Until November 2011 there was an integrated business advisory service known as Business Link. It maintained a comprehensive website and a network of local business advisers who advised and assisted up to 10,000 businesses a week between them. Those services were generally of very high quality and were free at the point of use. Funding for those services was provided by the regional development agencies. When those agencies closed in 2011 the local Business Link network closed with them. The Business Link website survived a little longer but is now absorbed into the gov.uk.
Whether or not the end of Business Link was good bad, there can be no doubt that the service is missed. In the United States the Small Business Administration provides a service that looks very much like that used to be provided by Business Link and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have maintain comprehensive business advice websites. In England there is a range of successor services such as the British Library's Business and IP Centre and its partners in Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester. Newcastle and Sheffield (see "Enterprise and Libraries: a New National Network of Business & IP Support" 6 March 2013) and the mentorsme.co.uk (see "'Oh Me. Oh My. I hope the Little Mentor Comes By' - The Banks New Mentoring Network" 22 July 2011).
Possibly the service that comes closest to Business Link is the GrowthAccelerator which I learned about at a presentation after the The Sci-Tech Daresbury Business Breakfast Networking Event on the 22 Nov 2013. GrowthAccelerator describes itself as
"a unique service led by some of the country's most successful growth specialists where you’ll find new connections, new routes to investment and the new ideas and strategy you’ll need for your business to achieve its full potential."It is a partnership between Grant Thornton, PERA, Oxford Innovation and The Winning Pitch which claims to have helped over 10,000 businesses since its launch in 2012. It operates by identifying priorities for growth, developing a growth plan and providing coaches to help with the execution of the plan. It provides those services for a fixed fee.
I chatted with several of the presenters after the talk at Daresbury and mentioned the similarity to Business Link. I was not surprised to learn that several of them had been Business Link advisers. Like Business Link the GrowthAccelerator signposts businesses to other services and opens doors. It holds clinics, seminars and other events on all sorts of topics such as accessing finance and marketing. Business owners who want to learn more can request a free consultation through the company's website.
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