Advice service refreshes its own business plan

The Business Gateway service has been given a ‘refresh’ in a bid to ensure that local firms get the most from the free support available.

The business advice and support service moved in-house to the council in October 2012 and is now making the most of the opportunity.

New business and improvement plans have been presented to councillors, who welcomed the changes.

One of the most significant changes means firms can access the growth advisory service at a lower threshold than nationally, reduced from £200,000 turnover growth in three years to £100,000.

Workshops are also being taken on the road around the area, with plans to utilise council facilities to ensure that they can be delivered as local as possible.

They will also be delivered in evenings and weekends and attemps are being made to create a single all-encompasing workshop that can be provided on an outreach basis

Jim Johnstone, service manager, said: “The first six months of the in-house service were very much steady as you go, but for the last 12 months we have been looking at how we could change delivery to improve the service for the local needs.”

At a meeting of the council’s economic development group members were told that customer satisfaction with the service is higher than the national average, as are business survivial rates for those firms who access advice and support.

Mr Johnstone said: “There is a lot of research that businesses that take on advice and information are more sustainable than those that don’t, and that is reflected in the survival rates.”

At the meeting Councillor Michelle Ballantyne said: “I get a lot of positive feedback from people, particularly on the start-up support and workshops.”

She added that she was impressed that effectively the service was taking the advice it gives to businesspeople in re-visiting its business plan and creating an improvement plan.

It is estimated that the Business Gateway service will help add £2.2million to the local economy in 2014/15.