Case study in Driving SME Growth

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Ten SME companies complete a business growth programme with quite exceptional results. Read about how it was done and why it was successful. Could this be a blue print for council-led SME growth programmes?

Coleraine Borough Council
Led Competitiveness Programme

Programme Case Study
1st November 2012 to 31st December 2012

Project Title – thinkBIG:thinkINNOVATION Programme

Background and Context

In line with the programme objectives, ten companies were recruited at the start of the programme. Business baseline profiles were conducted for all 10 participating companies. This profile was the Business Juggler, details are to be found at http://www.businessjuggler.com. The Business Juggler report is a 22 page document that sets out: -

  • Simple benchmark of performance
  • Identified 9 areas of strength that can be developed into areas of Competitive Advantage
  • Identified 9 Areas of relative Weaker Performance to be developed and improved
  • A total of 18 suggestions for performance improvement to kick-start the conversation on Improvement Action Plans
  • An action plan template
  • A comprehensive list of European Best and Better Practice indicators of performance

From the discussions around the Juggler report, a SMARTened action plan is developed with a clear focus through: -

  • Specific
  • Measureable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time bound

Mentoring Support Delivered
Mentoring was delivered to all participating companies at 24 hours per company, meeting the programme target. In addition, an extra 59 hours of mentoring was delivered to the participating companies.

Best Practice Visits
The programme permitted one best practice, or similar, visit per participating company. The value of visits out to other companies or organisations cannot be underestimated. It always proves to be a source of ideas for improvement and growth.

Summary of Programme Impact of Benefits
At the completion of the programme, a comprehensive ‘Distance Travelled’ form was completed with each participant, which clearly captured all the programme impact, short-term benefits and longer-term outcomes. This is summarised as follows:

  • JOBS - It is clear that the programme has had impact and brought many different benefits to all of the participants. Overall job creation was +9 Full Time and +20 Part Time new jobs.
  • COST SAVINGS – The programme recorded a total of £88,000 of direct cost savings as a result of improvements and projects.
  • SALES INCREASE – The programme recorded an increase of +5.2% sales increase, which equates to an extra £414,000
  • COMPANY SATISFACTION – 100% of participating companies received benefit and would recommend the programme.

Summary
Overall, it can be said that the programme went very well. In fact it can be considered as a Best Practice case study in the design and delivery of a company growth programme for small and medium sized companies delivered in partnership with a local council. It has applications Ireland-wide, as well as in the UK and further afield.

The question to ask is – ‘Why has this programme been successful when many similar programmes are, at best, average, and often ineffective?’ The answer lies in our experience to design a programme that is relevant and built upon proven method, uses talented people as mentors, and is well managed.

From a programme performance perspective, the metrics are impressive, increased turnover, reduced costs and job creation.

It is true of any programme of this type, when working with a range of companies of different sectors, maturity stages, sizes and experience, that not all companies will benefit in the same way. Some companies may have recorded a decline in sales or fortunes if they had not participated in the programme. It is therefore noteworthy that 100% of companies said they benefited and would recommend the programme to others. Also, the satisfaction levels were all above 75%. The reported creation of 9 F/T and 20 P/T jobs is also a strong indicator of performance.

Companies have been signposted to other opportunities where it is hoped they will continue their journey on using innovation to drive business improvement and business growth.
Dr Adrian Gundy, Centre for Competitiveness
1st March 2013

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