So what’s it really like? The Growth Hub is part of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP), which is part of the North East Combined Authority, which is formed by the seven local authorities in the North East. We’re big on policy and stakeholders, and on measuring outputs and outcomes of programmes – all good local government stuff.
But don’t let that put you off: The North East LEP is very much business-led, so our focus is on doing things, on action, and on providing direct, practical help. In the case of the Growth Hub, that means responding to the needs of businesses of any size. We have to be able to shift to the appropriate gear to connect with the owners and meet their needs.
For example, last Wednesday I attended a networking event in North Tyneside, where I took appointments for three meetings this week and sent an email link to a fourth person to connect them with their local council’s business premises team.
After that, my first appointment of the day was with a sole-trader in Wallsend who started-up just six months ago. We talked about the fundamentals of her business, and the tension between sales and marketing, and increasing operations capacity – a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem to be unravelled. At the end of our meeting, we’d developed a plan to expand production facilities, and identified three potential sources of funding to enable this.
Unfortunately, that first appointment had over-run a little, so it was a fast pedal across to Gateshead (I ride a bike for most meetings as it’s quicker than driving!) to get to my next client. These guys were at the opposite end of the scale – formerly an AIM listed company who are now back in private hands. They’re developing some new technology, so we talked about how they can get fully funded R&D assistance from the local universities, or part-funded support via the Knowledge Transfer Partnership scheme. We also looked at how they could tap into grants from Innovate UK (which they already knew about), the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA), and the European Space Agency’s Business Applications programme.
Finally, it was back to the office via a late lunch from Greggs (meal deal plus a sticky bun; actually, two sticky buns) to do my paperwork. The trick is to send an email to each of these clients that reflects where they are on their business journey, and to provide links to each of the schemes we discussed with enough context for them to want to engage. Seeing as we’re government funded, all this gets recorded on our CRM system, and I joke with the clients that it’s the “tedious paperwork” I have to do. In reality, it only takes a few minutes per client – a small price to pay to keep our programme manager happy and able to report to our funders!