with be as a Productivity & Growth Advisor working with County Durham business owners, leaders and managers to improve specific business areas which, will in turn, result in increased productivity (process, people, systems) and a greater probability of successfully achieving growth ambitions.

Graham Walton

Productivity & Growth Advisor

Andy is an accredited Business Adviser and Coach with extensive experience of managing and delivering projects for business development. With over 15 years’ experience working within the business support environment with over 10 years as a bank manager, Andy works with all sectors and business sizes, from highly innovative spinouts to more established businesses. Andy’s finance background provides strength in business planning and raising finance with a keen interest in the creative and digital sector. 
With the Durham Business Growth programme Andy’s primary role with be as a Productivity & Growth Advisor working with County Durham business owners, leaders and managers to improve specific business areas which, will in turn, result in increased productivity (process, people, systems) and a greater probability of successfully achieving growth ambitions.  

Andy Brown

Productivity & Growth Advisor

RTC North

RTC North is a leading provider of business support and innovation services, working with organisations to unlock their potential and achieve sustainable growth. With a wealth of expertise and a commitment to excellence, RTC North empowers businesses to overcome challenges, embrace opportunities, and drive success in a rapidly evolving marketplace.

Empowering companies across the North to innovate, compete and grow.

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