Robin Beveridge 2
Robin Beveridge

Member Article

Birth Pangs

The new approach to start-up support makes perfect sense – unless you happen to need start-up support.

The Government has brought in a whole new approach to enterprise start up support in the last six months. The old model, in the North East at least, had a plethora of advisors encouraging people to go down the ‘enterprise journey’. Along the way, they got hands-on support from Business Link.

Now, Government expects us to make this journey alone, making use of the re-launched Business Link website, unless we meet the narrow ‘high growth potential’ criteria for Coaching for Growth. We are now encouraged by ‘inspirational’ business figures; once established, any support should come from an experienced business mentor. For the long-term unemployed, there is some cash from the New Enterprise Allowance, but little hands-on help.

All of which makes perfect sense. The old model cost a fair bit; the new model is definitely cheaper. Most businesses start up with little or no support from the public sector. Intensive support has made little impression on numbers of start-ups over the years. And, as we need to rebuild and rebalance the economy, focussing our efforts on those businesses most likely to take off appeals far more than focussing them where they’re less likely to make any difference.

This means that real support is being withdrawn from most ordinary business start-ups. National promotion and sites like StartupBritain.org have replaced local engagement. I’d hazard a guess that these are unlikely to inspire many ordinary people.

And will those who do decide to start up get the hands on help they need? Information on a website is fine, but some of us need face to face support and guidance. Luckily, we still have Enterprise Agencies across the region, as well as specialist bodies such as the Prince’s Trust, who offer real expertise and experience. Most have independent income which means that they can still offer some support. But it is more and more rationed, and there is a real danger that some will have to close.

And once you’ve started, where once there was an army of advisors offering support, there are now
volunteer mentors. This is fine if you get a good one – and there are lots of good ones out there.
But how to find the right one? Mentorsme.co.uk is the solution offered by Government, but this is
little more than a portal a few of the organisations that provide mentors.

While the overall impact of intensive support for ordinary businesses may be low, evaluations
consistently show that good hands-on start up support is highly valued by most – the ‘I couldn’t
have done it without them’ effect. For many ordinary would be entrepreneurs, the danger is that in
future, they won’t be able to do it, because the support just won’t be there.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Robin Beveridge .

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