Setting the scene
Over the last five years, there have been a number of changes to business and enterprise support services at a local, regional and national level. Organisations and programmes of support have come and gone, new organisations have been introduced into the landscape, large corporates are becoming increasingly involved in the delivery of business support and priorities relating to groups of small businesses to target have changed.
There are a number of articles which have highlighted how small businesses find it difficult to keep up to date with these changes in finding appropriate sources of support. Recent research and project work undertaken by SFEDI highlights that these changes pose challenges for business support professionals in maintaining an up to date understanding of the business and enterprise support landscape. In addition, changes to business models and the types of individuals starting small businesses create a set of “need to know’s” related to analysing needs and managing the relationship with the owner-manager of a small business.
SFEDI are currently working with Lancashire County Council and Boost Business Lancashire business advisers to work through these challenges and opportunities.
Boost Business Lancashire
Boost Business Lancashire is a Growth Hub which signposts the county’s high growth companies to a range of support services. They work closely in partnership with the public and private sectors to develop initiatives that complement the existing business support infrastructure.
As a programme that was launched at a time of economic recession, Boost has made a significant contribution to the growth of SMEs in Lancashire, engaged with over 5000 businesses and secured over £50 million of additional GVA for the Lancashire economy.
Boost provides access to specialist strategic advice coaching and mentoring of new and existing firms and potential entrepreneurs with high growth potential, as they go through periods of rapid and dynamic change. The aim is to accelerate the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises in Lancashire, to stimulate new investment and job creation by systematically identifying and removing the barriers to growth, encouraging innovation and encouraging enterprise.
Since 2013 Boost has delivered a range of programmes supported through the European Regional Development Fund, BIS and Lancashire County Council.
Throughout the development of Boost in Lancashire, they were aware of the need to make the support offer directly relevant to the needs of business and easily understood.
The Learning Programme
Lancashire County Council were looking for a dedicated Awarding Organisation for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship. They were looking to engage with a partner who could deliver a fully accredited business support training programme to help better articulate and make sense of the support environment available to growth-hungry businesses in Lancashire.
The aim was to add value to the wealth of expertise and knowledge already contained within the business advisor network, as well as lay the foundations for a consistent and recognised framework of excellence. This provides a benchmark that the business community in Lancashire can rely on, ensuring that the advice and guidance will be constant, robust and growth enabling.
This activity was designed to be driven through Boost, the Growth Hub for Lancashire, and be seen as an added value activity that chimed with the bigger aspirations of the growth hub as a single portal for advice and support for all growth hungry businesses in Lancashire.
Boost has already supported thousands of businesses, but Lancashire was keen to further develop the knowledge of their advisors, enhancing their understanding and equipping them with the tools they need to advise businesses.
The learning and skills development programme is underpinned by the Level 7 Diploma in Professional Business and Enterprise Support Services. In so doing, the the programme provides the business advisers with a series of frameworks which can be used to reflect on their own practices and experiences, access to case studies and latest thinking on understanding and supporting small business and enterprise development.
The programme consists of a number of modules or units related to:
- Developing the relationship with a client
- Analysing the support needs of a client
- Working with a client to access other forms of business and enterprise support services
- Reflecting on your own professional development as a business support professional
Each module consists of a number of workshops supported by self-directed learning. Understanding and skills gained through the programme will be assessed through the completion of workbooks, professional discussions and observation.
The Diploma will provide people working in the business support sector with the skills they need to better articulate and make sense of the support available to help growth-hungry businesses in Lancashire.
Pritam Pal, Boost Senior Project Officer said: “SFEDI is providing a training and development curriculum which covers the current challenges and changes within the business and political environments – here in Lancashire, regionally and nationally.
“The training programme provides a refreshed and enriched review of business growth and innovation tools, including Access to Finance; which is being used by business support professionals and associates working for Boost Business Lancashire to expand their knowledge, experience and peer-to-peer network.
“The overall aim is to provide better quality, productive interventions to improve the competitiveness of SMEs in Lancashire.”
Rona McFall, Head of Entrepreneurial Solutions for Winning Pitch, commenting on her experience said:
“My team and I have participated in the course for a number of reasons, mainly to test and ensure that the quality of our business support delivery is of a high standard and consistent across all our advisors, to aid improvements in the standards of support provided to entrepreneurs and businesses, and to increase our knowledge of the latest best-practise materials and resources within enterprise learning.
“The course modules have been designed to cover all aspects of the enterprise journey from relationship development to analysing the support needs of a client.
“This training opportunity has enabled Winning Pitch as an organisation to develop new skills and ensure all our business support professionals maintain a high standard of continuous professional development.
“My team and I have thoroughly enjoyed our learning journey and have directly enhanced our own skills and knowledge to ensure an exemplar level of support is provided to businesses across Lancashire.”
More information about Lancashire’s Business Growth Hub is available online. Visit https://www.boostbusinesslancashire.co.uk/