A government-backed business programme is helping to boost North East firms, according to a new report.
The GrowthAccelerator scheme, a partnership between the Government and the private sector, was launched by Business Secretary Vince Cable last May to support companies with high growth potential.
The service matches experts to individual firms and provides a bespoke programme of coaching, workshops and leadership training.
Its first annual report shows that 239 businesses from the North East and more than 7,000 nationally have signed up since its launch last year.
Mr Cable said: “Building a stronger more balanced economy requires businesses of all shapes and sizes to realise their growth potential. GrowthAccelerator is providing thousands of businesses with the advice and support they need to do just that. High growth SMEs are responsible for nearly half the job creation in the UK economy so we need to make sure they are getting bespoke, high-quality business coaching.”
Colum Smith, for GrowthAccelerator in the North East, added: “By engaging ambitious senior management teams, GrowthAccelerator is breaking down barriers to progress, acting as a catalyst to build a new SME growth powerhouse that will create jobs and ultimately economic growth. We are delighted to report such high uptake of our service among businesses.”
Among the companies to benefit from the scheme is Exclusive, a recruitment and HR consultancy based at Prestwick Park, in Newcastle.
The firm, which has been running since 2007 and also has offices in Leeds and Aberdeen, received coaching to help expandion.
Mark Ions, 37, owner and managing director, said: “We primarily needed help with accessing financial support to enable us to capitalise on the new growing markets we could see. We didn’t have the expertise or experience required to approach investors effectively. We contacted GrowthAccelerator at the end of last year. They came out and vetted the business, and assigned a coach to work with us.
“Our coach was someone who had previously worked in recruitment and HR consultancy. It was a great match, we had someone who had experience and was able to work with us on a plan for growth.
“The coaching helped us to present the business in the best possible light and understand the needs of the investor.
“Having the correct facts and figures to hand put us in a good position to explain how the investor would get a decent return on investment with the least amount of risk.
“With the help and guidance we secured funding to double our office space in Newcastle, enabling our operations and resourcing teams who are based in Newcastle to increase their services across the country.
“The funding also enabled us to enrich our staffing resources, launch a new cloud-based IT system and we are about to launch a new website.
“The service was a really beneficial project for us to go through.”
The North East Chamber of Commerce has said that while it is good news that businesses in the region are being helped, the numbers signed up to the scheme could have been higher. Ross Smith, director of policy, added: “Anything that will help businesses maximise their potential must be welcomed, however, the Government’s approach to business support has been somewhat fragmented.
“With a more joined up approach and focus on communicating what is available for companies, I’m sure these figures for the first year could have been improved upon.”