Welcome to Aston means business podcasts where our top academics provide essential advice to business owners and managers, entrepreneurs and students. In March 2020 we turned this podcast’s attention to small and medium sized businesses in our community (known as SMEs), and how they are responding to the challenges brought on by COVID-19. Our guests are interviewed by Steve Dyson, a business journalist and former daily newspaper editor who has presented dozens of regional programmes for BBC’s HARDtalk series.

Aston means business podcasts can be found on SpotifyGoogle Podcasts and Apple Podcasts.

Season 3: SMEs building resilience to COVID-19 challenges

Episode 3 – Centric HR

Sandra Berns, founder of Centric HR, explains how her revenues have tripled in the last year, partly as a result of an initial investment of free and low-cost advice to companies at the start of the first COVID-19 lockdown. Mark Hart, Professor of Small Business and Entrepreneurship at Aston Business School, says this was a great example of how SMEs can invest to grow. Listen on Spotify.

Episode 2 – Integritax

Adnan Khalid, founder of Integritax Accountants, explains how his revenues doubled by using the latest digital accounting tools to help SMEs survive COVID-19. Matt Davies, of the Accounting Department at Aston Business School, says undergraduates are now using the latest Xero software on compulsory undergraduate accounting modules. Listen on Spotify.

Episode 1 - Smart Learner

Tommy Sandhu, founder and director of the Smart Learner driving school, explains how the business has continued to grow and now has a four-week waiting list, despite COVID-19. Dr Geoff Parkes of Aston Business School says it's crucial for SMEs to "be focused, listen to your customer, and look beyond the crisis". Listen on Spotify.

Season 2: SMEs adapting to COVID-19 challenges

Episode 10 – Metal Assemblies

Iain Collis, managing director of Metal Assemblies, hopes a new Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) will drive better data management to increase the car parts firm's efficiencies and profits. Professor Ben Clegg, head of the Operations and Information Management Department, says Aston Business School will act as a change catalyst to help the company's productivity. Listen on Spotify.

Episode 9 – Composite Braiding

Steve Barbour, managing director of Composite Braiding, describes how angel investors helped his component company’s plans to double in size in the next couple of years, despite COVID-19. Angel investor Liz McKenzie said she funded the firm because Steve was “switched on, knew his numbers, was realistic, and had a determined glint in his eye”. Listen on Spotify. 

Episode 8 – The Whisky Club

Amy Seton, owner of The Whisky Club in Birmingham, lost 95% of her revenues because of lockdown. She explains how a loan and small grant have helped her to invest in a new website and casks for online deliveries of bottle collections to customers across the UK. Professor Mark Hart of Aston Business School praises how Amy is keeping her brand alive and said: “Once you put your business on a website you are global." Listen on Spotify. 

Episode 7: Caviar and Chips

Marc Hornby, co-founder of wedding caterer Caviar & Chips, says a new £500 'save the date' fee has increased future bookings despite the lockdown. He also explains the careful planning behind the reopening of his other co-owned business, the 16th century Virgins and Castle pub in Kenilworth, Warwickshire. Prof Mark Hart of Aston Business School says hospitality businesses need a clearer roadmap from government. Listen on Spotify. 

Episode 6: Special Kids Company

Sasha Radwan, the founder of the Special Kids Company, tells how focused online marketing has helped her special needs clothes business to grow despite COVID-19. Professor Mark Hart, of Aston Business School, says Sasha's company was able to adapt because she already had the right systems and people in place. Listen on Spotify. 

Episode 5: RWAD

Refugee businessman Osama Al Assaf quickly ‘pivoted’ from sports retail to the crafts sector during lockdown to cope with import issues and meet new demand. He also became an NHS volunteer. Dr Muhammed Al Mahameed, an accounting lecturer at Aston, explains how refugee entrepreneurs often react more quickly than many businesses to the pandemic because they're so used to facing crises. Listen on Spotify.

Episode 4: Rugged Nature

Joe Poxon, who graduates with a Product Design and Management degree this summer, tells how winning £50,000-worth of advertising helped his start-up male grooming business adapt to the lockdown. Professor Kate Sugden, Deputy Dean at the School of Engineering & Applied Science, explains how their students are taught a range of practical skills in entrepreneurship. Listen on Spotify.

Episode 3: Karim Supermarkets

Anwar Karim, of Karim Supermarkets in Lozells, Birmingham, explains how Asian convenience stores continued to serve communities throughout COVID-19, despite losing staff, friends and family. Professor Monder Ram, Director of the Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship at Aston Business School, said Asian retailers played a vital social role and were among the 'heroes' of the pandemic. Listen on Spotify

Episode 2: Streetly Balti

Experienced curry house owner Shahab Uddin predicts up to 30% of Indian restaurants may struggle to reopen after COVID-19 because of social distancing rules. Professor Monder Ram, Director of the Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship at Aston Business School, agrees traditional cheap curry nights out will be over if venues cannot pack diners in. Prof Ram adds that the sector needs to invest and raise prices to realistic levels to survive. Listen on Spotify 

