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Demonstrating how internal career progression helps retain top talent



“Even in the midst of enjoying success, it’s paramount not to lose touch with the importance of the continued development your own skills and abilities, and making sure you are encouraging and supporting the development of your valued employees and business overall.

Working alongside Skills for Growth – SME Support and the GC Business Growth Hub reminded us that our position as an attractive employer was not just defined by our business growth, but that we are devoted to building confidence in our employees. Acknowledging that improved employee wellbeing and engagement results in an increase in staff productivity, helped us get back in touch with the need to develop and retain our top talent.

Skills for Growth – SME Support have helped us to create a more motivated, involved, and high performing workforce, which translates into greater organisational success.

Our Skills Coach, Jane Taylor, introduced us to the concept of skills productivity planning, which we worked on together for each individual employee in the team, and which gave us the understanding of how important it is to provide a secure, achievable and measured structure in the approach to supporting and developing a successful training framework. This has allowed our employees to clearly envisage their role evolution, and to shine within their role.

Overall, coming on programme with Skills for Growth – SME Support and working with the wider team at GC Business Growth Hub helped us focus our approach to employee development, increase financial turnover, target clients for bespoke work, increase brand awareness and ultimately grow the business.”

-Neil Sheppard, CEO


Programme Overview

Customs Connect Limited was founded in August 2009 by Neil Sheppard to provide high quality Tariff Classification and Autonomous Duty Suspension services to industry. In 2016, the company expanded the service offering to include Customs Planning & Compliance, Export Controls and VAT.

With success, growth, and expansion come other responsibilities that align with the general sustainability of the company, such as the need to recruit and retain top talent, develop and maintain stable revenue streams through innovation and planning, and develop futureproof, business-critical skills within the team. With the help of Skills Coach Jane Taylor and the rest of the team here at Skills for Growth – SME Support and GC Business Growth Hub, Customs Connect have made numerous achievements such as:

  • develop a line management structure
  • improve career progression prospects for staff
  • introduce monthly Tech Talks and are receiving Digital Innovation support
  • improve engagement in team meeting and increase company morale
  • revise induction training to reduce staff turnover
  • develop a clear training framework
  • Increase financial turnover, target clients for bespoke work and increase brand awareness
  • Grow the European side of the business
  • Develop analytical software to sell commercially

Special thanks to our colleagues Ian Jenkins, Debbie Jackson and Judith Ross for their added support.


If you would like to know more about our SME support programme, give us a call on 0161 237 4444 or email for more information.

Alternatively, click here to download our programme brochure.


The Growth Company is an award-winning, not-for-profit social enterprise with a mission to enable growth, create jobs and improve lives. We provide individuals and businesses with a wide range of services that improve employment, skills, investment and enterprise for the benefit of all, and have been working in the Greater Manchester city region for more than 30 years. 

This project receives funding from the European Social Fund as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme in England.  

The Department for Work and Pensions is the Managing Authority for the England European Social Fund programme.  

Established by the European Union, the European Social Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support skills development, employment and job creation, social inclusion and local community regenerations. For more information visit 

About the author

Skills for Growth - SME Support

Skills for Growth - SME Support

Skills for Growth - SME Support is a fully funded, tailored service to help upskill your employees and improve business productivity.