UK: Business Link proves its worth.

UK: Business Link proves its worth. - Business Link is a vast improvement on the hit-and-miss approach of earlier business advisory efforts. Despite inevitable teething troubles, the services it now offers are well-tailored to business needs. The next st

by Robert Gray.
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Business Link is a vast improvement on the hit-and-miss approach of earlier business advisory efforts. Despite inevitable teething troubles, the services it now offers are well-tailored to business needs. The next step is to ensure consistency across the board. And it's happening.

When Nadim Ednan-Laperouse decided he wanted to transform the contract design consultancy he established five years ago into a company which designs and manufactures toys under its own brand name, he contacted Business Link Central London. It supported him with general business advice, helped him find a part-time consultant to oversee manufacturing quality control and assisted with his successful application for a £20,000 grant under the DTI's Going for Growth scheme.

Almost a year later WOW Toys manufactures 18 different products, with about 80% of its sales in export markets. It has a £1-million turnover and distributors in the US, Canada, Iceland, Belgium, Holland, New Zealand and Australia - with Japan, France and Germany due to come on line in 1998. Meanwhile, the original contract design consultancy (20% of which is for foreign clients) thrives alongside.

'We couldn't have achieved what we set out to do without the help of Business Link,' says WOW's Ednan-Laperouse.

Similiarly when Salford-based NRG Software had problems developing a product that enables users to access data in a variety of computer applications for report-writing, Business Link helped its managing director Stuart Whistance see the wood from the trees by producing a management study for a mere £250 and giving the company export advice.

And when David Hansford, managing director of upmarket Mayfair hairdresser and colourist Jo Hansford, wants advice on expansion issues - the company has grown from seven to 40 staff in just four years, and intends to open further salons and to sell its own branded products through major retailers - he too turns to Business Link.

Larger companies have also had a helping hand from Business Link. Floor coverings company Amtico is a £50-million a year company, but when it started to look into the viability of doing business in central Europe, it was the local Business Link which helped provide up-to-date market reports and make contacts there.

England's network of local business advice centres for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), known as Business Link, is the legacy of Michael Heseltine's tenure as President of the Board of Trade. (The Scottish Business Shop, Business Connect, and Local Enterprise Development Unit (LEDU) provide similar services for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland respectively.) The thinking behind Business Link's genesis was to offer companies a local point of access to a subsidised business information and advice service.

This, went the reasoning, would be to the advantage of thousands upon thousands of firms up and down the land. Simplifying access to data and expert advice would save them time and trouble. They could concentrate on running their own businesses while someone else advanced solutions to their problems or tracked down the answers to their queries. 'They were designed to be proactive, the front-line teams were literally going to knock on the doors of companies and say, "Can we help?"' says Heseltine today.

The structure chosen for Business Link was a Conservative paradigm: the public/private sector partnership. Under the auspices of the DTI, organisations such as Training and Enterprise Councils (TECs), Chambers of Commerce, enterprise agencies, local authorities, and universities came together in partnership with useful commercial entities like banks, marketing consultancies, lawyers and accountants to set up what are in effect one-stop advice shops for SMEs. Most Business Link partnerships were set up under the co-ordination of TECs.

The first Business Link opened in September 1993 and the network was completed earlier this year. There are 89 Business Link partnerships in England overseeing some 240 advice centres on the ground (see directory, p133). Research for the last quarter of 1996 showed some 8,250 businesses a week were making use of Business Link services. This year the number has risen to over 10,000 companies a week. 'There's a very real demand out there and the reputation of Business Link is growing and spreading,' says Heseltine.

Dealing with such a volume of requests for data and advice clearly cannot be done on a shoestring. That is why the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has spent about £150 million on pump-priming the Business Link network, and why it has earmarked over £500 million for the seven-year period from 1993/4 to pay for the cost of providing ongoing services.

In return for this largesse, each Business Link partnership must attain certain standards or risk having its three-year licence revoked by the Government. As well as achieving the ISO 9001 Quality Management Standard and Investors in People status, it should satisfy an independent accreditation board that it has reached an acceptable level of customer service. Moreover, by its fifth year of operation, the DTI would like to see each Business Link partnership derive at least 25% of its income from the assistance it provides to business.

In its early days, Business Link experienced some teething troubles and came in for its share of criticism. An Institute of Directors (IoD) research paper published in February 1996 identified a number of concerns among IoD members as to the structure and performance of the network.

