December 7th 2016

Building Success - Diligence at the Nucleus

Less than a year after moving into the Nucleus Business and Innovation Centre at The Bridge in Dartford, Nicola Coppen, managing director of Diligence (PM) Services, won the Women in Construction category at the Kent Women in Business Awards 2017.

The Nucleus, which is run by Oxford Innovation, was set up by Prologis and Dartford Borough Council to support entrepreneurs within a community where knowledge-based industries could flourish. And as Nicola shows, the initiative is proving to be a success.

Here is her story….

" As soon as I moved in, I began working with Matthew McLarty, the Business Innovation Director at the Nucleus, who has helped guide my development from a project manager to a managing director of a project management organisation."

Nicola Coppen, Founder of Diligence PM

It all started with a parking space.

I built my expertise in infrastructure project management over many years, working both in-house and latterly with my own consultancy. By the end of 2015, I had completed a major project for Thames Water and began thinking about how I could take my business forward. Having heard about the Pioneer 10 workshops at the Nucleus I signed up, but if I had not been able to find a parking space on the first day, I probably would have turned around and gone home. Fortunately, I eventually found somewhere to park and I am so pleased that I did, because that day in January 2016 was a turning point for Diligence (PM) Services.

The Nucleus offers exactly the right kind of support for start-up companies.

The Pioneer 10 programme offered immediate practical help, but more importantly it really motivated me to think strategically about the best way to develop my business. I took a desk at The Nucleus after that first workshop and started to apply the lessons I had learned. As soon as I moved in, I began working with Matthew McLarty, the Business Innovation Director at the Nucleus, who has helped guide my development from a project manager to a managing director of a project management organisation.

I have made the most of every opportunity.

One of the benefits of the Nucleus for an early stage company like Diligence is the networking opportunities. One of the other tenants – The Creation Lab – designed our website, while on a broader scale, the Nucleus hosts an After Hours event for the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, which I now organise.

I am a firm believer in networking, which is how I first spotted the opportunity for Diligence to work with the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation. A strong utilities infrastructure is vital for the success of any regeneration project and I am delighted to say that at the end of last year, Diligence was appointed Interim Utilities Project Manager for Ebbsfleet Development Corporation on Ebbsfleet Garden City. I am now in talks with utility providers and developing a programme of work that is being scrutinised by Government, since it is likely to be the first of its kind in the UK.

Now it is my turn to help others.

I want to encourage everyone who works for Diligence to enjoy and develop their careers, which is why I have planned for the company to be an employee-owned business. My whole approach is people-focussed and for this reason, I also work with local schools as a governor and business mentor. Professionally, I am becoming recognised as a champion for women working in construction, so I am particularly pleased to have won in this category at the Kent Women in Business Awards. Developing a business such as Diligence is very hard work, but with the right support it can also be hugely rewarding. 

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