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Inside The Bradfield Centre Episode 35 - Office Hours re-launch

The 'Inside The Bradfield Centre' podcast returns from its summer break, and Adelina Chalmers is back as well!

In this special episode, Adelina and James discuss the recently re-launched Office Hours at The Bradfield Centre, where you can get free expert support from a wide range of companies on topics including investment, pitching, company structure, talent, go to market, SEO, going international, IP, accountancy, marketing & communications, insurance and more!

Episode Transcript

James Parton:
This episode is brought to you by the Cambridge Norwich Tech Corridor, which is home to the people and businesses tackling the grand challenges facing humanity and shaping the future of food, energy, medicine, and mobility. Linking two of the UK's powerhouse cities, it is one of Europe's most exciting growth stories. They aim to improve the health, as well as the wealth of this unique region, by bringing together businesses and political leaders to amplify the region's existing collective strengths and create a place where people and businesses can thrive. To learn more, visit techcorridor.co.uk.

James Parton:
Welcome to Inside the Bradfield Centre, where we tell the stories of the companies, partners and staff that make the Bradfield Centre Community so special. I'm James Parton, managing director of the Bradfield Centre.

Adelina Chalmers:
And I'm Adelina Chalmers, I'm known as the geek whisperer.

James Parton:
So this week's episode is a special where we're talking about the Office Hours event which has just been announced at the Bradfield Centre.

James Parton:
So, a little special episode today, where we're going to talk about the recently announced Office Hours at the Bradfield Centre. We're back from our summer break, so this is our first episode since August, I think. So, good to be back, and also talking about being back, we have Adelina back, which is fantastic. How are you?

Adelina Chalmers:
Thank you, James. I'm much, much better. Unfortunately, in February this year, I became really ill from long COVID and I was unable to carry on with the recordings, but thank God, James and Carl were able to take off without me. Goes to show. I'm not sure the boat would go down without Adelina, but there you go. They made it without me. And now I'm finally recovering as well, so I'm really glad and delighted to be back and recording face to face as well. It's really amazing.

James Parton:
Yeah, it's great to have you back. And loads of people have asked me how you were doing and I know you've been sharing lots of information on LinkedIn about how you've got your diagnosis and how you've been coping. So loads are great content there for people to read if they know people that are suffering from similar symptom.

Adelina Chalmers:
That's right. If anybody suffers from long COVID, you can follow my story and the way I fixed it on LinkedIn, but also there's some newspaper articles if you just Google Adelina Chalmers, long COVID. If not, just contact me directly, I'm happy to tell them how I got out of the nightmare that is long COVID.

Adelina Chalmers:
Can you tell me a bit, James, about what's happening at the Bradfield Centre at the moment and what's going on with the Office Hours? What's that?

James Parton:
Yeah. So, we ran Office Hours as a bit of an experiment prior to COVID, prior to lockdown, and thanks must go out to Cofinitive to Metro and to PEM who were the early pioneers of Office Hours with us. And they've been working with us on that for maybe over a year actually, and that's proven pretty successful and popular.

James Parton:
Post lockdown now, things are really starting to pick back up. We're starting to see that buzz returning to the Bradfield, which is just fabulous and just felt it was the right time to reboot Office Hours. And we'll go on to explain what Office Hours is, if you're not familiar with the term. But I just wanted to supercharge it really.

James Parton:
So, building on those foundations of working with the three companies I mentioned, we're bringing Office Hours back bigger and better than it's ever been before. So, we actually have 15 companies participating now. Which is fabulous.

Adelina Chalmers:
Participating, you mean offering Office Hours?

James Parton:
That's right, yeah.

Adelina Chalmers:
And is it only limited to the Bradfield Centre members?

James Parton:
So, no, that's a really important point, actually. Hopefully people know this, but our philosophy is always to be open and inclusive of the entire community. So this event is open not only to Bradfield Centre members, but anyone in the local ecosystem.

Adelina Chalmers:
So, what exactly are Office Hours for the people who don't necessarily know about this concept?

James Parton:
Think of it as just an informal chat with an expert on a particular topic. So it's a great opportunity just to come in, spend an afternoon, if you're struggling with a topic that you're trying to solve for your business or a challenge that you've got, you can get just free impartial advice from a range of different experts.

James Parton:
So the concept, I think, originally came from the academic world, the university world, where professors would have Office Hours where students could go talk to them about particular problems and that's been extended into the business world.

Adelina Chalmers:
Interesting. And what sort of topics do you think people will be able to pick up on with these 15 companies that you said are offering Office Hours at the Bradfield Centre? What sort of stuff can people talk about?

James Parton:
Yeah. So as you can imagine, with 15 companies, there's a long list of things that you can come in and talk to the experts about, but just to give you a flavor, things like raising financing for your startup, pitching for investment, or just pitching your business in general, advice around company structure; how to organize your board and all those kinds of things. How to handle equity and incentivize talent with equity, hiring and just HR and people issues in general. How to go to market and everything around that; like your marketing and PR planning. Insurance for your startup. And also things like SEO and optimization to get yourselves found.

Adelina Chalmers:
That sounds like quite a menu of stuff that people can access. I remember meeting a startup founder who told me they went to one of the Bradfield Centre Office Hours, and he was able to work, I believe, with Cofinitive it was on having a professional design for his investment pack. So, that's exactly how I found out more specifically what the Office Hours can help with.

