5 ways to help your business thrive

5 ways to help your business thrive

I love working with small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), and feel privileged to be able to help them.

My appreciation of the different business support options available to SMEs really began when I ran a business with my husband. As we were new to running our own business, we reached out for support and discovered that there was a whole layer of advice and input open to us that we had previously been completely unaware of! 

Several years later I became involved in the delivery of a national business support programme which focused on coaching and training. We set up South West Growth Service nearly three years ago to serve businesses in the South West with a range of support services so I feel well placed to describe some of the forms of support that are available. I think of there being 5 key ways that external support can help you and your business thrive:

  • Coaching
  • Mentoring
  • Consultancy
  • Non-Executive Directors (NEDs)
  • Training


I like to define coaching as being akin to receiving input from a critical friend. Someone who wants you to succeed and can ask the difficult questions, helping you to vocalise your thoughts, reshape your plans and commit to a way forward. 

For me, coaching is the process that enables someone to move from where they are to where they want to be. A good coach has both useful life experience and quite probably access a range of tools and frameworks to help make things happen and will always blend the ability to push and to pace as appropriate for each coachee.

There are many very famous business people who speak positively about having a coach, not least Bill Gates who said “Everyone needs a coach. We all need people who will give us feedback, that is how we improve”. 


For me, mentoring is very much like coaching, the difference being that a mentor is someone who has been where you want to go and can introduce specific insights that are pertinent to the changes you seek to achieve.

I’ve often used the analogy that if you were planning a business trip, a coach would ask you all the helpful questions such as when you need to travel, what you need to take with you and what your budget might be etc. A mentor will have actually been there, so can guide you to find the best deal or the best route based on real experience.


I like to think of consultancy as being a professional practice that gives expert advice to your business. A consultant should bring expertise that is not already available and should be able to do the work required. They should be independent so that there is no conflict of interest between you, and they must be professional, by which I mean doing what they have promised to do in an agreed time- frame and budget.

Non-Executive Director (NED)

I’ve been an NED for many years for a local charity. A member of their Board of Trustees, my role is to provide strategic guidance and most importantly governance to ensure that the charity meets its charitable objects. I take this role very seriously, all the more so as I do it in a voluntary capacity.

A good NED will ask tough questions that enable the business to make better decisions and to stay on plan. I think there are several qualities that every NED needs to have which includes: emotional intelligence; the ability to evaluate people’s characteristics (and agendas) quickly and thoroughly; to know when to challenge and when to be quiet and let the conversation take its course. They should be competent in and have a good understanding of business strategy, managing performance, leading people and risk management. Typically a commercial NED is contracted to deliver a finite number of days per month, at an annually agreed fee and often for 2-3 years at a time. 


Training for me is the imparting of knowledge related to a particular skill or type of behaviour. The person being trained is then equipped with the necessary skills to either complete the task better or to complete a task that they were previously unable to do. Most times, training builds on existing skills, so for example improving listening skills in a client facing member of the team. Alternatively it may be opening someone to new knowledge such as how our brains work so that we can become more productive or learning about lean tools that can improve the way we work.

Often an external trainer can achieve more in less time with a group than someone within the business as they can cut through internal politics and bring with them the advantages of external insight from different environments.

At South West Growth Service we provide all of the services above, wrapped up in well over 120 years of experience. We offer a free, no obligation, session to explore what type of support will be most helpful to help you and your business thrive. See www.southwestgrowthservice.co.uk for more information.

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