Wednesday, May 18, 2011

end of another affair...

So – it lasted 6 years, we stood by each through good times and uncertain (contract) times, I got them international recognition and extra project incomes, protected them from project and government office auditors, and it now ends…

Some of you will know that my first contract when I became freelance was with a local enterprise agency – and yesterday, that working relationship came to an end.

Naturally it’s a little sad from the sake of my bank account, but more so for the opportunities I had with them, the projects I ended up running, and the sheer variety of people it allowed me to come into contact with and support along their journey of realizing their ambitions of creating their own enterprise. It’s also sad because this split in our relationship is not the result of us falling out with each other, but because the way in which funding to support people wanting to set themselves up in business is changing – business advisors are increasingly seen as a ‘luxury’ that can’t be justified in the context of publicly funded support. And that’s what makes me more concerned – a lot of people I’ve supported over these 6 years through the enterprise agency needed encouragement and motivation, not just a fact sheet or to sit through group presentations; with the loss of the personal business advisor, I fear that many people won’t have the opportunity to have their self-doubt challenged and so not take that first step into realizing their long-held ambitions of changing the world through launching their own enterprise…

That won’t stop me trying to support them – there are still other enterprise support programmes running that I’m involved with (Making Local Food Work, the Co-operative Enterprise Hub, Unltd Connect, ...) but the value of a local business advisor with local knowledge supporting someone who wants to set up a local business is surely a key ingredient of any strong community and economy. And I’ll miss it...

Friday, May 13, 2011

It’s good to talk (and drink, and argue...)

So – this week saw the inaugural co-operative enterprise hub conference. For those of you who don’t know, the co-operative group (you know, one of the worlds’ largest co-ops), funds a national programme to support co-operative businesses to be able to access specialist consultancy and training and stuff and there’s nothing else in Europe like it! (see link here)

Anyways – they held their first national conference in Leeds recently, and I not only had the pleasure of being invited, but also of leading one of the sessions.

As a freelancer, things like conferences are always a difficult choice – I’m not usually paid to attend them, they mean that I can’t be earning money elsewhere and it takes me away from my family – but in this instance, it was pretty much a no-brainer for a change: the opportunity to hang out with my peers (other co-operative enterprise consultants and trainers) for 2 days, share stories, reflect on experiences and ideas and challenge each others’ views and approaches is something that I’ll always jump at the chance of (especially when there’s a conference bar involved...)

So thank you to the enterprise hub for the opportunity to spend 2 days of my life in a most worthwhile way (and to everyone who ran around 'behind the scenes', making sure the rooms were all set up properly and everyone ended up when and where they were supposed to be) – and I'm already looking forward to next year!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

time for me to bare all... (again!)

so - its that time of the year when things go a little quiet (2 weeks of bank holidays'll do that!), and I try and reflect on what I've managed to achieve over the last year (professionally speaking...).

For those of you who've followed me for a while, you'll know that my principle tool for doing this is a social accounting approach - and having still not found a model or toolkit for sole traders out there, have used my d-i-y version again, and as before, added an extra indicator - this time around how much business I do with co-ops, social enterprises and charities. After all, if I'm serious about supporting such businesses, I should really be putting my money where my mouth is - right?

So - here there are; for those of you who enjoy statistics, enjoy - for those of you who don't, look away now...