Where to turn in the post-Business Link era?

Sophie Howe, director of Comtec Translations Limited says it’s time to help each other

In just a few months, government-funded Business Link advisory support will morph into an online and web-based information service. No longer will we meet face-to-face with an expert who can navigate us through the complex matters that come with running our own businesses. As chairman of the mid-Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, I am monitoring this situation very closely as I fear it will be our members who are hardest hit. I’ve come to the conclusion that we might need to take David Cameron’s notion of a ‘Big Society’ to heart and start to pool and share our own expertise, as well as talk about the best sources of advice we know; a form of enlightened self-interest in an austerity-ridden economy.

With this in mind I’d like to suggest a first port of call should be our region’s Universities, some of the finest in the World and right on our doorstep. I heard about the University of Leicester’s Innovation Partnerships project when we were looking for expertise to overhaul our software systems to cope with the next stage of growth. With relatively little cost and effort, we were able to use a combination of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and Innovation Partnerships to work with Leicester graduates and academics over a four month period. Our graduate intern delivered what we needed, and I even offered him 6 months more employment. Ironically, too many of the region’s smaller companies still see Universities as remote, elitist, costly to work with and lacking in worldly understanding. Nothing can be further from the truth.

For a different level of support we should look to our professional bodies such as the Chamber of Commerce or the Federation of Small Business. We need to make the most of networking events, legal or HR advice, and the lobbying of government done on our behalf. It all helps to improve the environment in which we operate.

Finally, I mentioned being willing to share advice at no cost to others. Although my company like many others provides Guides for free download, we decided to go one step further and build a library resource of audio podcasts. Our first 20 minute recording explores why translation is so important for the health of international trade, the kind of materials companies should look to translate, how to use languages in international business and how to set up a company website in different languages. We designed it to be of educational value, ideal for listening to on a short car journey and a trigger for new thoughts and ideas. I’d love some feedback because we want to record more, and to include others as guest presenters.

So how will you find the kind of advice you need, when you need it? We can’t be sure how the government’s alternative service will turn out in practice. What we can be sure of is the mountain of expertise out there just waiting to be tapped.

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