Tuesday, September 20, 2005

I think we need to distinguish between delivery and engagement

Something to think about when I am away. I have been in deep and somewhat frantic (due to deadlines) thought over recent months. Too many wee projects developed for different client groups that essentially deliver for the same business needs or benefits as other projects are delivering. To the extent we have things like 'business planning for BME businesses' vs 'business planning for women owned businesses'. And its gone on for ages. And we wonder why we aren't doing so well at reaching certain groups.

Is it the service, or the method of engagement that is problematic, or both? Nonetheless I think we need to distinguish between them. They need to be considered seperately. Otherwise we try and fix the situation with yet more wee projects that reinvent the wheel somewhat.

So I reckon that there should be a marked distinction between increasing engagement and improving delivery in business support:

- Engagement – is the method in which RDA/YOUR DEVELOPMENT AGENCY seeks to raise demand for support; recruit clients to services, systems, initiatives and programmes of support; and linking clients and demand to the supply of support. Some particular types of entrepreneurs and businesses will need different methods and levels of engagement. Selecting the most appropriate level and type of engagement will recruit the clients that RDA/YOUR DEVELOPMENT AGENCY wishes to assist into a transaction for business support services (whether standard pan-Your area programmes or specific assistance tailored to groups of businesses or individuals).
- Delivery – is what RDA/YOUR DEVELOPMENT AGENCY’s ‘service offer’ is in terms of programmes, initiatives and services. It involves the design of programmes, services and delivery mechanisms to assist businesses.

Some critical questions to ask about engagement and delivery include the following:

- Is the current low market penetration in certain client groups due to faults in the way in which RDA/YOUR DEVELOPMENT AGENCY engages with, and recruits clients, or with the services that are on offer?
- It may be the case that RDA/YOUR DEVELOPMENT AGENCY can deliver a fairly standard range of programmes and service to a diverse range of clients with similar business needs and market failures, if only it had a better performing engagement and client recruitment performance
- Development agencies can target businesses both by their specific needs as a business, and by particular client groups. RDA/YOUR DEVELOPMENT AGENCY could do one, or the other, or both over its portfolio of clients and services.

F*cking off to the USofA

Well, it had to happen eventually. Someone would have to decide that they needed to learn more from ED practice overseas and they would choose me to go there!

Off to the US to the IEDC annual conference in Chicago which should be fun. Never been to the windy city but it looks fantastic.

Then off to talk to some folks about business support in another major US city. Again interesting.

The Americans aren't as much into enterprise support as we are here. Apparently its a bit of a fledgling thing to move beyond land use planning and fiscal incentives.

Anyhow will post any interesting tidbits.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

Business Support - Unplugged

Stripped down, this is fundamentally what I think public funded business support should be about:

1. Driving up economic impact and business peformance

2. Economic impact maximised by giving businesses:

A ‘hand-up’ – to allow them to either start a business, or correct their existing business performance from failing to stability or growth, perhaps assisting someone whose business would fail. High impact is achieved from ‘correcting’ downward trajectory

A ‘push-up’ – to assist them to enter a significant growth trajectory that they wouldn't have necessarily embarked upon. High impact is achieved from increasing likelihood and scale of growth

Fundamentally its all about driving business peformance upwards really, and trying to lessen the risks of failure or flatline performance.

I think an approach should also work with the market better. But I'll get back to you on that later.


Prioritising business support - who gets what?

Okay I am being lazy - this is work I am doing at the moment - about being a bit more clued up and systematic about who gets a slice of the meagre RDA budget for business support. One could ask, shouldn't RDA's be doing this anyway - why haven't they been doing it? well the answer is that yes they should be doing it but they aint. I am being paid to right the wrongs... (maybe not for much longer - another story sometime). But then again as part of this I am going to Chicago and NY to speak to folks about what they do for entrepreneurship so it can't be all bad, can it?

Why prioritise who gets government support, what support is given, and why?

- Some businesses, and types or groups of entrepreneurs have greater needs than others
- Helping some businesses will result in greater economic impacts and benefits than helping -others
- Helping some businesses will result in more successfully exploiting business and economic opportunities than others
- In the UK/your region, not all entrepreneurs require public sector support to be successful – enterprise support is neither suitable nor warranted for many individuals
- Some economic development activities will be more effective than others in the UK/your region
- There are methods of delivering business support that are more effective than others
- UK Government has limited resources and there are limits to what it can do especially in term of intensive support to businesses – it can help only a small number of businesses in a very intensive way
- Currently business support is not cohesively assessed or delivered according to UK’s priorities. It is has been designed in response to a mixture of priorities, many of them a legacy from before RDAs were created, and many of them from the national government or government office, some of them politician’s tinkering (Take note Mr. Brown)

Altogether, more effective prioritisation means that RDAs can achieve better results for their money and staff resources.

I have a nice framework which is in draft form for my particular client/employer. I will punt it on the web once its in a fit state for public consumption. Its all nice if its applied, but the biggest stumbling block has to be the pet projects of certain people, which, if put through my prioritisation framework would fall of the edge into the abyss!!!

I might have much more interesting things to say after my trip to the US.

I also have a typepad blog account under a personal name - I think I will merge it with this one once ADSL is up and running at home.

Chin chin.

The Angry Economist.