There’s a lot of talk in the media nowadays about high growth business and what it means for the economy. The government has prioritised support packages for small and medium companies – or SMEs – to help them grow and lead the country’s recovery from its current economic downturn. Entrepreneurs are at the heart of UK business and for those SMEs with the ambition to succeed, there are a wide range of services available to help them realise their goals.
Recruitment is often a focus area for building a high growth business and there are a range of providers who will help with specialist recruitment. These aren’t all just commercial recruiters either – there are not for profit or social enterprise recruiters who work with the job centre to provide work placements and paid employment for those seeking to re-enter the workforce and there are also a large number of apprenticeship providers who can help employers either take fresh young talent into their business, or nurture existing young staff within structured training programmes with accreditations to achieve at the end. Many employers say that they rely on apprenticeships to provide their skilled staff of the future and these schemes are powerful for both employer, apprentice and also the wider community. Many customers are increasingly keen to do business with companies that they see as being ethical and committing to community-focused involvement and apprenticeship schemes are a great way to demonstrate this ethos.
Training is another key area for business growth, whether that’s front line sales training for business development teams or functional or technical training for delivery staff. Again, there are a range of subsidised or even free training courses and support packages available to certain employers, usually funded by government support (such as the Train to Gain scheme) or through local economic partnerships that are funded by both commercial and public sources. Your local business services provider or Chamber of Commerce are both good places to start to find out more.
Finance is often key for allowing businesses to grow and access to that finance is a key priority area. The government has funded a number of regional funds to improve this finance access, particularly in the current challenging economic and banking environment where many small businesses are finding that regular business loans from banks are no longer forthcoming. There may be a range of business finance packages open to you depending on circumstances. These include business grants, business start-up or business development loans, investors or business angels.
Finally, business advice and consultancy is key for a growth strategy and again, there are plenty of offers available, some from not for profit sources such as exporting advice from the UKTI government body. Mentoring and coaching schemes are often provided in partnership with larger corporate organisations pursuing a corporate responsibility agenda with local small businesses and both of these schemes can be extremely effective in supporting small businesses to achieve their business growth agendas and make the next step forwards.
Mention the phrase ‘business development programme’ and some SME owners automatically assume that such a service is for large companies with big corporate budgets only. Others may think that it’s just for big executive teams, or those struggling, rather than thriving, in business. But the truth is that good development programmes will benefit all size businesses, reap measurable rewards and be available at costs to suit every budget.
What is a business development programme for?
Essentially, the programme will take your business forward, to the next step of its objectives. Don’t have defined objectives? Then look for a development programme that incorporates strategy and goal setting. Got your plans but unsure how to realise them? Look for a programme that deals with specifics such as sales strategy and training, marketing rollout and promotional mixes, successful operations and logistics, finances and more.
A wide range available.
Each programme should ideally be tailored to your particular company and circumstances, although this consultancy may come with a price tag. However, there are development programmes available for a range of businesses who are eligible for funding or grants via a range of local economic partnerships, corporate social responsibility partnerships, government and EU funds and more. These tend to be open to start-ups and SMEs, which the government has identified as being key areas for leading the UK’s economic recovery. Specific funded or part-funded programmes are available across the UK, each with slightly different entry criteria, aims and objectives. They might be for new start-ups for examples, for budding entrepreneurs, for SMEs looking to export and trade abroad, or for medium sized companies looking to expand or enter new markets. The service package might involve aspects such as course attendance, a period of consultancy support, training, mentoring and coaching – depending on the aims and objectives and individual circumstances involved.
Other programmes include structured training courses and development opportunities for business leaders in a peer environment. These may be one off courses, accredited training programmes held in conjunction with local universities, sponsored events and conferences or specific information sessions or lectures. They will help provide inspiration, knowledge, skills development, ideas, guidance – and all important networking opportunities with other similarly-minded business people.
How to pick the right programme for you.
Get in touch with your local business services provider to find out more – there are agencies, companies and not-for-profit partnerships and business support organisations set up across the UK, many working with the government sector through funded local economic partnerships. These bodies will provide you with a business advisor to talk through your needs and establish which services you are eligible for and would benefit from. They may also be able to provide details of other services such as training, apprenticeship recruitment, access to finance, regulatory support and accreditation, events and networking and more. Your Chamber of Commerce is often a good place to start, along with Business Link online, or search Google to find out what’s available in your local business area.
