Andy Walker, Head of Business Growth and Innovation at Lancashire County Council’s economic development service.
One thing that never surprises me about Lancashire is the sheer will and determination of people in business to succeed. You would forgive any budding entrepreneur, or lifelong entrepreneur for that matter, for being a little deterred by the events of the last five or six years.
But I am pleased to report there appears to be no shortage of ambition in Lancashire, as evidenced by one of our recent Boost Business Lancashire surveys which showed that 58 per cent of new business owners in the county expect to be profitable in their first year, and over half forecast a turnover of over £250,000 by their third year.
The optimistic outlook seems to be shared by more established businesses too. The anecdotal picture I get from my conversations with business owners is that they are busy doing things – investing, hiring, purchasing and generally making things happen.
This is backed up by the overwhelming interest we’ve had in Boost Business Lancashire, the county’s £7.2m business growth hub.
Boost has so far supported over 1,400 ambitious businesses offering them free and part-funded business support programmes in areas such as mentoring, leadership, innovation, strategy and funding, to name but a few.
I would urge any ambitious and growing business to see if they are eligible for free support before funding for the programme comes to an end next summer.
While there is clearly lots of ambition in the county, we must not get too carried away. Looking ahead to the next six months, there remain many challenges ahead for businesses, not least addressing the much publicised skills gaps that can prevent them from growing.
It’s one of the reasons why, along with the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, we developed a new support programme called Lancashire Skills Support for the Workforce which has attracted £5.6m from the European Social Fund.
We believe this to be a really valuable programme for the county’s businesses as it allows them to get free skills training for their employees from local colleges and other training providers. This training is tailored to their requirements following a detailed training needs analysis. Those wishing to find out more can do so through the website at: www.lancashireskillssupport.co.uk
Accessing finance will remain another major consideration for businesses over the next six months, but there are a number of different sources of finance available that can work instead of, or alongside more traditional funding streams. Again, Boost Business Lancashire can help with things such as growth grants and access to expertise from other funding specialists.
Businesses interested in finding out more about the support available from Boost can visit or call to see if they are eligible for free support: www.boostbusinesslancashire.co.uk