Sheffield Council has merged all business services into a single point after complaints its support was confusing, with too many brands, agencies, websites and phone numbers.
‘Business Sheffield’ is the new place for enquiries, fronted by four full-time staff with business experience on a single phone number - 0114 224 5000.
The authority says it is the new gateway to a vast range of services - all free - including mentoring, banking advice, management training, market research, start-up workshops, innovation programmes, ICT help, and export, recruitment and skills support. It also gives money to companies with potential through grants.
The new service was launched at Sheffield Town Hall at an event featuring three businesses from different sectors and at different stages, who had all received help.
Coun Leigh Bramall, cabinet member for business, said: “Although we did our best to ‘hide the wiring’ it became increasingly difficult and feedback from businesses and accountants suggested support was confusing and very difficult to navigate. Business Sheffield does what it says on the tin.”
The economic challenges were ‘massive’, he added. The City Region has a target of creating 70,000 new jobs and 6,000 new businesses in the next 10 years.
Last year, First Point for Business handled about 1,500 enquiries and worked with 300 businesses. Its replacement, Business Sheffield, is expected to be more proactive among the city’s 16,000 businesses, he added.
Kevin Bennett, head of enterprise at Creative Sheffield - the council’s overarching business department - said: “The council has pushed the idea it is business friendly and we’re pulling the various services back together in a much more simple and effective way.
“We want to makes sure everyone has got that new number from the lawyers and accountants offering advice, to small businesses.
“We say we offer good, practical, hands-on advice and it’s free. In an open market where do you go for business advice? Do you Google it and pick someone at random? Or choose someone objective and experienced?
“Our advisors are not trying to sell a service and they are not driven by targets. They are trying to build long term relationships and get to know a business.”
Edward Highfield, director of Creative Sheffield, said there would be a social media, phone and post campaign to raise awareness.
“We can’t do enough of that constant drip, drip, drip of reminding people.”
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