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Three ways economic development can help business today


What are the three ways economic development can help business today?

Collecting the bins and planning are statutory functions at most local authorities in England, economic development  (ED) function is not a statutory function.  So it is right that we ask what is the value of economic development and what contribution does it make to business growth.

This article sets out the three ways economic development can help business today.   So here we go, we hope this article contributes to the discussion about what local government can do to boost business.

  1. Bring together local agencies
    Economic development should have a focus on bringing growth and investment to the area.   As an economic development professional your role is to stay focussed on this.  In England local authorities cannot set the tone and direction for economic development by themselves.  Economic development has a collaborative attitude which recognises the uniqueness and value that other organisations can bring.  Economic growth comes through collaboration.   Central government, Local Enterprise Partnerships, Councils, Chambers of Commerce all have a part to play.   Success will only come from these agencies collaborate.

  2. Share insight
    There is such a wealth of information and data available to us.  We do not need to rely on who shouts loudest in the room, or those with fixed opinions based on personal prejudices.

    By sharing data we can bring different sources together to build a nuanced, clear picture of the current situation.   This will then lead to insights and perspectives on the problem.  For example at a recent client meeting we were able to bring new data on road traffic patterns which fundamentally changed the ways the client “framed” the problem of traffic exiting a business park.

  3. Set out and own a vision for the district
    We’ve been saving the best until last!  It is not the job of business to create and own vision for the locality.   Business look to local authorities for vision and leadership of place.   Leadership and vision is central to economic development

    So let’s get to work!



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Could young people run your local hospital?



Well we will soon find out because that is just what is going to happen on the 20th November!

Red Potato are working with local schools and the NHS to enable young people to give their perspective on how they would like to be treated by the NHS.  On Friday November 20th (#Takeover Day) local schools will get the opportunity to see first hand how decisions are made and also to give their views on how the needs of young people can be better served by the local NHS.

We will profile some of the schools and projects in the run up to #Takeover Day, so keep checking up @_redpotato

Herts Healthy Homes Partnership Programme, with Hertfordshire County Council


Hertfordshire County Council/ Herts Healthy Homes project

Red Potato were selected by Hertfordshire County Council to:

  1. build engagement and involvement from a diverse range of partner organisations, including voluntary sector organisations, district and borough Councils
  2. ensure partnership outcomes were recorded and communicated
  3. work with Herts Healthy Homes partners to create and embed referral processes

Hertfordshire County Council said:

“Red Potato were really efficient and happy to talk to other key providers. We’d have no hesitation in recommending Red Potato for project support. They deliver exactly what they promise.”


Herts Healthy Homes & Red Potato
Herts Healthy Homes – Red Potato provided project support for this Hertfordshire County Council partnership project


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A message for Hertfordshire based community groups & voluntary sector organisations

Here in the UK, Red Potato have been providing programme management support to the Herts Healthy Homes Partnership.

Red Potato are very happy to use this post to help promote to voluntary and community groups in Hertfordshire  the help available to local people (in Herts) via Hertfordshire Welfare Assistance Scheme.

Hertfordshire Welfare Assistance Scheme (HWAS) is delivered through partnerships in Hertfordshire to provide information, assistance and advice to people in financial crisis.

The Building Community Resilience Programme has been set up to enable local groups and organisations to bid for some funding which will support people and families in Hertfordshire during extraordinary times.

Hertfordshire based organisations can also bid for a ‘small grants’ fund of up to £20,000, which they can then use to coordinate and administer their own small grants process (see the attached guidance and application forms for further details).

A link to the guidance information and application forms is at the bottom of this post

Completed application forms should be emailed to tracy(dot)webber(at)hertfordshire(dot)gov(dot)uk or posted to : Tracy Webber at Hertfordshire County Council, Community Wellbeing Team, Hertfordshire County Council, SFAR202, Farnham House, Six Hills Way, Stevenage, SG1 2FQ.


Please note the closing date for all applications is noon on Monday 13th  April  2015.