Many businesses find that a structured business development programme is exactly what they need to take their business to the next level, so it’s well worth taking that first step and making contact – you have nothing to lose and everything to gain!
If you’re a small business or start-up, with a business plan written on the classic ‘back of a beer mat’, you’re not alone! However, if you want your business to grow, you will need to refine and formalise your business plan, particularly if you are seeking funding and investment from external sources.
So grab that pen-scribbled beer mat and get in touch with many of the regional and government-funded business growth organisations now appearing around the country to replace the former Business Link regional network (now still offered as a national – and highly valuable – service to businesses).
These business support organisations are a new concept. They have a range of funding from regional, central and European government sources, private sources and sponsorship and offer a range of targeting business services, such as business plan advice, to a range of local businesses – primarily SMEs and start ups with the potential to grow.
Do your research and find the organisation offering advice without commercial prices. There are sources of funded support worth investigating first, rather than heading down an expensive commercial route. The government is greatly investing in business advice and support for small businesses as part of its drive to reinvigorate the British economy, so take advantage of the services offered!
When you make initial contact, you’ll likely find yourself given a business advisor who will be your point of contact going forward. They’ll understand your situation and offer a range of services. Explain that you need business plan advice and you’ll probably be offered a structured coaching session, specific training, on-going coaching and a range of events and networking to help build your skills and knowledge in a wide range of business areas.
A one-to-one coaching session can be very useful for developing your plan and getting advice from a more experienced business person who has seen it all before. They will bring new ideas and a fresh perspective to your business and help to refine and develop your own thinking. They will also identify areas where your plan is currently weak and then you can work with your advisor to access services to tackle these. For example, you may need to go on a finance and budgeting course, an HR training course or develop a better marketing and sales plan, with support.
You may find other outcomes emerge that you can take specific action on as part of your planning. For example, during the process you may realise that you need a certain kind of regulatory accreditation to reach a new market and the service provider should be able to signpost you to cost-effective and accredited providers. They may be able to signpost you to other services too, such as ethical and social recruitment agencies, free or subsidised training, apprenticeship programmes and plenty more. Take advantage of any online forums and specialist interest groups with businesses across your sector and in the region, to learn from others, swap ideas and build your contacts within a closed and business focused environment.
Homeowners might depend on an electrician to provide residential services, but businesses need a professional that has experience working with higher voltages often found in larger buildings. A commercial electrician is the expert that business owners can phone to get the job done fast. There are many complexities that go into building construction and electricians need to know about electricity and about construction to be able to open access panels, walls or other areas without causing structural damage. A fire or smoke damage due to electricity problems can ruin a business financially. Protecting a business with expert electricians is an affordable expense.
Buildings that are constructed in modern times require many different contractors and specialists to build without errors. Older buildings might not have schematics or blueprints that are very useful when locating the path of electricity inside of the walls and ceiling. It takes an expert electrician with years of experience in commercial electrical work to be able to find problems quickly without causing damage to the building. Hiring an inexperienced person is one of the fastest routes to creating more expense and bringing added stress to an already stressful situation. Every business should have a plan to contract electrical work.
Most businesses do not have the luxury of completely shutting down for the remainder of a business day while work is completed. It can be difficult to find an expert that is willing to work after business hours for a reasonable price. A commercial electrician understands that business hours impact the profitability of every business and often makes special arrangements to arrive at a scheduled time to begin inspections and repair work. A quick response from a specialist that uses the latest technological equipment is a major asset when a business depends on electricity for daily profit generation.
Since businesses serve the public sector, there could be regulations, permits or other documents that must be obtained before any electrical work can be completed. A commercial electrician knows exactly what to do before and after inspections or repairs are completed. This can help any business owner to save money by focusing time and energy on the problem at hand instead of completing paperwork that is unnecessary. A portion of the price that is paid for an expert is for the knowledge that is brought into every job. The safety provided by a professional electrician ensures that businesses are protected from electrical problems.