Ilyas Munshi, Chief Executive of regional business support organisation, Enterprise4All North West talks to my-hospitality about some of the publicly funded business support programmes that are now operating in the North West and why hospitality businesses should make use of them.
Q. Business support schemes are nothing very new. What’s so special about making use of them now?
It’s a matter of timing. We’re emerging from recession – gradually perhaps, but the trend is undoubtedly positive, which is why companies should now be looking ahead and planning for growth.
With an improving market come new opportunities, but if companies are going to take proper advantage of them, they have to be adaptable and able to react quickly. That’s where some external assistance can be really useful. It’s a fresh perspective; one that isn’t bogged down in everyday problems, and it enables those in charge to step away from the routine and focus for a while on the broader strategic issues. Support programmes provide that outside professional help – usually completely free of charge – so it really makes a lot of sense to investigate what’s available.
Q. So what programmes are out there and how can they help?
The most significant programmes all come under the government’s Solutions for Business portfolio, which eligible companies can access via Business Link North West. These cover everything from finance to training, ICT to R&D, sustainability to international trade.
For hospitality businesses, one of the most useful of these is probably LEAD, a 10-month leadership development initiative with a very impressive track record. Enterprise4All is one of 13 providers within the region who are delivering LEAD on behalf of the Northwest Development Agency (NWDA) to cohorts of 25 delegates at a time. Feedback seems to be uniformly excellent and the combination of masterclasses, coaching sessions, peer support and management exchanges lends itself very well to the hospitality sector where managers can often feel quite isolated and have to deal with so many different issues.
Another particularly beneficial support initiative is the High Growth Programme, which is again funded by NWDA. It can provide up to ten days of free, expert coaching support to established businesses with real growth potential. Up to five days are also available to more recently established companies. Enterprise4All has put together a team of professionals who are amongst those now helping to deliver the programme to businesses across the region. E4All’s team includes hospitality industry specialists and they can help with anything from business planning to procurement, recruitment and marketing.
For new entrepreneurs and recently launched ventures, there is also the Intensive Start-Up Support programme, which is funded by NWDA and the European Regional Development Fund. It provides professional advice, workshops, networking opportunities and other forms of support, all entirely free of charge.
Companies that are more than a year old might also be eligible for free one-to-one support through the Mentoring Programme, to which NWDA has committed nearly £5 million. It brings businesses together with highly experienced individuals who have valuable sector-specific expertise and, through these relationships, it helps companies to develop practical, realistic solutions to the various challenges they face.
Q. It sounds like a lot of effort is going into coaching and mentoring…
Yes – skills and management are the focus of many of the current programmes because, ultimately these are what help to keep businesses firmly on track. Companies that are well managed and going in the right direction are the ones that will sustain jobs and economic growth in the future, so it makes sense that a lot of resources are being invested in skills and leadership.
Q. You’ve mentioned eligibility; is the support available to anyone?
No. Each support programme comes with its own rules for eligibility and the best way to check these is to contact Business Link North West. They’ll assess eligibility and refer companies to the most appropriate programmes.
More details about Enterprise4All and the support it offers can be found on its website – www.enterprise4all.co.uk – or by calling Carolyn Hayes on 0845 607 0786.