Like many cities, Wolverhampton faces a number of economic challenges over the next few years. One that is likely to be felt all over the country is the pressure on local businesses of all sizes to remain competitive. The launch of a new business partnership in the region is therefore welcome and timely.
The Wolverhampton Business Solutions Centre is believed to be the first of its kind in the country. A partnership of five leading organisations, the Centre provides integrated business solutions to companies of all sizes and sectors. By bringing together the University of Wolverhampton, Black Country Chamber of Commerce, City of Wolverhampton College,
Wolverhampton City Council and Business Link West Midlands, local companies have access to a one-stop solution to their business queries and needs.
Based at Wolverhampton Science Park, the Centre provides a friendly and professional service which is designed to understand the needs of a business before managing the relevant solution.
This can draw on the full range of services available across the partners, such as planning regulation support from the City Council or academic expertise at the University.
Director of Business Solutions, Marc Fleetham, explains: “We are providing a package of solutions rather than a ‘one-off’ piece of advice. The aim is to build a relationship with the businesses, so they are guided, nurtured and supported. When new opportunities come about we can contact them and build a real network of companies.
“It is about building a business community, but with the support of five major partners – the unique thing, we believe, is having those partners working together within a single unit.”
The support can include advice about services to develop an existing business, such as professional consultancy services, market/ product research and networking organisations.
The Centre can also provide suggestions about how to inject fresh ideas into a business, for example by working with students and graduates, enlisting an apprentice or retraining existing employees.
People can also find out more about the regulations and policies companies need to be aware of and implement.
Help is available to businesses of any size and at any point in their life cycle, including individuals looking to launch a new company.
Marc continues: “We want to support businesses at the incubation stage, the fledgling businesses that have been trading for 12 months or fewer and the more experienced our focus is to help businesses improve competitiveness, create wealth and jobs, and feed that back into Wolverhampton. ones as well – they can still benefit from our packages. We want to give businesses access to the skills and resources they need, regardless of the stage they are at currently.
“There are key phases in a business life cycle where they may hit a barrier and it is critical they have resources available to enable them to build and develop.”
Businesses will benefit from a project manager who finds the information or locates the services they require from the five partners. The service is impartial and confidential and provides access to experts who will work alongside the business to develop the most relevant solution. This also enables resources, skills and knowledge to be shared between the partners for the benefit of the business community.
The Centre was officially launched at a special event in September attended by representatives of the five partners, local businesses and the Mayor of Wolverhampton, Councillor Malcolm Gwinnett. Professor Ian Oakes, Pro Vice-Chancellor Research and Enterprise at the University, has had a key role in developing the partnership.
At the launch, he said: “Our focus is to help businesses improve competitiveness, create wealth and jobs, and feed that back into Wolverhampton. I am delighted that the partnership has come together.” Councillor Paddy Bradley, Cabinet Member for Regeneration & Enterprise at Wolverhampton City Council, also emphasised the importance of the Centre for the local business community.
“The Business Solutions Centre is an extremely important innovation. We have been working on it for 12 months or more and the facilities are very good. We are grateful to the University for taking it on board and running with it,” she said.
Local businesses that could benefit from the services of the Business Solutions Centre were invited to Innovate4Success, a keynote event following the launch.
Hamish Taylor, an inspirational leader on innovation and change management, shared his expertise and provided insightful advice about how to innovate for success to around 100 businesses.
For all those involved, this is the perfect time to launch a Centre focused on supporting businesses through the challenges ahead.
As Marc Fleetham says: “We have been through a recession and are hopefully coming out the other side of that. Businesses need to have confidence in what they are doing. The Business Solutions Centre offers an opportunity for them to engage with a fully inclusive partnership arrangement to grow their business.”
To contact the Wolverhampton Business Solutions Centre:
Pictured left to right: Steve Boyes from Wolverhampton City Council, Ian Grewcock from Business Link West Midlands, Professor Ian Oakes from the University of Wolverhampton, Margaret Corneby from the Black Country Chamber of Commerce and Bhanu Dhir from the City of Wolverhampton College.