Imagine that you are looking to start a new business and you need some help. You would go to your network of friends and family, your professional contacts, and the agencies you could find and you would ask for help, right? Simple.
Now, imagine you lived in a community where you had access to very few resources of your own, and you had no professional contacts. Access to the local agencies is limited due to your postcode and the label that affixes on everyone from your community. Where do you go?
Would it be helpful if you could ask your local community for help, drawing on the resources on your doorstep to help you start and grow your business? Would it be helpful if, instead of being told what to do, you were able to make your own decisions on the basis of what was right for you? And if you are responsible for supporting people in such a community, would you be interested in a proven way of making this happen for many of your neighbours? If so, this is the article for you.
Enterprise Coaching in Communities
The fantastic offer made in the introduction exists, and has been made to people in communities across the United Kingdom where funds have been found, and where enlightened partners have seen the opportunity. The Enterprise Coaching model that we describe here is based on the BizFizz model which was developed implemented in the UK by the New Economics Foundation between 2005 and 2011. We have moved the model on so that it can be added to the skillset of anyone with a coaching attitude who is in regular contact with people in their community. And this can be any community, rich or poor, in developed or developing nations.
The ideal people to be Enterprise Coaches are embedded in communities and encouraged to network. Through networking, they uncover the resources in the community, and they also receive word of mouth referrals to clients who are looking to start a business, or who are already in business and need some help. The coach uses a pure coaching method combining GROW with Solutions Focused Practice, and when clients need advice, the coach goes to the community network to find advice on the client’s behalf.
This model is very successful. Business started with Enterprise Coaching support have a 90% survival rate after 12 months. Here are the headline statistics delivered by 10 Coaches using this model over a two year, nine month period in Bradford, England, with very strict ERDF rules applying to all claimed outcomes:
- Businesses Created = 247
- 12 month survival rate is between 74% and 87%
- SMEs assisted (12 hours plus) = 208
- Jobs Created = 357
- Jobs Safeguarded = 68
- Increase in GVA = £763,357
There are two elements to a successful Enterprise Coaching project:
- On-going Supervision and Support
In order to help people who are often novice coaches to help their clients, we train general Coaching Skills with the focus on training essential business support skills, then coaching skills that include the GROW model first, then Solution Focused Practice. We tie the two coaching models together once the coaches have some experience in the community.
On-going Supervision and Support
The initial training equips trainee coaches with enough skills for them to have a useful conversation with a client, and for the client to be helped to make progress. This is deliberately set to an introductory level so as not to overload trainees with too much up front as this could frighten them, preventing them from trying their coaching skills with clients. It is therefore essential to offer on-going follow up supervision on a 1:1 basis with each of the Coaches.
In these 1:1 meetings we discuss the conversations that the coach has had with their clients, and their application of the coaching skills and SF practice that they have tried. By bringing real situations to their supervisor, coaches receive help with options that may help their clients to make progress, and also with an explanation of how the techniques will work when put into practice in the field. 1:1 meetings are held on a monthly basis as this allows time for more coach-client work in between meetings so that there is progress to review whenever the coach meets with their supervisor.
As an additional activity in this project, the need arises to deliver client workshops with coaches in attendance. These are conducted on specific topics that have been raised by clients and so are relevant to their specific progress. Each workshop involves an SF Emergent Agenda process to ensure that the topics we covered are relevant to the attendees at the time. Coaches attend also and so are able to see SF Group work in action. These workshops are also reviewed at the 1:1 supervision meetings to help coach understanding of the techniques involved.
As well as the impact on the local community economy, a number of additional benefits are realised for the host organisations.
After a period of time, it becomes obvious that the Enterprise Coaches are demonstrating an excellent understanding of the SF model, and they apply the model to help their clients make progress. This includes the application of SF to multi-party workshops and issues, and to complex client situations. All of these skills have benefits when applied in their own work environments.
In addition, teams who have been through this process report that their colleagues ask them why they were all so happy, relaxed and smiling all the time. This they all attribute to Solution Focused Practice!
The main outcomes of these projects are to do with helping people to create self-employment and employment opportunity. The wealth created this way is often spent with local businesses, keeping the money in circulation within the local economy for longer. This is the secret to stimulating local economies from the bottom up, and we are happy to share this model with any interested people.