see also Finding hidden entrepreneurs
Bizfizz is an innovative project working in the UK. It responds to a request from a community, helps the community to raise funds, appoint a coach and manage that person. The coach is outward facing, and responds to the needs of entrepreneurs and people who want to become entrepreneurs. There are some other key ingredients. The local panel involves local people who know the answers to questions and helps provide knowledge backup for the coach as well as introductions into the community.
Bizfizz was featured as a case study in the evaluation of the Phoenix Fund in which the Tuxford pilot where Fred Foreshaw was the coach was the project visited. The project came out well both in terms of the productivity of the coaching approach and its impact on the local community.
BizFizz was set up by NEF and Civic Trust as a joint venture after considerable research into existing good practise in the UK and USA. BizFizz was pilotted in 2002-2004 and has run in 31 areas in England and Scotland. The Civic Trust and new economics foundation believe that Enterprise should be at the heart of any regeneration project anf that in partnership with the public sector, residents and entrepreneurs are best placed to support and grow their own local economies and become Key investors in Place Shaping. This key principle, along with client-focused delivery supported by active networks, provides the basis for this successful programme.
A coach in the community
extract from NEF/Civic trust book about Bizfizz
Many business advisers lack an intimate knowledge of the local areas they are expected to cover. Many also believe it is not their place to help with personal issues facing people wanting to set up a business.
But this project puts a premium on both these aspects of support. Biz Fizz, a joint venture between the Civic Trust and the New Economics Foundation, has designed a one¬stop-shop service for start-ups, micro and small enterprises in disadvantaged areas that provides an innovative two-pronged approach.
First, a business coach offers one-to-one support based on the needs of the individual. Second, a panel made up of a diverse group of stakeholders use their local knowledge, specialist expertise and contacts to help solve specific practical problems for BizFizz clients. Four pilot projects have tested this support model in a market town, a rural location, a coastal town and an inner city area. In 16 months 117 start-ups and 70 existing businesses have been helped, and 70 cases have been discussed by the local panels.
"The key is knowledge and networks;' explains national co-ordinator, Paul Squires. "We know that as a sole trader, it's very difficult for one individual to have all the knowledge to run a business. So we can create temporary teams for that individual:' The pilots helped a broad mix of people. Some clients wanted to turn a hobby into a business, some had been made redundant. Clients may have had fairly developed plans, but also personal fears or problems, such as a reluctance to risk redundancy money, or pressure from family members who did not support their business ambitions.
"What's crucial is the coach's relationship with the client;' says Mr Squires. "Traditional agencies often say, "you need a business plan, here's a model':We don't work like that. It's more about what the person wants, not what's expected of them. It's more important that the individual understands their business, a question of good business planning rather than focusing on a business plan'
Mr Squires recalls one person who wanted to drive a taxi - but he was known to be a heavy drinker. This is a delicate personal issue that would fundamentally affect the success of his new business in a very small community which was very aware of his drinking habits. The coach helped the client work through how others in the community would perceive his business idea and himself. The client then took the decision to change his drinking habits, and now is running a two-car taxi venture in partnership with his wife. The programme is expanding under the latest stage of Phoenix funding, with eight more projects about to be set up, targeting more inner-city areas with a diverse ethnic mix. "BizFizz is different - it has no rules, no set systems, no boundaries'
Elliott was contacted by a man who had been convinced to start a painting and decorating business, and had been sent by conventional business advisors on a test trading course for three months. This was strange to start with: you can do a business plan for that kind of business in a day – what painters and decorators need is to get out and find a market. Given this, he was finding the course soul-destroying. But when Elliott eventually asked the trainee painter and decorator what he was passionate about it, he said it wasn’t decorating at all. He was doing that in order to get £1,000 so that he could get a licence to be a hang-gliding instructor. Elliott’s next question was “ If I can find £ 1000.00 for you, what would you do?”. “Set up a hand gliding school”, was his answer. Brilliant! Elliott’s question gave the man an opportunity to forget his immediate concerns (his reality) and step in to the future, and then share for the first time his true passion.
That one story, so early in the whole programme, demonstrated to us the power of coaching, and why target-driven business advice means that the motivation comes from the advisor and not the entrepreneur. It was clear that we needed to investigate the mechanics and the possibilities of coaching further, and we did so. Another founding principle of BizFizz was becoming clearer too: energy and passion made things happen, and the energy from people finding ways of doing what they were passionate about was infectious.
Round 1 Bizfizz projects Jarrow North East Region Thetford, Eastern Region Tuxford, East Midlands Fred Forshaw (now at emda) Easington
round 2 Bizfizz projects Ocean Estate (east London), Bowthorpe (Norwich), Winsford (Cheshire), Alnwick (Northumberland),
Belgrave (Leicester), Toxteth (Liverpool), Stanley Green Corridor (Co Durham), and Clowne (North Derbyshire).Paul Davies, BizFizz Coach winner of adviser of the year 2008
Round 3 BizFizz Projects Weardale (County Durham) Shirebrook (Derbyshire) South Normanton (Derbyshire) Hucknall (Nottinghamshire) Sutton (Nottinghamshire) Warsop (Nottinghamshire) Mansfield Woodhouse (Nottinghamshire) Hastings (Sussex) Burslem (Staffordshire) Port Glasgow (Scotland)
Round 4 BizFizz Projects Bradford x 4, Norwich x 3, Peterborough, Wansbeck district x 2
Round 5 BizFizz projects Walsall, Bradford x 2
How Bizfizz works
BizFizz provides free, confidential and professional advice to local entrepreneurs. It works by:
- employing a BizFizz Coach who provides tailored one-to-one support to individuals who want to start or grow their business
- establishing a Local Panel of people whose background, expertise and local know-how bring a second tier of support to BizFizz clients. The panel can include community activists, head teachers, faith group leaders, councillors, and local business people.
