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Taking your own advice

PUBLISHED: 12:16 17 December 2010 | UPDATED: 14:51 20 February 2013

Phillip Timson and Mally Findlater

Phillip Timson and Mally Findlater

When you're running your own business, the best person to turn to for advice is a professional business adviser who has the expertise and contacts to help you succeed. But what happens when you're that adviser offering business support? Who...


The answer, of course, is to take your own good advice and that of similar organisations elsewhere in the country.

Earlier this year, as a result of changes in Government funding of the national Business Link network, Business Link Gloucestershire merged with other Business Links in the South West to streamline their business support service.

Seeing a gap in the market, a group of professional business advisers decided to launch Gloucestershire Enterprise Business Services (GEBS).

Gap in the market

Philip Timson, GEBS director, tells the story: "We saw an opportunity to provide a service that we knew was in demand, but which was no longer being provided in Gloucestershire. The national Business Link service still offers information, advice and guidance to businesses, including a well-respected business start-up service. Now GEBS compliments this service by offering one-to-one personal support, through a professional relationship with a business adviser, which smaller businesses have always found valuable.

"I have spent years advising businesspeople on how to run, develop and grow their businesses, now I was about to find out whether all that advice was going to work for GEBS. Like the companies we work with, GEBS is itself a small business, facing the same issues and challenges."

So Philip put his own advice into practice, did the research, wrote a business and marketing plan and set up Gloucestershire Enterprise Business Services.

Social enterprise

"It was a fantastic opportunity to look at what had and had not worked for clients in the past and set up a range of services which was most useful to them. Micro business owners really value practical support and advice, but are strapped for time and cash. This was never going to be a profit-making enterprise, as there is a limit to how much new and small businesses can afford to pay for these services, but there is a real benefit to them and the UK economy if they can be supported. We therefore decided to set up as a not-for-profit, social enterprise, with an objective of working for a more prosperous Gloucestershire.

"Social enterprises plough any profits back into the business and according to Government figures the number of social enterprises across the country is rising. There are at least 55,000 in the UK with a combined turnover of over 27 billion a year. Other well-known social enterprises include The Co-op and Jamie Oliver's Fifteen, so we're in very good company.

Facing disappointment

"Our original business plan was based on a number of assumptions, some of which have unsurprisingly not happened. No-one gets it completely right first time. In particular we had based our plan on a commitment by one organisation to refer clients to us, and this wasn't happening. This is so common, and successful businesses need to able to face such a disappointment. In our case, we rolled up our sleeves and got working, which cost us more in initial marketing and networking costs to 'sell' our services, but ultimately our business will be stronger and less reliant on one particular relationship.

"We also knew that, as we had taken on some former Business Link staff, they faced a big adjustment from working within a large publicly-funded organisation to a small, independent one. We were lucky with our staff as we managed to bring together a really good team from the old organisation, who know each other well and share a commitment to make this new business successful. We are working smarter, the organisation is leaner with no surplus waste and that means that we are more in touch with how things are for our clients.

Greater flexibility

"Like all small businesses, there are seldom enough hours in the day in the first year or so of running the business. We invested time during the early months in building appropriate systems which will pay dividends as we get busier. We have also set ourselves short and long term objectives. The first year was planned in detail with projections for year 3. We monitor these regularly and adjust them to take the current situation into account.

"One of the best aspects is that we are all able to contribute ideas, we're more flexible and to be honest, working in this way is much more fun.

Successful networking

"As a result of setting up in business for ourselves, we've become even more aware that the advice we give is sensible, cost effective and useful, particularly the time we spend on developing the business as well as fulfilling our obligations to our clients. What it has reinforced is the value of personal contacts and networking. Time spent on this repays us many times over, as with most small businesses most of our work comes through our individual reputations and from people we know.

"We also recognise that however good we are, we cannot work in isolation as our clients won't benefit, and so we build close links with other enterprise agencies in the region, some of which have been running for many years. This has given us invaluable support and we always advise our clients to do the same in their sector as it's much easier to learn from others than try to start everything from scratch.

"Now, when we're talking to clients we can say that 'we've been there too, and we have personal experience of many of the issues you're facing. That gives them confidence that we really do understand what they're talking about."