One criticism voiced by some IoD members was that Business Link's remit - to target businesses with growth potential, ie generally those with between 10 and 200 employees - might hurt smaller and start-up firms.

However, the majority of those surveyed were broadly enthusiastic: 84% of the businesses that had used Business Link found the services to be of some help. One IoD member quoted in the report said that the local Business Link had 'saved hours of information research, offering help that was relevant, timely and offered good ideas for the future'.

The co-author of the research paper, Ruth Lea, head of the Policy Unit at the IoD, said at the time of its publication: 'We are all in favour of Business Links and we believe that they should be made to work. We believe that in the long run Business Links will help to raise the quality of the advice available to small businesses and to reduce the wasteful duplication of services.' Almost two years on, the Business Link network is better established and many of the teething problems have been ironed out. At the heart of the Business Links is the service provided by over 650 generalist Personal Business Advisers (PBAs). PBAs build personal relationships with their clients, providing SMEs with long-term impartial advice. They must spend a minimum 60 hours a year undergoing training and continuing professional development - an effective staff development scheme is a requisite for Business Links achieving Investors in People standard.

A survey of PBAs last year scotched the myth that many were actually whiz kids under 30 with insubstantial business experience of their own.

The research showed that 98% were over 30 (most are aged between 30 and 50); 90% had run or managed a small business; 66% had been managers in larger organisations; 93% had a degree or equivalent professional qualification; 46% had experience in consultancy; and 34% had expertise in business counselling.

'We were impressed by how quickly he saw what the problems were,' says NRG Software's Whistance of his PBA, John Reynolds, at Business Link Manchester.

'He asked the right questions to help us move on and told us to concentrate on getting the product out to market. Business Link has a lot of expertise in there and we've had the benefit.'

Evaluation of Business Links, an Ernst & Young survey also published last year, concluded that PBAs were highly valued. In around 40% of cases, firms using PBAs considered it unlikely that they could have got the same results by seeking help elsewhere.

The idea is that PBAs provide external consultancy services, either free or at a cost significantly below open market rates. In so doing, they can help firms overcome the classic cultural, organisational and financial barriers to growth. They can offer counsel on issues such as structure, strategic planning, staff motivation, cash-flow control and help companies benchmark their performance against that of their competitors'. 'It's like having another management set-up on hand,' says Hansford.

PBAs are in essence general business advisers. They can bring in specialist business counsellors should companies need in-depth assistance in a certain area. There are about 250 specialist business advisers whose areas of expertise range from technology to finance, exporting, marketing and beyond.

Alternatively, PBAs can help companies hook up with specialist advice from outside the Business Link partnership, should the need arise.

According to a Business Link survey of those running the country's fastest expanding SMEs, the most significant brake on growth is sourcing finance. With this in mind, Business Links have been introducing a scheme to address this financing problem. The Financial Packaging Service - which was pioneered at Business Link Birmingham and Hereford & Worcester - is designed to provide small and medium-sized enterprises with advice on all traditional and alternative forms of finance and financial management procedures.

Walmley Repair & Care, a Birmingham-based vehicle body repairer, is one of the companies that has already benefited from the Financial Packaging Service. Prior to consulting Business Link, the company had both current and loan accounts at its bank but felt this arrangement to be inadequate.

Business Link put together a five-part package with a view to helping Walmley inject more capital into its business and improve cash-flow. The £155,000 loan account at the bank was changed to a building society commercial mortgage on the company's premises, enabling the charges on the directors' personal properties to be lifted. Factoring was introduced, which immediately provided the company with £28,000 of extra working capital - thereby removing the need for an expensive overdraft.

Walmley's current account was switched to another bank which offered lower charges, as well as a small working overdraft and a top-up small business loan. 'The effect of these changes has been to free up the company and allow us to look towards future expansion,' says Walmley managing director Jeanette Bellis. 'We're much healthier now, not under stress and much more confident. Business Link was very impressive.' On the matter of exports - one that is troubling many, particularly with the current strength of sterling - Business Links can help SMEs launch products into overseas markets. Among the companies already given assistance are a Yorkshire baker which is exporting baguettes to - of all places - France, and a West Midlands management training company which has found a market for its services in Russia.