Episode 1: Micro-Fresh Ltd

Byron Dixon, founder and chief executive of Micro-Fresh Ltd talks about their ‘fogging’ machine that can coat surfaces in places like health centres, shops and restaurants with its anti-bacterial agents. Mark Hart, professor of entrepreneurship and small business advises Byron on how to expand to a national and global scale. Listen on Spotify 

Season 1: SMEs dealing with COVID-19

Episode 15: SMEs dealing with COVID-19

Emma Heathcote-James, founder of Little Soap Company which produces organic and ethical soap products explains how she is dealing with an upsurge in demand. We also talk to Mark Hart, professor of entrepreneurship and small business about some of the operational challenges that small businesses are facing during the lockdown. Listen on Spotify 

Episode 14: SMEs dealing with COVID-19

Geeta Salhan, co-founder of Green Sisters, which makes homemade Indian snacks for people with dietary restrictions, explains how they're now providing full seven-day meal parcels for customers in isolation. We also talk to Paula Whitehouse, the director of Aston Centre for Growth, about how micro start-ups need more assistance from government. Listen on Spotify

Episode 13: SMEs dealing with COVID-19

Marc Hornby, co-founder of wedding caterer Caviar & Chips, explains how they're working hard with all customers, venues and suppliers because in return they'll look after the business in the long term. We also talk to Dr Julius Stephan, a marketing lecturer at Aston Business School, about how consumers' buying behaviours changes during crises. Listen on Spotify 

Episode 12: SMEs dealing with COVID-19

Simon Greenfield, the managing director of Colour Cubed Creative Communications, tells how his £1 million turnover business has been severely hit by the COVID-19 lockdown, and how he's been let down by insurers. We also hear from Mark Hart, professor of small business and entrepreneurship at Aston Business School, who's been researching the pandemic's impact on businesses. Listen on Spotify 

Episode 11: SMEs dealing with COVID-19 (purpose and values)

In this latest episode looking at the impact of COVID-19 on SMEs Steve talks to La’Toyah Lewis founder of Rising Stars Property Solutions CIC a third sector property management company and Paula Whitehouse Director of the Aston Centre for Growth about balancing financial and social sustainability. Listen on Spotify

Episode 10: SMEs dealing with COVID-19 

In this latest episode looking at the impact of COVID-19 on SMEs Steve talks to Peter Monks co-founder of Shakespeare Distillery and Mark Hart Professor of Entrepreneurship and Small Business about how businesses are adapting in the short term and the long term. Listen on Spotify

Episode 9: SMEs dealing with COVID-19 (mental health)

In this special episode Steve talks to Rosie Ginday of Miss Macaroon a social enterprise business about how she is supporting the mental health and wellbeing of her staff during this crisis and Dr Wladislaw Rivkin an expert in leadership, wellbeing and employee resilience. Listen on Spotify

Episode 8: SMEs dealing with COVID-19 (managing international operations)

In this special episode Steve talks to Dr Geoff Parkes about how the crisis impacts on businesses managing operations internationally and Alec Anderson, Managing Director of Koolmill Systems Limited a company that has developed an innovative rice milling process. Listen on Spotify

Episode 7: SMEs dealing with COVID-19 (building resilience)

In this episode Steve talks to Mark Hart, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Small Business and Olu Orugboh, founder of Synergy Organisational Solutions about building resilience. Listen on Spotify

Episode 6: SMEs dealing with COVID-19 (job retention) 

In this special episode Steve talks to employment law expert Kathy Daniels about the UK government’s Job Retention Scheme and Sarah Beattie, Managing Director of FunFest Ltd a holiday childcare company. Listen on Spotify 

Episode 5: SMEs dealing with COVID-19 (assessing the impact)

In the first of a special set of episodes Steve talks to Mark Hart, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Small Business about the impact of COVID-19 on SMEs; Lee Hopley from the Enterprise Research Centre on the UK government’s package of financial measures and Joe Fearn, Director of CircusMASH.  Listen on Spotify

Episode 4: How servitization can transform manufacturing

Our fourth podcast features Dr Ali Bigdeli, from the Advanced Services Group who introduces servitization, a business model which focusing on the services provided by manufacturers, rather than the product. Listen on Spotify

Episode 3: How happy and healthy staff increase success

Our third podcast features Dr Wladislaw Rivkin, a Lecturer in the Work and Organisational Psychology Department at Aston Business School, who’s research focuses on the interplay of stressors, leadership and other resources in predicting employees’ health well-being and performance in organisations. Listen on Spotify 

Episode 2: How to dismiss bad staff

Our second podcast features Associate Professor Kathy Daniels, a leading employment expert at Aston Business School who shares a set of top tips for bosses on how to dismiss bad staff. Kathy discusses the importance of investigations, evidence and following processes for anyone considering dismissing staff, even in cases of gross misconduct. Listen on Spotify 

Episode 1: What happens when the money runs out

Our first podcast is entitled ‘What happens when the money runs out’ and features Chris Umfreville, a lecturer in law, and former lawyer who specialises in researching and teaching company law, corporate insolvencies and rescues. Listen on Spotify