For more information on how Gloucestershire Enterprise Business Services can help your business, visit the GEBS website on www.glosebs.co.uk, or call 01242 864200 and speak to Emily or Georgina.

The answer, of course, is to take your own good advice and that of similar organisations elsewhere in the country.

Earlier this year, as a result of changes in Government funding of the national Business Link network, Business Link Gloucestershire merged with other Business Links in the South West to streamline their business support service.

Seeing a gap in the market, a group of professional business advisers decided to launch Gloucestershire Enterprise Business Services (GEBS).

Gap in the market

Philip Timson, GEBS director, tells the story: "We saw an opportunity to provide a service that we knew was in demand, but which was no longer being provided in Gloucestershire. The national Business Link service still offers information, advice and guidance to businesses, including a well-respected business start-up service. Now GEBS compliments this service by offering one-to-one personal support, through a professional relationship with a business adviser, which smaller businesses have always found valuable.

"I have spent years advising businesspeople on how to run, develop and grow their businesses, now I was about to find out whether all that advice was going to work for GEBS. Like the companies we work with, GEBS is itself a small business, facing the same issues and challenges."

So Philip put his own advice into practice, did the research, wrote a business and marketing plan and set up Gloucestershire Enterprise Business Services.

Social enterprise

"It was a fantastic opportunity to look at what had and had not worked for clients in the past and set up a range of services which was most useful to them. Micro business owners really value practical support and advice, but are strapped for time and cash. This was never going to be a profit-making enterprise, as there is a limit to how much new and small businesses can afford to pay for these services, but there is a real benefit to them and the UK economy if they can be supported. We therefore decided to set up as a not-for-profit, social enterprise, with an objective of working for a more prosperous Gloucestershire.

"Social enterprises plough any profits back into the business and according to Government figures the number of social enterprises across the country is rising. There are at least 55,000 in the UK with a combined turnover of over 27 billion a year. Other well-known social enterprises include The Co-op and Jamie Oliver's Fifteen, so we're in very good company.

Facing disappointment

"Our original business plan was based on a number of assumptions, some of which have unsurprisingly not happened. No-one gets it completely right first time. In particular we had based our plan on a commitment by one organisation to refer clients to us, and this wasn't happening. This is so common, and successful businesses need to able to face such a disappointment. In our case, we rolled up our sleeves and got working, which cost us more in initial marketing and networking costs to 'sell' our services, but ultimately our business will be stronger and less reliant on one particular relationship.

"We also knew that, as we had taken on some former Business Link staff, they faced a big adjustment from working within a large publicly-funded organisation to a small, independent one. We were lucky with our staff as we managed to bring together a really good team from the old organisation, who know each other well and share a commitment to make this new business successful. We are working smarter, the organisation is leaner with no surplus waste and that means that we are more in touch with how things are for our clients.

Greater flexibility

"Like all small businesses, there are seldom enough hours in the day in the first year or so of running the business. We invested time during the early months in building appropriate systems which will pay dividends as we get busier. We have also set ourselves short and long term objectives. The first year was planned in detail with projections for year 3. We monitor these regularly and adjust them to take the current situation into account.

"One of the best aspects is that we are all able to contribute ideas, we're more flexible and to be honest, working in this way is much more fun.

Successful networking

"As a result of setting up in business for ourselves, we've become even more aware that the advice we give is sensible, cost effective and useful, particularly the time we spend on developing the business as well as fulfilling our obligations to our clients. What it has reinforced is the value of personal contacts and networking. Time spent on this repays us many times over, as with most small businesses most of our work comes through our individual reputations and from people we know.

"We also recognise that however good we are, we cannot work in isolation as our clients won't benefit, and so we build close links with other enterprise agencies in the region, some of which have been running for many years. This has given us invaluable support and we always advise our clients to do the same in their sector as it's much easier to learn from others than try to start everything from scratch.

"Now, when we're talking to clients we can say that 'we've been there too, and we have personal experience of many of the issues you're facing. That gives them confidence that we really do understand what they're talking about."






For more information on how Gloucestershire Enterprise Business Services can help your business, visit the GEBS website on www.glosebs.co.uk, or call 01242 864200 and speak to Emily or Georgina.

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