On your marks…

Ambitious for growth, but stuck? Help is at hand, which won’t cost you a penny, but could make you a fortune.

Steve Crawford had a rather good idea. He’d launched his first Chicken & Blues restaurant in 2013 in Boscombe, Dorset and it was a big hit. His 48-hour chicken marinade and three-stage cooking process won him a loyal customer base across the region. So he set out to grow the concept across the South West. The only question was how to do it?

Like many other ambitious business owners who find themselves beyond their natural skillset and entrepreneurial comfort zone, Steve didn’t have all the answers. But, unlike many of these hampered entrepreneurs, rather than figure it all out alone, he and his business partners contacted GetSet for Growth, a fully funded business support service that was established to help businesses just like Chicken & Blues.

Steve worked closely with GetSet’s team of advisers to complete an analysis of the market. Together they ran through his numbers, looked at potential expansion strategies and made an application for finance to help fund this growth. Chicken & Blues have since gone on to open two additional restaurants, creating more than 17 new local jobs and delivering strong sales after their first year.

This is just one of a long list of GetSet success stories, where highly skilled advisers are able to offer support and guidance to ambitious, but stuck, businesses.

So why is it that, as a nation, we still struggle to get businesses on to and up the growth escalator, and 94 per cent of our businesses are sole trader, micro or small organisations?

The Department of Business, Innovation & Skills 2014 Small Business Survey found that despite 73 per cent of UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) claiming aspirations for growth, only 28 per cent feel confident about entering new markets, and almost half have had difficulties in accessing finance.

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The view of small firms is that finance is hard to obtain. Information is opaque. A recent report by the British Chambers of Commerce found access to finance is still a barrier for 60 per cent of British businesses looking to grow through exports. And research into women in business by Enterprising Women identified there is a perceived element of gender discrimination in finance. It’s a huge, growth-stifling problem.

Customer acquisition and retention is another minefield. A string of research emphasises British firms struggle with vital tasks such as building a strong sales pipeline, knowing how to define and segment the market and competition, and how to identify the best channels and tactics to engage prospects. Professional, practical advice can go a long way to remedying this.

“The problem is that many business owners never look for help,” says YTKO Group’s chief executive Bev Hurley. “They are missing out. While some ‘business support’ for established businesses is of limited quality due to lack of first-hand experience, as GetSet’s parent company, we have over 30 years’ experience working in the private sector for thousands of companies of different sizes in a variety of industries and sectors. We have seen all the issues and challenges that SMEs come across as they try to grow and we’ve experienced them ourselves on our own growth journey. We’ve ‘got the T-shirt’.”

GetSet’s methodology is unique. Unlike traditional business support approaches, GetSet doesn’t look at individual business areas in isolation.

“We learnt long ago that you can’t treat finance and marketing as separate issues; they are intrinsically linked. For example, take a company that is struggling with cash flow. We take the time to understand why it is an issue. Maybe they have poor credit control, their pricing structure is wrong or they have a poor sales pipeline. Real investigation and a different approach may solve the issue without recourse to finance,” says Ms Hurley.

Companies can get access to a fully funded, practical, market-led approach to growth

“On the other hand, companies often go chasing new customers to make more money, without first considering their resource capacity within their growth strategy. If they are at maximum output already, securing new customers will likely put the business under significant strain. In that case, they may need to raise finance to build spare capacity before expanding their customer base.

“It’s about looking at each business’s growth opportunity from an holistic and strategic perspective, as well as looking under the bonnet at where the barriers are and helping the owner or management team overcome them.”

The government, recognising that ambitious British firms need help, has committed to funding GetSet across five regions in the UK, through its Regional Growth Fund.

“Because we are fully funded, our service is free to users,” says GetSet’s Ms Hurley. “Companies can register with us and get access to a practical, market-led, robust approach to investment readiness and growth.”

GetSet has a strong pedigree too. Its first pilot project in Cornwall, building on YTKO’s successful private sector experience, was supported by the European Regional Development Fund. It has also received private sector backing from J.P. Morgan, initially in Bournemouth and most recently to bring the service to East-London businesses.

“The government’s backing is not given easily,” says Ms Hurley, “but the evidence of success from over 1,000 businesses has shown that GetSet works. I hope that after reading this, businesses will take action and get registered with GetSet. There’s no reason not to – our service is fully funded and we have so much to offer to help businesses achieve their growth goals.”

For more information head to getsetforgrowth.com

Also found in Funding Growth sponsored