Tuesday, March 27, 2012

the success of small businesses depends on how well they play together

The future of small business may not be that they continue to emerge and grow, but that their success is based on their connectivity – not through social media or with their customers, but with each other in person, through the places where they hang out and do their work.

That’s the view I’m increasingly coming to, especially after I shared a link on twitter recently to the benefits that coworking creates not for the individual entrepreneur, but for their local communities - with it being ‘retweeted’ by various other people, well over 5,000 people have now become aware of these benefits, so it’s obviously something that people are finding of increasing interest and importance.

(And just to clarify, coworking is where small businesses share a common physical workplace and are looking out for opportunities to not only work together on larger contracts than they’d be able to manage on their own, but also for leads for each others’ business.)

There are some good examples of coworking here in the UK– and they seem to work best when the workspace they share is structured as some form of co-operative. But don’t just take my word for it, check out OpenSpace in Manchester.

As small and ‘micro’ enterprises, we seem to be constantly bombarded with messages about the benefits of being more connected on-line, but I wonder if sometimes we forget just how beneficial it can be for our small businesses to be connected with each other in the ‘real world’...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I'm number 6, 37, 72, 180...

The government announced a grand vision last year; that there would emerge a volunteer army of no less than 15,000 business mentors by now to support those aspiring start-ups and existing enterprises in the wake of cuts to funded business support (remember Business Link and the once proud national network of local enterprise agencies?)

And those nice civil servants in Whitehall recently revealed the exciting news that 7,500 such volunteer mentors have now been found! Fantastic! But there might be a problem... it seems that they haven't asked what level of enquiries for support these mentors are receiving (or are actually delivering...). So there might be 7,500 business mentors sitting around twiddling their thumbs. And there's another problem in that they're likely double counting too: I offer support to various enterprises through a number of mentoring initiatives (including the RSA Skills Bank, Unltd Connect, and others...)

So – volunteer mentors: there are obviously quite a few of us, and there are lots of schemes through which people can get at us. But I'm not sure how valuable it is to have government watching over us and claiming credit for what we're quietly getting on with to make sure that the world manages to keep getting along...