HWAS Building Community Resilience Fund Application Form March 15

HWAS Building Community Resilience Fund Guidance Document March 25th

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Working in Partnership with Councils

Judgement Day at the #LGCAwards: We were really happy when asked to be part of the Welwyn Hatfield Council presentation to the Local Government Chronicle Awards panel in #London.  During January the team (composed of Welwyn Hatfield Council and Red Potato staff) put in the time to prepare and rehearse our pitch to the judges.  It was great to have the support of the Welwyn Hatfield Council CEO who quizzed us hard, before approving our final presentation.   Red Potato had helped the Council engage local businesses with an innovative scheme for young people to gain experience of being an entrepreneur.  The young people gained valuable experience which will help them in their future careers and the businesses gained a useful insight into the mindset of “Millennials”, as customers and potential employees.   Red Potato has conducted initial research that shows that a typical Return on Investment for businesses who participated as a staggering 81.8%! In terms of cash that means for every £100 a local business invested in the programme, they could receive benefits worth upto £500! If you’d like to discuss how we could work with your local council and local businesses to achieve similar results do get in touch.   In the meantime we anxiously await the results of the LGC judging process….

On behalf of Red Potato we wish Welwyn Hatfield Council the best of luck, for when the final awards are announced in March.


Welwyn Hatfield Alliance

Welwyn Hatfield

The Welwyn Hatfield Alliance (LSP) is based in Hertfordshire, England.  Members of the Alliance include key public sector organisations, businesses, community groups and voluntary groups who have a shared vision: to improve the quality of life for all in Welwyn Hatfield.

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council has a key role in economic development and supporting the Welwyn Hatfield Alliance.  The focus of the council is to provide strong community leadership.   This includes helping local people to compete for local jobs and supporting local business at a time when demand for services has increased and budgets are under pressure.

Welwyn Hatfield Council selected Red Potato to develop a 12 month work programme which would attract the involvement of local partners such as Colleges, Housing Trusts, DWP and the LEP. Red Potato project managed the work programme, including coordinating partnership work, communicating progress and demonstrating long term outcomes.

“Red Potato enabled the work programme to happen; by ensuring we stuck to our original vision, building strong relationships with the partners, and communicating with clarity”
Chris Conway Director of Strategy and Development, Welwyn Hatfield Council

Herts Action on Disability (HAD)

 HAD is a charity which helps older and disabled people to lead an independent life. HAD Occupational Therapists work closely with clients to diagnose mobility issues. Disabled and older people can attend the HAD Chair Clinic to assess their mobility.HAD wanted to promote the Chair Clinic to a wider audience and chose Red Potato to produce a video to show how the service helps people. Red Potato were chosen by HAD because of their track record in partnership working, understanding of the HAD objectives and flexibility.
“Red Potato worked in partnership with HAD to produce a video to promote our chair clinic service and has helped us with market research to support our social enterprise ambitions. We were pleased with the way Red Potato worked with HAD to help deliver our community engagement and partnership objectives” Annabelle Waterford, Chief Executive HAD
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What does the business value? The 3 reasons why clear values are essential for business profitability

Jay Wheeler, Red Potato.

Why would an independent business owner want to take the time-consuming, uncomfortable journey of developing, interpreting and running a business in accordance with clear values? Because ultimately it effects the bottom line.  This article shows why, when it comes to business values, the journey is as important as the destination.

In many corporate organisations there is a cynicism about business values. The cynicism is usually something to do with the hypocrisy of the organisation saying something like “we value and respect our employees” and then making those “valuable” staff redundant in a less than respectful way. One person told us they received an email to meet “Human Resources” to be told their role is likely to be affected by the latest reorganisation and they are on “gardening leave” with immediate effect! And there are far worse stories…


So given this discredited approach, why would fiercely independent business owners want the additional uncomfortable process of developing and interpreting values for a variety of stakeholders – and also crucially running a business in accordance with these values?  As Keith Shephard, Policy Associate with the ELGH consultancy says, “values have to be evident in the day to day business to have any meaning…values simply imposed top down will not carry the same weight as those developed through deliberation”.   This takes time and resource – both of which are in limited supply.

In this article we will look at how “business values” can enable an independent small business (SMB) stand out in a crowded market place, and by standing out (- in a good way!) from its competitors ultimately win more profitable sales, which whether we like it or not is the bottom line for most SMBs, as this infographic from the Federation of Small Businesses shows.

First of all what do we mean by “values”? The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines values as “the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or the usefulness of something”. That though is only the first of six different definitions in the OED! If the dictionary isn’t illuminating, perhaps we can turn to our shared understanding of values. Ask a group of British businesspeople about what are British values, and you’ll probably hear things like “fair play” and “stiff upper lip”, perhaps said slightly “tongue-in- cheek”. The reason for the sheepish grin? Well most of us know that values change with time, and maybe British values should also include “instant gratification” and other more modern values to reflect the lives we lead today.