Adelina Chalmers:
And for me personally, the Office Hours helped me open a bank account with Metro Bank because all the other banks, I found them impossible to talk to. And it was so easy to just meet these guys at the Bradfield and have a chat about it. And frankly, everything was sorted really quickly. Thoroughly impressed, if I'm honest. It's even worked for me, and I heard a few people who benefited from it already.

James Parton:
Yeah, that's right. I mean, Faye, Andrew and George, from Cofinitive, PEM and Metro, as I say, were the pioneers of this with us, and they've been fantastic and we've had loads of great feedback from members and non-members alike from how useful those conversations have been with them.

James Parton:
And like I say, it is impartial and there's no obligation. These people are giving their time for free. There's no expectation that you might become a customer of Metro or PEM or any of the other companies that are participating. They're just here to help, which I think is just testament to the community around Cambridge and also the kind of philosophy that we believe in here at the Bradfield, which is just all about helping people grow their businesses.

Adelina Chalmers:
That was one of the things I was going to ask you, is it going to be still free? Because I remember it used to be free before the pandemic. And I wondered if Office Hours now perhaps started, because they've proven successful in the past, I wondered if they started being a chargeable service? But it sounds like you're keeping it free still.

James Parton:
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, no charges whatsoever. So, free to access for both members and non-member. So yeah, just try to earmark that date in the diary once a month and just spend an afternoon with us and have really high quality conversations with people.

Adelina Chalmers:
So, what I was wondering is how does it actually work? Is it one day, one hour a month that all these 15 companies are available at the same time in the Bradfield Centre lobby? Or? How does it work exactly?

James Parton:
Yeah, so it's one afternoon every month. So, all 15 companies will be in the building on that specific day. Each company is free to run it in whichever way they feel comfortable. So, typically 20 minute slots are available. So yeah, just walk up, have a conversation, some of them offer pre-booking. So if you go to the Office Hours page on the Bradfield website, under each company participating, you'll see if they have a pre-booking link or you can just walk in and walk up for a chat.

Adelina Chalmers:
So what I understand is that you have now these 15 companies, one day a month on those three dates that you mentioned earlier, between lunchtime and 4:00 PM, people can come either book a slot online from the Bradfield Centre website or can just turn up and see if they can get a 20 minute slot with one of the 15 companies. How much does this cost? When you ran it before it was free of charge, but because it's been quite successful, I'm wondering is the Bradfield Centre starting to charge for this now?

James Parton:
No, no, no. Absolutely still free charge. So, nothing's changed from that perspective.

Adelina Chalmers:
And is it just for Bradfield Centre members?

James Parton:
No. It's open to everyone. So, our philosophy is very much about being open and inclusive. So, it's open to Bradfield members and non-Bradfield members alike.

Adelina Chalmers:
Looking at the list of companies you have there, I can see that some of them might cover the same sort of topics, like Cambridge Angels and Taylor Vinters and Innovate UK, might all be talking about investment. Isn't there going to be quite a bit of overlap?

James Parton:
I handpicked the 15 to all have a particular field of specialism. So, generally speaking, they're all covering distinct topics, but, on certain subjects, as you probably appreciate things like startup financing, that's obviously a really hot topic for a lot of startups. So, there will be a slight overlap there between the different experts. But I see that as a positive thing, because you can come into the centre, spend an afternoon and you can have two or three conversations with experts and get a blend of opinion. To get a bit of variety in that kind of advice is a good thing.

Adelina Chalmers:
Yeah. And also, it sounds like they're complimenting each other rather than in competition with each other because Cambridge Angels would tell you the investor's perspective while Taylor Vinters will tell you the legal perspective, and Innovate UK will probably tell you about some other grants that people can access. So, it sounds like they're quite complimentary in a way.

James Parton:
Yeah, I think that's right. I think if you're a well-rounded founder, you want seek advice from a range of different people rather than just get one opinion and go without advice. So, like I say, largely speaking, all 15 companies have got specialisms, but there are some overlaps in certain topics.

Adelina Chalmers:
So, the Office Hours are 29th of September, 20th of October, 24th of November from lunchtime till 4:00 PM. Where can people find more information or indeed perhaps book a time slot, if they're like me, someone who likes to book everything in and make sure I know who I'm meeting when.

James Parton:
Yep. The simplest place to go is just bradfieldcentre.com, click on the community menu and you'll see Office Hours under there.

Adelina Chalmers:
Brilliant. I'd like to invite anyone in the Cambridge ecosystem to come along to the Office Hours at the Bradfield Centre, and indeed, once you have spoken to one of the companies and got some advice perhaps, or some ideas, do tell us exactly how did it go and what did you get out of it? Because these case studies are really important to us. It helps us understand how the community benefits from this sort of initiative.

James Parton:
So, today's show was produced by Carl Homer of Cambridge TV, who is one of the people participating in the Office Hours. So, if you'd like to learn more about how you could start your own podcast or do live-event video streaming or lots of other film related topics, go chat to Carl.

James Parton:
You can search for previous episodes of the show by searching for Inside the Bradfield Centre on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, SoundCloud, Stitcher, Amazon Music, or by visiting bradfieldcentre.com. If you have two spare seconds, please give us a five star review. It will really help other people discover the show.

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