A number of Business Link outlets are also home to IT Vision Centres, where companies can receive free demonstrations of the latest hi-tech hardware, e-mail systems and, of course, the Internet.

But what of the future? Will a new government herald wholesale change?

Heseltine takes the view that after a period of 'rapid expansion', the watchwords should be stability and solid professional management of the network, 'not gimmickry'. Fortunately, the concept of Business Link is one that enjoys cross-party support and, while it is sure to make some changes, the new Labour administration is not intending to throw Heseltine's baby out with the bathwater. In fact, Labour claims it deserves some credit for the baby's conception. 'We're fully supportive of the principle of Business Links,' says small business minister Barbara Roche. 'The idea of a one-stop shop was in our 1992 manifesto.'

The Labour government has already demonstrated its commitment with a couple of measures to raise the profile of Business Link. On 7 August, Classic FM began broadcasting the Business Link Business Tip of the Week, an evening segment in the national radio station's Classic Newsnight programme, sponsored by the DTI. The slot contains practical solutions provided by Business Link to pressing business issues. It has a 24-week run. The Government's second profile-raising initiative is the establishment of the Business Link expert panel to provide media comment on business matters. Membership of the panel is drawn from Business Link's best advisers.

'I'm backing these initiatives because the need for sound business advice has never been greater,' says Roche. 'Latest figures show that over 10,000 firms a week are using the Business Link network for help and advice for every aspect of running a business. Yet, despite resources shortages, many firms are still not turning to outside help when they need it most.

Business Links are tackling the real needs of business and helping them to win in global markets. These are new and important ways of making Business Link expertise accessible to firms.' Roche and her team are currently considering what improvements could be made to Business Link. A vision statement on the way forward for the network will be released this month. 'We want to bring everybody up to the standard of the best,' says Roche. 'The clear thing that we want to do is move forward on the basis of what we have with Business Link now.

We're looking at how we can improve and enhance it.' Although the Government is keeping its powder dry until the vision statement is released, it is known that the administration wants to improve the level of support offered in the key areas of exports and technology.

The notion of greater consistency across the network is one that finds favour with the Business Links themselves. 'I think what Barbara Roche is seeking to do is bring standards up,' says Business Link London Central chief executive Valerie Thompson. 'We're as good as the weakest point in our chain. It's important that every single Business Link represents the brand. In a way it's like a franchise - you need consistent quality.' The beefing up of the Business Link Network Company may go some way towards addressing the variable quality of Business Links. Former Business Link Thames Valley chief executive Peter Sinclair took over as the Network Company's first full-time chief executive this August, after persuading the DTI to allocate a pump-priming grant for the organisation that services the individual Business Link partnerships.

Staff numbers have been upped from two to eight and since summer this year the Network Company has been running an intranet system for the dissemination of information between Business Links. Added to this is the new Government's Access Business project, announced in July, which proposes bringing together business regulatory advice and information from across central and local government, making it readily available through, inter alia, Business Links.

Yet, despite these advances, there is still some pressure for greater change. While acknowledging an improvement in the quality of local business support in recent years, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) believe the system remains 'confusing, wasteful of resource and lacks sustainability in the longer term'. The BCC has prepared a Green Paper, The Future Chamber: Integrated Local Business Support for 2000 and Beyond, in which it proposes moving to a one-stop advice shop beyond Business Links.

'The way forward,' states the paper, 'is a single unified business organisation at a local level, embracing many if not most of the functions of TEC, Chamber and Business Link ... It presumes that the existing approved Chamber network, TECs and Business Links will disappear as legal entities and their functions be absorbed into the new body.' The BCC's deputy director-general, Ian Peters, adds: 'Business Links were a major step in the right direction in the rationalisation of business services. What we want to do is build on that. We still have a considerable duplication of effort at a local level. From a business point of view, it's a muddle, from a funding point of view, it's a waste of resource.' Heseltine disagrees with the view that the current system is confusing, but he is not completely at odds with the BCC. 'I spent a lot of time trying to persuade the TECs and Chambers to merge,' he recalls. 'My own view is that it will happen.'

The BCC opposed the blanket merger mooted by Heseltine in the early '90s, arguing that the independence of the Chambers might be threatened and that each should be free to decide on its own future. Since then, more than 10 Chambers have merged with TECs.

