Centre Business Adviser says ‘Empowerment, new skills and knowledge, and confidence building’ is paramount for clients
Carl Gough, Business Adviser, Social Business Wales, Neath-Port Talbot and Swansea
See this page in: Cymraeg
The interesting thing about supporting social businesses is that you never know what may come along next.
From performance arts to manufacturing, from building renovations to logistics. Faced with such diversity of issues and support needs, I count myself lucky that I’ve had an equally diverse career with equally diverse experiences upon which to draw. In my time I’ve been a fish farmer, a dolphin and sea-lion trainer, an education officer, a national park warden, a teacher, a gardener, a research biologist and storyteller – to name but a few. And you’d be surprised just how much of that experience I draw upon when working with clients!
My scientific career actually led me to study on a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) as part of my post graduate biological research at Cranfield University. This included some high level stuff and I felt like the proverbial fish out of water. I was mixing with some major big hitters from ‘The City’, including stock brokers and the sons and daughters of some major UK business leaders. The MBA was not the qualification I was pursuing, but nonetheless it was my proving ground in the affairs of business – Marketing, Accounting and Finance, Strategic business development were like an alien language at the time. In hindsight, it was a bit like ‘The Apprentice’; we’d have lectures and then be divided into teams and set timed assignments, working through the night (and sometimes weekends) to develop solid business solutions in response to the challenges set. At the time I hated it, but now I am incredibly thankful for that experience; I wouldn’t be able to do what I do now without it.
"So what do clients value most about the support I provide? Well you’re better off asking them really. However, I have been told that clients love the fact I don’t tell them what to do; I help them consider their options, assess the ramifications of each decision until the most appropriate course of action becomes obvious. For me, this is important because I view my role as empowering organisations, supporting acquisition of skills and knowledge and building confidence."
Since the MBA, I’ve undertaken a continual process of learning and training, including an ILM5 in social enterprise support. I have taken on voluntary roles and been a trustee and director in several different social businesses, charities and community groups. My combined experience, knowledge and skill set enables me to assess issues, pinpoint needs and explore different perspectives to find resolutions that are suited to the business challenges of any particular situation.
So what do clients value most about the support I provide? Well you’re better off asking them really. However, I have been told that clients love the fact I don’t tell them what to do; I help them consider their options, assess the ramifications of each decision until the most appropriate course of action becomes obvious. For me, this is important because I view my role as empowering organisations, supporting acquisition of skills and knowledge and building confidence. My aim is to help clients feel they are in control, reaching a point where they can recognise and understand what they really need to succeed. Then it’s just a matter of helping remove barriers so they can get what’s required and move forward.
For example, one client had received a significant grant for a project and faced becoming an employer for the first time. Through our support we were able to signpost them to the relevant legal responsibilities and develop an entirely new suite of HR policies. As a result, they have completed an effective recruitment exercise and appointed their first staff, confident in their role as a new employer.
Sometimes, being a shoulder to lean on is just as important. Another client came to me following multiple rejections for funding. I soon recognised the significant potential of their ‘project’ as a social business and so, through visioning exercises and business planning, I helped them recognise what they had. Through our Peer to Peer mentoring programme, I was able to connect them to other social businesses where they could get ongoing encouragement and support. With a better understanding of the business potential for their idea, they are now gaining paid bookings and are gaining increasing recognition for their work among local authorities and Welsh Government.