EOW Reflections: Enterprise Research Centre anniversary

More often than not my reflections centre around something that’s been said by a business person or in a meeting or a conversation. This week I’ve been reflecting on the importance of partnerships.

At the 10th anniversary celebration of the launch of the Enterprise Research Centre partnerships was very much to the fore. The research done by the ERC underpins our understanding of the needs of, and contribution by, the small and micro businesses in the UK. We may do surveys and put out questionnaires but by comparison to the well-crafted and in-depth research university academics do, we’re merely holding a finger in the air. Without their expert guidance we may be asking all the wrong questions, in the wrong way. The conclusions we draw from our own figures can be decidedly iffy, set all sorts of hares running and have us chasing rainbows.

University researchers from universities the length and breadth of the UK contribute their expertise to the ERC and dig deep into the way small business owners and founders think, act, behave and the economic, social, public value they bring. They give us credible statistics on the issues which we can use to brief ministers, officials and policy makers. Once we have the figures and the context, we can add the stories that illustrate the impact and bring the whole thing to life. I can achieve very little without evidence and the research delivers the evidence.

But the researchers claim, for all their expertise, they can’t do it if they can’t work in partnership with us. ‘Us’ means organisations that commission and can use the research and provide the people with whom to carry out the research, and the funders and communicators. We all have a part to play and together our understanding of the issues we’re trying to address can grow, develop and keep up with our rapidly changing environment. Armed with the evidence that proves there is a problem to be solved we can start to work on suitable solutions, to the benefit of various stakeholders. Without the evidence we could all be trying to solve the wrong problems or even problems that don’t actually exist and that benefits no one.

That’s only one example of the power of partnerships. On a much smaller scale the OSBC communications team has been working on what we’ve called the ‘Tool Up’ campaign. If you’re picturing cowboys tooling up with pistols and shotguns and riding off across the prairie that’s the image I was trying for, but the reality is rather less confrontational. We’ve put ‘tools’ on the website in the form of information to help people get paid quicker and negotiate fairer payment terms with their customers before they agree to do a piece of work. That’s great and looks fabulous but it’s no earthly use if the people who could benefit from tooling up don’t know the tools are there.

Our partners are the people who can turn our vision into a useful campaign and help us get ‘Tool Up’ tools out there. Ahead of the launch on Monday thank you to partners, too many to mention, who help us on a regular basis to get our messages out to small firms and big businesses. We can’t do it without you. It’s not just because we’re a tiny team that we need to work in partnerships; it’s because you have the reach and expertise and the will to work in partnership with us. You know who you are. Thanks partner.