Have you claimed your Growth Voucher of up to £2,000 yet?

Business Engine Room is an approved provider for the Growth Voucher SchemeGrowthVoucher_small

We are delighted to have been accepted as an approved provider of strategic advice under the Growth Voucher scheme.  The government is providing match-funding of up to £2,000 to qualifying small businesses to receive business advice.  20,000 businesses across England will be selected for this scheme, so apply today!


If you are a small business (less than 50 full-time equivalent staff) looking to grow, follow these simple steps:


Step 1. Apply to the programme online through GOV.UK.

Step 2. You will be asked to either complete an online questionnaire or to meet an advisor face-to-face in order to assess your strategic needs.

Step 3. After completing the assessment, you will be given a suggestion about which area of strategic advice would be the most appropriate. You will be told, at this stage, whether or not you’ve been allocated a voucher.

Step 4. Applicants will then be advised to find a Growth Voucher adviser on the Enterprise Nation Marketplace.

Step 5. Choose an appropriate advisor – Business Engine Room is on the list of advisers in the Finance and Cashflow area.  Vouchers will cover up to half of the cost of paying for strategic advice up to a maximum of £2,000 (non-inclusive of VAT).

Step 6. After paying for services, submit your claim for.  Claims will be processed on receipt and should be paid within 30 days.


More about the Growth Voucher Scheme

The Growth Vouchers programme is also being run as a randomised control trial (RCT) by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Cabinet Office’s Behavioural Insights Team. RCTs are widely regarded as a gold standard for empirical research. This is the first time an RCT has been run on this scale and aims to find out what sort of business advice is most effective for government to support.

The marketplace is designed to make it much easier for businesses to find providers of strategic advice on key topics like:

  • Improving leadership and management;
  • Making the most of digital technology;
  • Managing cashflow, late payments and negotiating finance;
  • Marketing, attracting and keeping customers;
  • Developing skills and taking on staff.

Businesses that have been running for a year, with fewer than 50 employees, and have not paid for strategic external advice in the past three years will be able to apply at https://www.gov.uk/apply-growth-vouchers They will go through a process which will help them identify what sort of advice they might benefit from. Small business network Enterprise Nation has developed a marketplace for business advice where participants will then be able to find a qualified adviser at www.enterprisenation.com/marketplace

The new marketplace is funded by private sector firms:  technology specialist Toshiba, co-working expert Regus, cloud-based collaboration and data sharing software provider Citrix, telecoms brand Vodafone, cloud-based accounts, payroll software provider Sage One, email marketing campaign brand Constant Contact and EDF Energy which are showing their support for small businesses by backing the initiative.

It is also supported by professional bodies including the CIMA, ACCA, ICAEW, BCS, CIPD, CMI and the CIM.


The scheme will be running until March 2015, so apply today!

Strategic clarity on the back of an envelope

A few days ago, I met a friend of mine over a coffee.  When I commented on the deep ‘worry’ lines on her forehead, she shook her head and said, “I just don’t know what to focus on.  I have this long list of priorities – and no time to give to all of them, so every day I scrape the surface.  My staff all have different opinions about what our priorities should be.  And the complicated thing is that they are all correct:  the things they bring up ARE priorities.  But I am so overwhelmed, I feel I will never get to the top of the pile.”


After some more coffee and a medicinal chocolate muffin, I had brought out the oldest tool of all – the back of a large envelope which was lurking at the bottom of my bag (did you know many great ideas started that way?  Southwest Airlines in the US were conceived on a café napkin).  I had asked my friend what her ultimate business goal was.  I then asked her to identify the key drivers that would make that goal improve.  The key was to establish a clear cause-and-effect relationship.  As my friend was a senior manager at a higher education institution, our initial drawing looked like this:



Luckily, in higher education there is a measure for everything, so it was quite easy to establish both the current position and the desired position for each of the outcomes.  What this showed was the gap – and hence the distance required to travel in order to get to the desired position.  In my friend’s case, the quality of research was very good, but both student satisfaction and student employability were poor.  This gave a clear focus for where time should be invested.  But how could these outcomes be improved?


What we did next was to break the initial drivers even further, to understand what had the most direct impact on the outcomes shown in green.  Taking one of these as an example, here’s what we drew next:



As in the previous step, the gap between the measures of the current vs desired position had shown where the effort had to be directed.  Before we saw the bottom of our coffee cups, my friend had e-mailed her staff requesting that they establish consistent visiting hours for students and respond to student e-mails the same day.


This exercise is brilliant in that it can bring clarity to what is otherwise a chaotic to-do list.  It can also help to formulate strategy for improved outcomes in business development, problem solving, etc.  Unfortunately I cannot take credit for it – this is a well-known technique used in outcome mapping (originally designed by the International Development Research Centre), and is similar to the Product Breakdown Structure (PBS) in project management.


Do this with your management team, or even with your staff (if you are brave), so they own the output and understand the causal relationships – and get someone who is a good facilitator to help you.