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Networking expert returned to education at UCLan Burnley

Having networked since 2003, Tracy Heatley was the first licensee of Business over Breakfast (BoB) in 2007 and currently has 10 BoB Clubs in her area across Lancashire and Greater Manchester and Cheshire, including Burnley.

Since 2007, Tracy has been coordinating and running networking groups all over the North West and from 2012, she began training people how to become better networkers with her second business, Better Networking.

It was during one of the meetings Tracy had organised that she met Matt Skidmore, who works at UCLan’s Enterprise and Engagement Unit. Matt explained more about the MBA Degree Apprenticeship programme run locally at UCLan Burnley, and Tracy decided to take the plunge and return to education whilst still running her two businesses.

The impact of COVID-19 affected Tracy in multiple ways; her businesses had to move to online delivery, she had to start studying remotely and she even contracted COVID-19 herself. However, none of these hurdles could stand in the way of Tracy working towards her MBA in Business, something she had wanted to do for a long time. Rather than reacting to the impact of COVID in a panicked way, the operations management skills she was learning on the course had a positive influence on the planning she did.

Studying for the course alongside working has given Tracy a new perspective on her businesses, as most of her assignments focus on her business and how she can make improvements. This means there are tangible alterations and outcomes she has started to implement. Her staff members in the past have attended courses but as a business owner, Tracy now has direct experience of studying alongside working, giving her time to reflect on the way she works too and finding ways to take the pressure off.

Moving to online delivery, Tracy had to find new ways to keep Better Networking and her BoB Clubs running. It also opened the possibility of international markets, as this isn’t something Tracy had previously dreamt of doing as her main focus was local North West businesses. However, she has since been able to explore online networking coaching packages, widening her target market. Learning key strategic skills on the programme, is helping Tracy to explore decision making in a different way, making more informed decisions being one of the key benefits of the course.

The collaborative aspect of the course has been hugely beneficial as it provides opportunities to learn from other people’s experiences, She commented, “Sometimes as a smaller business you can make decisions a little too quickly and this course has opened up a different way of taking time out to plan more formally.”

"The learning from your fellow students is massive and I’m not the only one who has said that."

Tracy Heatley, UCLan Burnley MBA Degree Apprenticeship graduate
Tracy Heatley, MBA graduate
Tracy Heatley, MBA graduate

“The learning from your fellow students is massive and I’m not the only one who has said that. I had no concept what it was like for third sector companies and the barriers they faced…it has given me a greater understanding of that.” Tracy has also been able to offer her own insight to other students who work in larger corporations and don’t have the same perspectives on things like outsourcing and why it’s “commonplace for small businesses.”

“The leadership weekend was really good… I learnt more on that than I realised as the course progressed onto leadership…having that to reflect back on helps the class bond and form a sense of comradery as you have a shared experience.”

Since starting on the course, Tracy is looking at expansion plans, making sure to research properly and is now more likely to achieve the goals I set. She explained, “I’m setting proper objectives and they are going to be realistic”.

When talking about studying on campus at UCLan Burnley, Tracy related “I loved it! I thought it was great! I liked the location, parking was easy! The classes were in a lovely building which was quite intimate. This gives students more opportunity to discuss things in a small and supportive environment.”

As a business owner who runs networking sessions, the networking potential whilst studying has been valuable, gaining great support and opportunities from the close-knit class she’s part of. Tracy is now mentoring a student from the year below and is preparing for the end of the course saying, “I still want to grow the business but in a different way than I planned before.”

Before starting the course, Tracy couldn’t find spare hours in the day to work on strategic planning, but now she keeps one day a week free for university and is going to make sure this key part of her week remains after the course ends, giving her more time to expand strategically.

When talking about her future plans, Tracy explained, “In five years’ time, I hope to have BoB Clubs in every town across my area, and who knows where Better Networking might be because the video and podcasts I have produced are timeless.

“I am also looking to write a book, so maybe I will be a best-selling author too.”

For more information about Degree Apprenticeships at UCLan, visit our website