Here are seven simple facts about businesses and organisations.
- Fact 1: Organisations grow (develop) or die.
- Fact 2: Growth requires resources.
- Fact 3: Resources cost money.
- Fact 4 Businesses are often short of money.
- Fact 5: Organisations and businesses like receiving grants and financial support.
- Fact 6: Most organisations and businesses do not maximise the benefits of grants and financial support.
- Fact 7: Most do not know what is available.
- Fact 8: Most do not know how to access grants.
I cannot say for sure that the same applies to other countries, but in England and Wales, there is a plethora of help available to support organisations, whether they are large or small, to grow and to develop. I was amazed when I started researching what help might be available for Exponential – there is in fact a maze of funding pots available if you really want to tap into funding. .
A quick search on the Department for Business Innovation & Skills website quickly listed 767 different finance and support schemes for businesses. This is only the tip of a huge iceberg because a search of support for businesses in the East Midlands shows up hundreds of other regional and local schemes. Where do you begin?
Without wishing to tarnish all suppliers with the same brush, my second piece of advice is BEWARE of approaches of assistance in ‘getting the grants and business support’ from helpful suppliers as their interests are not the same as yours.
I recently attended a regional event designed to make businesses aware of the huge pots of funding available to them. Astonishingly, the funding organisations have been so effective in securing new funding streams they are finding it more than a little challenging to spend the money and no wonder they are competing with so many ‘look-alike’ schemes, programmes and initiatives.
Let me show you what I mean. Take Exponential for example, we can apply for Enterprising Leicester (EL), the Regional Growth Fund (RGF), Carbon Management Grants (CMG), Apprenticeship Grants for Employers (AGE), a Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) grant, Passport to Export, graduate Internships, Management and Leadership grants, Improving Your Resource Efficiency, Growth Vouchers (GV) and dozens more besides. It is confusing especially if you are not clear on what precise help and support you NEED.
The best answer and advice I can give you is NOT to start with the funding. The starting point has to be the needs of your business NOT what you can get. My starting point was Exponential’s current strategic plan.
Let me share Emma’s story with you. Emma Cavanagh has just joined Exponential as an Apprentice (welcome Emma!). After six presentations from different Apprenticeship providers, I can say that one struck me as really understanding Exponential’s needs. Our needs were not to employ someone for the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers worth £1,500 and another £1,000 if we recruited someone from within the city boundary of Leicester; we were not concerned about how ‘relatively easy it would be to replace our apprentice if he or she did not work out’.
No, that was not our focus. Our focus was on the appointment of an enthusiastic young person who would fit in with our team; someone prepared to invest in himself or herself and ambitious to grow with Exponential; and someone who did not want to be doing the same job in six months time. We wanted to know how the supplier would support our apprentice, how they would communicate with us and how they proposed to add value to Exponential and our apprentice.
When I asked Emma what she was looking for, she did not say an NVQ in Administration Level 2, to go to college weekly, to take her Functional Skills Mathematics Level 1 or to know that if it did not work out with Exponential they would ‘hopefully find another employer’.
What Emma actually said was, “What I am looking for is an apprenticeship where I can learn and develop my own personal skills in a company environment. I want to build on what I already know and grow within a company where I feel I have a great support network around me. I would like an opportunity with prospects so I always have something to aim for. Ideally I want to leave work at the end of the day feeling happy that I have either made a difference to my own progression or made a difference to the company’s progression”
If you are looking to develop or grow your business, start with your vision, your long term objectives and define what help and support you NEED. Only then, can you be sure that you are chasing the added value and not the money. Now you can talk to a supplier who will gladly ‘walk you through the money maze’.