For his part, Federation of Small Businesses head of parliamentary affairs Stephen Alambritis would like to see Business Link give more start-up and smaller firms advice on matters such as VAT, PAYE and planning, but an extension of the scheme is unlikely. At the time Business Link was set up, the DTI took the view that that it would simply be too great an undertaking to service one-man bands and other tiny businesses. However, Alambritis does feel Business Link has made great strides in upping service quality. 'Where there is potential for growth in a business, the Business Link (partnerships) are beginning to come up with the goods,' he says.

Defining which companies genuinely have the capacity for substantial growth is far from easy - which is why the figure of between 10 and 200 employees has been used to define the target market. Clearly, though, many firms with fewer than 10 employees also have great potential for expansion, and it is in these cases that Business Links must use their judgment to assess whether their help might be a worthwhile use of resource.

If a small company's business case is sound, Business Links will help where they can.

PBAs at Business Links typically work alongside bankers, accountants and other intermediaries to identify those companies which are most likely to require their services. Businesses are sent all the relevant information on conferences, 'masterclasses' and the like. And some Business Links even produce newsletters distributed to the target companies in their region - Business Link London Central, for instance, publishes a quarterly magazine that is made available to 15,000 SMEs.

Confidence in Business Link has never been higher. The early problems have been overcome. As Ernst & Young concluded in its report, teething troubles 'were associated with the development phase rather than being intrinsic to the model'. Business Link London Central's Thompson is confident, too.

'One of the significant changes that has occurred between Government and Business Links is the Government handing over the role of developing services to us because we're closer to the market,' she says. 'I'd like to see the evident move towards Government not being over-prescriptive continue.' Today, looking back, Heseltine sees Business Link as a highly successful step on from the unco-ordinated 'patch-work quilt' of advice centres that had existed previously. Few will disagree with that. The hope is that the huge strides that have been made in improving services across the Business Link network will continue.

Key Business Link Services.

Management development

Help with devising business plans, managing strategic change, improving competitiveness and management skills

Export Advice on developing an export strategy designed to boost the percentage of turnover from overseas sales.


Help with more effective financial structuring, securing grants and other sources of finance

Innovation Advice on technology and design

Marketing Assistance with developing coherent marketing strategies to position and improve demand for products and services


Help with staff development and personnel issues


Access to the latest data covering areas such as market intelligence, supplier and product sourcing, grants, finance and regulatory matters

The Amtico Company

Market fact-finding reports proved 'very cost-effective'

The Amtico Company has been in the UK household and corporate floor coverings market for 30 years. Ten years ago it began an aggressive overseas expansion, concentrating mainly on the corporate market. Today the Coventry-based company, winner of the 1996 Management Today Best Factory Small Business Award, has a £50-million turnover, employs about 500 staff and sells half its product abroad.

In 1995 Amtico began investigating the viability of doing business in the central European markets of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Market development manager Simon Mercer contacted the UK embassies in those countries as part of his initial desk research but found himself referred back to an organisation on his doorstep - Business Link Coventry & Warwickshire.

Export adviser Mick Page outlined the services available. After these discussions, Amtico used the DTI's Market Information Enquiry Service (MIES) to get up-to-date market reports that were specially compiled by commercial staff at the embassies in the relevant countries. These reports cost £400 each and were delivered just before Christmas 1995. They were, says Mercer, 'very cost-effective'.

Business Link helped Mercer to arrange a programme of visits to suitable contacts in the three countries. These took place in January 1996. Amtico paid a nominal programme-arranging fee of about £60 per country. 'Simon had never used our export services before and I was delighted when he decided to use the fact-finding service and programme-arranging services in both markets,' says Page.

Under the Government's Export Markets Research Scheme, Amtico was able to claim back 50% of its fieldwork costs. To obtain the refund, worth several thousand pounds, Mercer had to submit a report. 'Once done, it's quite a useful process to have gone through,' he says.

The country visits led to the appointment of four distributors for the region. Growth of Amtico's business there will top 200% this year, although admittedly this is from a relatively low base in 1996.

Flex-Seal Couplings

Know-how accelerated the grant application process

With a turnover of £6 million, Flex-Seal Couplings designs, manufactures and markets a range of couplings for sewerage, drainage and other low-pressure applications. The company has used Business Link Sheffield for advice on three separate projects this year, always working closely with PBA Roger Tebb.

