There appears to be a series of misleading, inaccurate and naive statements in relation to the debate regarding Business Links.
Business Links are private companies, not quangos, and have their own boards of directors.
The first Business Links opened in 1993/94 and today there are some 223 outlets. They are not “flash in the pan”, but part of a long-term, radical strategy by the Department of Trade and Industry to improve the competitiveness of the small and medium-sized business sector.
Business Links cannot be viewed in isolation to the wider changes taking place in the business support environment and are long overdue.
Each Business Link differs in the type and level of support offered to firms. We serve customers, not consultants, and our role is to advise on the best package of support, which may include design. We are not here to provide a “living” for any consultancy, design or otherwise.
Services previously delivered to firms have been of a variable standard, and one of our roles is to ensure that all suppliers meet consistent minimum standards. Some of us have considerable experience in this area.
Our role is also to identify funding sources for specific projects which are approved by Business Links, not the DTI. A key element of our work is to ensure that needs have been identified independently and the best source of prioritised support is applied. Funds can be sourced locally, regionally and nationally.
While Business Links may make a financial contribution, this in no way influences the actual cost of a project. Here in Sheffield we have a maximum contribution based on need, not percentage. This is not automatic either, nor should it be so.
Financial self-sufficiency is unlikely to come from fee-generation alone. We derive income from multiple sources.
If your readers live in the “real world”, they will know that many of the big practices and consultancies will and do get out of bed for 450 per day.
Some of us who have worked in the design world are able to judge over individual consultancies. Having personal experience of this sector, I would endorse the need to do so, especially over the poorly qualified who claim to offer marketing advice as well.
Finally, when I made contact with the Chartered Society of Designers last autumn regarding lists of appropriate local design consultants, the net result was a waste of my time. No one could provide me with a single name or list. We eventually started developing our own database.
Business Link Sheffield
Sheffield S4 7UQ