Craig Humphrey is used to being at the forefront of events – he was the first politician leading a local authority in the UK to have his role expand to include executive functions back in 2010.
Now the man who was praised for his leadership by former Prime Minister David Cameron is behind another innovation, this time designed to boost business in Coventry and Warwickshire. Business Solutions is ground-breaking, the first of its kind in its sector, sitting within the Growth Hub at Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership but offering advice on a commercial basis to companies who need help beyond the free services provided by the Growth Hub.
Craig, MD of the Growth Hub and a driving force behind Business Solutions, is excited about the potential of the new service to accelerate growth in the local economy.
“If you cast your minds back to a time when this region was a leading light in the automotive sector in the Sixties we did a great job in selling this region to the outside world and many people came in, attracted by the employment,” explained Craig.
“I believe that we are returning back to those days …. attracting people from outside into the local economy and therefore adding value.
“One of our Achilles’ heels in the past was a transient student population who came to some wonderful education institutions and afterwards left to go elsewhere. Now, with a change in vision, and linking the importance that cultural assets play like that the City of Culture will bring, alongside the desire to have more aspirational homes, we’re able to retain some of that talent.
“One of the key ingredients of a growing economy is access to refreshed talent and that’s something that’s changed during my time of working in our sub region.”
There are three areas where he believes Business Solutions may prove transformational – helping promising SMEs to ‘scale up’ effectively, pairing businesses together to facilitate mergers and acquisitions locally, and attracting talent to the area.
Scaling up is a challenge: the UK is third out of 35 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for start-ups but 13th out of 35 for scaling up.
“We need to be more productive for the UK economy to be successful, encouraging companies with potential to Scale Up. The OECD definition of a scaling company is 20 per cent growth year on year over 3 years. Our ambition is to identify those companies across Coventry and Warwickshire who can, with support, get on the journey to that level. If they show capability, capacity and ambition then we should be working with them”, commented Craig.
The Growth Hub would identify companies then Business Solutions would offer help, using mentors with successful business careers to pass on their knowledge, expertise and advice on how to grow a company to the next level.
“Getting people of the right calibre can be cost-prohibitive for an SME,” said Craig. “I would like to see us able to remove the upfront cost of introducing this level of expertise and then base any remuneration based on the growth achieved.
“If we are confident that by introducing the right calibre of mentor, we can take the company on that scalable journey we should be confident enough to do that.”