Sheffield is a place to start up business, and one in which existing firms can thrive.
That’s the message from Sheffield City Council, which has announced that companies in the city can now benefit from a radically new and improved support service.
The new “Business Sheffield” service brings a huge range of help under one banner, meaning that those wanting to set up in the city – or grow their existing businesses – only have to go to one place in order to gain the advice they need.
Business Sheffield is being officially launched to coincide with MADE – The Entrepreneur Festival, which takes place in the city today and tomorrow. MADE is set to welcome world-class speakers, around 70 exhibitors, 3,000 businesses and several thousand delegates to take part in a huge range of events.
Councillor Leigh Bramall, cabinet member for business, skills and development at Sheffield City Council, said: “Feedback from businesses and business intermediaries suggested that the previous support landscape was confusing and difficult to navigate, with too many brands, too many agencies, too many entry points.
“In response to this, we have simplified the support we offer, brought it under a rebranded banner of Business Sheffield and have established the Business Gateway service – building on First Point for Business – through which to channel all business enquiries in the city.”
Previously, Sheffield City Council’s business-related support was an amalgamation of services originating from sources such as the Local Enterprise Programme, First Point for Business, Creative Sheffield and various specific initiatives, such as the Business Transformation Team and Digital Direction.
Several of the services available were also delivered through sub-contracts, which made the support that was available more difficult to navigate than it could have been.
Now, Business Sheffield will instead act as a “one stop shop”, signposting businesses to all the help that is available. All services have been brought under one roof and a new management team, with fewer sub-contracts.
At the same time, the staffing levels at “First Point for Business” – which was previously one route to support – have been doubled and there are now four full-time members of staff, dedicated to helping businesses get the help they need.
The service has also been broadened out and, while it already has a good reputation for tackling council-specific queries, First Point for Business will now be more relevant to any request for advice and guidance.
Coun Bramall added: “Creating new businesses and helping established businesses to grow is absolutely vital in order to get Sheffield punching its weight as a core city.
“That is why, at a time of severe austerity, the city council has maintained its £2m investment in Creative Sheffield and business services.
“Last year, First Point for Business handled somewhere in the region of 1,500 enquiries worked with in the region of 300 businesses who were looking to grow.
“We expect this new service to be much more proactive and working hard to find new clients, especially among Sheffield’s existing 16,000 businesses.”
Business Sheffield will be organised into two main teams.
The first, the “gateway”, will be the channel for all business enquiries, whether relating to starting up or the growth of well -stablished businesses. A trained team will carry out the initial assessment of enquiries and either provide immediate information, advice or signposting, or make referrals on to start-up coaches, workshops and events, or to a team of specialist business advisors.
Meanwhile, a team of business growth advisors will both have businesses referred to them, and will work proactively to generate new business.
Their main objective will be to establish long-term relationships with the companies, provide direct support when required and also draw on specialist interventions when this is appropriate.
What has changed?
- Access – First Point for Business had a good reputation for tackling council specific queries – eg around regulation and statutory service. However, it was important to broaden that out and make the new Gateway relevant to any request for advice and guidance. We have doubled the resource in the team which now has four full-time members of staff all with specific experience of business to offer.
- Simplification – We have brought together various strands of service operating under a variety of names, agencies and brands into one place so that the support is simpler to understand.
- Quality control – all of the services covered above are now under one organisation with one management team and fewer sub-contracts. This has made it easier to review quality implement change and monitor impact and value.
- Private sector involvement – it is a key principle of the new interventions that they should not displace or duplicate the services to business offered by the private sector. Many of our information sessions for start-ups and early stage businesses are delivered pro bono by accountancy firms, lawyers and banks who are very willing to provide support at this level.
- Proactivity – to an extent, due to the fragmented nature and scale of the various services in the city, they tended to be delivered in a reactive manner. This is no longer the case.