Saturday, 13 June 2009

Business Support - The BS/BIS Industry

We have succeeded in creating an entire industry around the subject of business support. Entire conferences are run by so-called experts telling others how to be experts in how to support businesses. It reminds me of the island where everyone took in everyone else’s washing to keep the economy going..

At the centre of the ‘BS’ industry is a series of partially-funded, target-driven organisations along with the usual suspects... A nice long list, but do they actually help anyone?

Business support is meant to be a ‘good thing’ (like motherhood and apple pie?!):
- to help start-ups (“out of acorns grow oaks, etc etc” goes the blurb),
- to help the fast-growth businesses (“the real engine of the future etc etc”),
- to help the ailing (“to save their pain”), and
- to help the excluded (“because we have a duty to pay attention to the socially excluded”).

In reality, when people say that business support is a good thing they mean that it is good ‘politically’ (rather than good ‘economically’).

The numbers talk for themselves.

Investing in start-ups is an entire lottery – and the fact is, most fail within two years.

As for existing business… only the fast-growers really generate the jobs; so rationally you should invest in them (and not the others) if you want the biggest bang for your buck. The reality is, however, that a policy focusing on high growth businesses only would be political suicide.

And then there is the government rhetoric about creating a small business enterprise culture in the UK, free of red tape. (Oh no –I’ve just wet myself laughing!)

I am really concerned that the quality of the services that our small/growth/independent/privately owned businesses get from the ‘BS’ industry is just not good enough. And I hear too many dreadful stories.

I am concerned that bureaucracy and remoteness of some of the policy makers may be unhelpful. How many members of the cabinet and the senior levels of the DTI have run their own business and know what the issues really are?

I worry about the products and services that are made available (that seem to be more about targets and tick-boxes than helping the actual businesses themselves).

I worry about the reputation that the business support industry has acquired – and yet it has had budgets that surely would have made it doomed to succeed!

I am a great fan of doing everything we can to help people who run businesses in this country - I have worked with, and do work with some stunning Bus Support Organisations and people worth their weight in gold.

MY POINT: I am, however, desperately concerned (unhappy would not be an exaggeration) that the word on the street is ‘that despite the BS industry's best efforts… it just isn’t working well enough.’

Please can you let me know I am wrong.

Regards, Robert (playing the Devil's Advocate!).

- The Truth is. no-one seems to care about BL
- Doug Richards Rips into BL
- Simplifying Business Support

PS - please be clear - this is not a pop at the people doing their best in the various organisations (at all levels) ... quite the contrary. I want to be proud of all that the BS industry has to offer to really help UK small businesses. Let's talk about it.
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