Having received a cold call from one of the companies delivering the government’s recent Growth Voucher Scheme, I was persuaded to go and meet a business adviser who would explain all about it.
I went to the meeting at Salford Quays and met the appointed adviser. He explained that there were 5 areas that the voucher scheme would consider and that if we were successful in our funding application then we would be eligible for 50:50 matched funding up to £2,000. During my initial telephone call I had expected to have an in-depth conversation about our business and where the scheme might be most helpful, but no, the meeting was really about pushing on with the application, for which the company would be paid (irrespective of whether or not the application was successful).
So, I agreed that he could apply for the funding because there was no compulsion to take the voucher forward even if our application was successful.
The result was that I received a text message on my way back to the office to say that (surprise, surprise) we had been approved. All i needed to do was to decide what support was needed and then to choose a suitable consultant.
The whole point of the cold call is to get a meeting arranged and the method is simple: the caller dangles the carrot of government funding and the meeting is purely about getting an application ‘in’ because the company that is running the scheme on behalf of the government gets a fee from the applications and from the appointed consultants. The company is making money hand-over-fist, to the point that they’re outgroing they’re offices and are having to expand the operation.
I remember the then DTI schemes that included government grants for marketing consultancy and for quality assurance (BS5750 as it was). The scheme that ran until the mid-90s was tightly regulated and the reports that the consultants produced was written by people within the company that had won the business (albeit with the carrot grant funding). That particular management consultancy was run by time-served business people who did, in my opinion, add real value to their client companies.
This scheme feels like a sausage machine where the sausage maker, if you forgive analogy, doesn’t really care how good the raw material is because they’re going to get paid regardless and the more they produce, the more they’ll get.
I am all for governments to help to boost the economy, but I sometimes think that such schemes are designed purely for the headlines rather than to really help those businesses that could do with professional assistance.