At the beginning of February this year, Tebb advised Flex-Seal that it would be eligible for an £8,000 Impact grant to help with a number of contracts it had gained to develop a product in the area of trenchless technology for jacking pipe couplings. This is a method of laying pipes that involves pushing them through a bored hole, excavated by a boring machine at the leading end of the pipe run.

Using this technique, which is more popular in Continental Europe than in the UK, the effort and disruption of digging open trenches is avoided.

The technique is particularly suitable where buildings, developed areas and highways or rivers make open trenches prohibitively expensive or physically impossible. The grant was approved less than two weeks after application.

Flex-Seal and its accountants also worked with Business Link to draft an application to the Department of Trade and Industry for Regional Selective Assistance, which was submitted on 30 May 1997. 'I was aware of the RSA grants anyway,' says Flex-Seal finance director and company secretary Andy Williams. 'But Business Link helped me finetune the application as they are handling this sort of thing all the time.'

Flex-Seal sought the grant because it is planning to relocate from two separate sites in Sheffield to a 25,000 sq. ft purpose-built facility on three acres at the Dearne Valley Enterprise Zone in Barnsley. The move should allow greater efficiency and permit further job creation (the company has already grown from 35 to 50 staff in the past 18 months). On 16 July 1997, the DTI approved a grant of £90,000.

The third project on which Flex-Seal used input from Business Link was for a pilot benchmarking scheme, linked to one of the top 10 accountancy firms, Grant Thornton, for which the company was charged £500.

'We are strong on business planning and budgetary control,' says Williams.

'But it re-emphasised where we were in the market and gave us a couple of new points to think about. Business Link has its finger on the pulse of various institutions in the region. It acts as a useful tool for businesses like us.'

Cresswell Engineering

Market information on new products proved invaluable Birmingham-based manufacturing company Cresswell Engineering decided late in 1995 to diversify its product range away from golf-course sprinklers into the production of bicycles. The sprinkler market appeared to be slackening off and the company knew it had strong bike designs - its innovative folding bike won the Best New Bicycle Award at the Birmingham Cycle Show in March 1996. But Cresswell faced the challenge of developing a market for totally new products. 'We realised we couldn't afford to rely completely on the slow development of the UK market and that we needed to develop overseas markets simultaneously,' says sales and marketing director Roger Taft. 'The only problem was that we had no export experience and didn't know where to start.' Taft contacted Business Link Birmingham whose export development counsellor, Ian Twyford, helped Cresswell (which has a turnover of £400,000 a year and a staff of nine) devise an export strategy. Twyford identified the Benelux countries, Germany, Japan and France as potentially strong markets.

He advised Taft to develop these markets and offered practical support every step of the way.

Cresswell began with Holland and Belgium. Business Link Birmingham researched possible distributors and narrowed them down to a list of 20.

It mailed them with Cresswell material that it had translated into Dutch. The results were encouraging enough for Taft to visit Holland. 'Ian persuaded me that you really need to get out there and visit the companies,' says Taft. 'If it hadn't been for him, I would never have gone to Holland at such an early stage. He gave me both the confidence to go and the contacts when I got there.' The trip led to the appointment of a Dutch distributor with which Cresswell continues to do business. In the first six months, Cresswell received 10 orders for £40,000-worth of bikes from this source. Folding bikes, tricycles, trailer tricycles and tandems are now being supplied to Germany, the Swiss market is showing signs of potential and 48 folding bicycles have recently been sold to Japan for evaluation by three different distribution companies.

Twyford used the Japanese External Research Association in Birmingham to research the Japanese market. He has also helped Cresswell secure funding to pay for market research travel and advice. The cost to Cresswell for Business Link's input has been just over £1,000.

NH Eastwood & Son

Design exercise that led to a business review

NH Eastwood & Son was founded in 1964. It has a turnover of £1 million and makes healthcare products for incontinence, respiration monitoring and pain relief.

For some time it has produced a bedwetting alarm to wake up children at the first traces of urine emissions, thereby helping them overcome the condition known technically as enuresis. 'Our product range had been angled towards the NHS,' says managing director Philip Eastwood. 'But as we are seeing the NHS gradually tighten its grip on spending and other people making purchasing decisions,we realised the product would have to be redesigned to be more consumer-oriented.' In the longer term, Eastwood predicts that consumers will take more responsibility for buying products such as the enuresis alarm. Consequently, the product, which is expected to have a lifespan of at least 10 years, had to be repackaged with this eventuality in mind.

