Broader or deeper? Exploring the most effective intervention profile for public small business support

Broader or deeper? Exploring the most effective intervention profile for public small business support
Document type
Working Paper
Author(s)
Mole, Kevin; Hart, Mark; Roper, Stephen
Publisher
Warwick Business School
Date of publication
1 August 2009
Series
Warwick Business School’s Small and Medium Sized Enterprise Centre Working Papers
Subject(s)
Small business & enterprise: the practicalities of running a small business and the theory of entrepreneurship, Management & leadership: including strategy, public sector management, operations and production
Collection
Business and management
Material type
Reports

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This paper considers support for start-up firms and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK. In the UK services for SMEs are provided by Business Links which structures its support into non-intensive - one off contacts providing information or advice - and more intensive support involving a diagnostic process and repeated interaction with firms. A key choice for managers of Business Links is resource allocation between these two types of service – i.e. should support be broader or deeper? Drawing on resource dependency theory which combines elements of structure and agency, this paper develops a typology of intervention models for Business Links in the UK reflecting differences in the breadth and depth of the support provided. The paper then tests the impact of these alternative intervention models on client companies using subjective assessments of impact by firms and econometric treatment models allowing for the potential for selection bias. The analysis suggests two key empirical results. First, Business Links' choice of intervention model has a significant effect on outcomes, and secondly our results are consistent in emphasising the value of depth over breadth. The implication is that intensive assistance should perhaps be available to no more than 7-10 per cent of client firms and where additional resources are available these should be used to deepen the assistance provided rather than extend intensive assistance to a wider group of firms. This suggests that ideas such as mentoring that increase the deepening of advice may generate more positive effects than approaches that broaden advice such as an 'MOT for business'.

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