Maybe it is easier to lampoon, correction “focus”, on big corporates and their value statements. Predictably there are lots of howlers with bland statements about accountability, leadership, integrity etc. However it doesn’t all have to be corporate b.s. Virgin Media has some interesting value statements we particularly like the “insatiable curiosity”!


Moving on from corporate enterprises, do SMBs really need explicit value statements, don’t small businesses have values as part of their DNA: If you run your own business, everyone knows you, what you stand for and what you believe. One of my colleagues, Mike Meldrum of Mortgage Mine, always ends his presentation with the words “Far too tight to let any deal go down without a fight” – and everyone who knows Mike believes him!

But what about when your SMB company needs to reach out beyond the immediate network. Do your business partners understand and appreciate your business values? When the company expands and new employees join, will they be able to say what the business stands for? This point is made by Michael Scutt, Head of Employment and Dispute Resolution at solicitors, Crane and Staples…”It’s when businesses grow that they risk losing sight of why they exist. For small businesses the challenge may be in communicating those values – which is why social media provides such a powerful tool.”   In summary if your values are also your business values, the company will always revolve around you and this could well make it difficult to expand and grow the business.

Which brings us to the three reasons why clear business values are essential to SMB business profitability:
1. Your customers want to feel some affinity with your company. If customers share some of your values they may purchase more of your products and services

2. Most businesses operate in crowded competitive markets. By having clear values you can make your business stand out from the crowd. By standing out from the crowd, your business is likely to receive more enquiries, which can be converted to greater sales

3. Clear values can help build a dialogue with your customers. For instance Red Potato has a strong partnership focus to our work, this is reflected in our values and this informs all our customer engagements.

We hope this article has helped stimulate a renewed discussion about business values and small businesses.   The article discusses the link between clear business values and “The Bottom Line”.   But is there more to business than profitability?  In our next article we’re going to look more broadly at business values  and their wider context within the communities we serve.

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Promoting apprenticeships to SMEs: Training providers need to wake up and smell the roses

The florist said “they never send me anyone who can work out the cost of half a dozen flower stems to make a bouquet and be trusted to write a greetings card without making a spelling mistake”. Everyone nodded their heads in agreement and the discussion moved on.

We were talking about apprenticeships at one of the many business networking groups that run each week across the UK.  These networking groups attract business owners from small local businesses, with the prospect of building new business contacts and new clients over breakfast.   Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) accounted for 99.9% of all private sector business in the UK, employ 14.1 million people and have a combined turnover of £1,500 Billion,  so they need to be on board when it comes to apprenticeships.  The conversations we’ve had with many SME business owners suggest that the comment from the florist is not untypical, and there is some scepticism about apprenticeships, particularly among small and micro-size businesses.

Yet Recent research by ICM showed that employers rated qualified apprentices 15% more employable than those with other qualifications.   On closer inspection the employers interviewed were mostly large blue chip corporates, with HR departments and dedicated staff who can focus on employee learning and development.   In SMEs the business owner, may also be in charge of HR, aswell as cashflow, sales, marketing and production – it is no wonder that anecdotal evidence suggests that small and micro businesses are not taking on apprentices.

The reasons for low take-up of apprentices by SMEs vary, but the two most often reasons cited were the inability of recruit someone with the right skills and competencies and secondly that there was insufficient work to employ a new fulltime employee for at least 30 hours per week – one of the criteria for recruiting an apprentice.    Perhaps surprisingly none of the business owners we spoke with said that they weren’t prepared to take on an apprentice because of the time to train and develop a new person.   Business owners understand the need for a succession plan – and they want to make sure that any apprentice coming into the business has the core competencies they expect of other employees.

In many ways setting a “high bar for entry” is reassuring and a good sign.   The Apprenticeships Agreement “reflects the fact that an Apprenticeship is primarily a job rather than training”.   So business owners are right to have the same expectations of an apprentice joining their business as they would for any other employee.

Apprenticeships can help improve the business bottom line, but it needs to be made easier for small and micro sized businesses to recruit and employ apprentices.   To do this training providers and colleges need to get out and engage with their local SME community.   Training providers must listen hard to the objections, the misunderstandings and prejudices of business owners and then systematically prove that their organisation can address those concerns effectively.  The solution could be designing a programme whereby an apprentice is “shared” by a group of SMEs or simply checking that the apprentices they send to a florist can work out the what is the most profitable bouquet.