A BizFizz National Team supports the work of the Coaches by co-ordinating training, monitoring, promotion and recruitment.
The BizFizz Coach
Helping people pursue their passion is the first step for BizFizz. These are the hidden entrepreneurs who could be generating wealth for a community and removing the barriers that stand in their way is what BizFizz is all about.
BizFizz places a business coach in the heart of the community. We call them BizFizz Coaches since their role is not to do the legwork for local entrepreneurs, but to help people discover their own potential as entrepreneurs.BizFizz coaches use coaching methodologies to deliver business support to entrepreneurs. The Coaches receive coach training during their inductions and follow this with further learning and training usually following a rigourous methodology such as Co-Active coaching, NLP or Coaching U. The Coach will usually be an experienced entrepreneur, with some experience of giving advice and support to businesses and a strong commitment to our approach. The Coach gets to know the community thoroughly, through extensive personal introductions as well as visiting local clubs and pubs, societies, schools and faith groups to introduce them, and let everyone know that they are available to support local entrepreneurs.
Bizfizz believes that every business needs an entrepreneur, someone who will drive the business forward. The Coach's job is not to sit on committees, or provide money, training or premises but simply to support entrepreneurs. The Coach does this by helping people to follow their passions.
Nobody is good at everything. Some people have no head for figures or flair for marketing. BizFizz Coaches encourage entrepreneurs to create a 'virtual team' of supporters to help them with those aspects of the business they feel less comfortable with. For example, if accountancy is a particular weak spot in an entrepreneur's skill portfolio, an intensive training course may not be the best use of an entrepreneur's time. Why not find a local professional who might be prepared to defer up front payment? Or a local mum who is taking evening classes in book-keeping whose fees might be lower? Or even agree to share financial risk by profit sharing rather than paying set fees?
The Coaches provide their services for free, but they are free in another sense. They are not constrained by having to ration the amount of time they give to the entrepreneurs or by notions of 'professional distance'. Within reason, the Coaches can do whatever it takes to help the entrepreneur succeed.
The Local Panel
Key to the local BizFizz operation is a Panel of 20-30 people who act as a network for the entrepreneurs, helping them unblock problems and providing key information and contacts. It is not a management committee, but an advice and networking group. It consists of well-connected and experienced people from the community and the wider area who can make a practical contribution. Each panel member introduces the Coach to ten additional contacts, thus helping the Coach to widen their contact with potential entrepreneurs, and to gain an overview of local skills and resources available locally.
The Panel includes local peoples with different backgrounds: community leaders and activists, head teachers, faith group leaders, councillors, local entrepreneurs and business people from the wider area, people with expertise in key areas such as IT, marketing, book-keeping, premises, bankers and other finance providers, people from regulatory authorities such as planning, environmental health and the Inland Revenue. What brings them together is a mutual passion for the area where they live and work.
The ability to unleash local and expertise and resources is the main difference between BizFizz and other business support. That's why Panel members are asked to contribute not only in their professional role but using all their personal experience and knowledge. For example Local Panels are very helpful with finding premises, identifying waste materials that can be used by other businesses, and linking entrepreneurs with common interests.
The Local Management Group
This is a group of 4-5 people, who will take responsibility for driving the local BizFizz project forward. Membership of the LMG should not be drawn from any one organisation. Suggested LMG composition, based upon our best practice experience, is:
- One representative from the Local Host Organisation
- One or two representatives from other local partners
- One or two other panel members local to the project area
All members of the Local Management Group are also members of the Local Panel. with support from their National Co-ordinator, they will take key decisions about how the programme operates locally. The LMG provides hands-on support to the Coach, particularly in the areas of client referral, panel development, project promotion, and at a strategic level to address barriers affecting BizFizz clients. The National Co-ordinator will provide an induction for the initial members of the LMG, thereafter the BizFizz coaches and existing LMG members will induct new members of the LMG during the project.
The LMG provides a reference point for day-to-day issues for the Coach, including any employment issues that may arise during the course of the project, the National Co-ordinator and providers of funding The Local Facilitating Organisation will report on budgetary matters to the LMG. The LMG is responsible for the strategic direction of the programme within the framework of the model, and will address issues related to sustainability and performance with reference to the data the Coach collects. The LMG will evaluate the impact of the local project. Although they will at times take advice from the Local Panel, the LMG will act to avoid the Local Panel becoming a ‘management committee’ and help it to focus on finding practical solutions for entrepreneurs.
The National Team
The Civic Trust and NEF have set up a National Team to work on BizFizz. It consists of staff who are experienced in harnessing community capacity, providing small business support, and project management. The National Team helps the local projects with:
- policy role
- promoting the BizFizz idea to the community
- recruiting and selecting the local panel
- induction for the local panel to get them working effectively
- recruitment and selection of the Coach
- induction for the Coach
- specialised residential training for the Coach
- providing information for the Coach to help them support entrepreneurs
- support for the Coach and the local partners throughout the project
- organising regular meetings where Coaches from different projects can exchange good practice
- supporting the panel meetings
- monitoring and evaluation
For more detail, see fact sheets.