The first wave of mentors to work with New Enterprise Allowance applicants, the Government has recruited via secondment from the banks – presumably or at least hopefully small business advisers. A wider mentor recruitment is planned which we can hope will broaden the experience available to applicants but at the moment one might just question how useful the mentors will be.
I do not wish to suggest that there aren’t many competent advisers within our clearing banks but I do have a few reservations….
- How many will have any first hand experience of starting or running a business?
- Working in a corporate culture, will they understand the culture and demands of a small business?
- Will the advice they offer be truly impartial? I can’t foresee their employers allowing them to promote a rival small business bank account?
- Given that it is largely down to the banks that we are in such dire economic circumstances and who have significantly failed to invest in manufacturing, small retail and small business generally, are they the wisest source of advice?
- Do any of these advisers carry Professional Indemnity Insurance for the advice they provide?
Hopefully, the scrutiny of business plans should act as a review of how well the programme operates. In South Yorkshire, the panels will be organised by the Doncaster Chamber of Commerce and in Derbyshire by Business in the Community. These organisations will be expected to deliver a target number of business starts though the results also relate to the sustainability of those starts. I am therefore reasonably confident that applicants will be better served than the last time round in the 1980’s.