The company contacted Business Link Hertfordshire in December 1996 for advice on selecting an external designer for the product and to ascertain whether any funding might be available for the revamp. PBA Stephen Sands, whose background is in marketing, and design counsellor Rob Doak pointed Eastwood in the direction of design consultancy Destec.

They told Eastwood that Business Link was prepared to pay 33% of the design costs - but would increase this to 50% if Eastwood underwent a business review to their satisfaction at a cost of £500.

'What started off as a design exercise became two-pronged as we got their help on business matters as well,' says Eastwood. Destec's plans went to a mould-maker in April and the product, which carries the name Vibrawake, was launched this September.

'For us the Business Link service has been excellent,' concludes Eastwood.

'But like everything in this world, I'd say you've got to be a little bit selective. We wanted a PBA with marketing experience because for a small company we consider ourselves quite strong on finance, so we wouldn't have wanted an accountant.'


(see West)


Contact: Len Cruddas

Tel: 01226 248088

Fax: 01226 291625


(Export desk: 01582 416999)


Contact: John Thomas

(Open Tuesdays and Thursdays)

Tel: 01582 705055

Fax: 01234 405088


Tel: 01582 705055

Fax: 01234 405088


Contact: Richard Garnett Harper

Tel: 01582 705055

Fax: 01582 705088


Contact: David Homer

Tel: 0121 6070809

Fax: 0121 6079899



Contact: Mark Allanson

Tel: 0161 762 3300

Fax: 01204 372018


Contact: Mark Allanson

Tel: 0345 660704

Fax: 0161 763 9989


Contact: Mike Short

Tel: 01405 767654

Fax: 01405 767519


Contact: Carol McDougall

Tel: 01274 751385

Fax: 01274 751387


(Lo-call: 0345 697866 all outlets)

Brighouse (HUB)

Contact: Jeff Colclough

Tel: 01484 400990

Fax: 01484 400672


Contact: Beverley Almond

Tel: 01924 470961

Fax: 01924 424863


Contact: Gillian Boulton

Tel: 01706 815155

Fax: 01706 819997


Contact: Amanda Harrison

Tel: 01422 320444

Fax: 01422 343899


Contact: Julia Davies

Tel: 01484 542111

Fax: 01484 427340


(central & southern) Histon (HUB)

Contact: Benita Benedetto

Lo-call: 0345 882255

Fax: 01223 235383


Chester (HUB)

Contact: Richard Holt

Tel: 01244 674111

Fax: 01244 674333

CHESHIRE (south & east)

see separate headings for Congleton; Crewe; Macclesfield

CONGLETON (south & east


Contact: Jeannie Gardner

Tel: 01260 294500

Fax: 01260 294501


Co Durham (HUB)

Contact: Paul Forsyth

Tel: 0191 374 4000

Fax: 0191 374 4010


Contact: Ron Batty

Tel: 0191 389 2648

Fax: 0191 387 1684


Contact: Alan Coultas

Tel: 01325 480891

Fax: 01325 467926


Contact: Eddie Hutchinson

Tel: 01207 509124

Fax: 01207 591477

Durham City

Contact: Ron Batty

Tel: 0191 3845407

Fax: 0191 3868673


Contact: Ken Greenfield

Tel: 0191 5863366

Fax: 0191 5180332

Sedgefield (SASDA)

Contact: John Robson

Tel: 01325 307270

Fax: 01325 307226


Contact: Andy Leitch

Tel: 01833 631851

Fax: 01833 637269

Wear Valley 1

Contact: John Elleker

Tel: 01388 776688

Fax: 01388 777116

Wear Valley 2

Contact: Carl Bendelow

Tel: 01388 527650

Fax: 01388 527461


(Lo-call: 01203 654321 all outlets)

Coventry (HUB)

Contact: Nick Madeley

Tel: 01203 654321

Fax: 01203 522908

Leamington Spa

(existing businesses)

Tel: 01203 654321

Fax: 01203 450242

(start-up businesses)

Tel: 01203 837893

Fax: 01203 654321


Contact: Nick Madeley

Tel: 01203 654321

Fax: 01203 641339


Contact: Nick Madeley

Tel: 01203 837800

Fax: 01203 837837


Contact: Nick Madeley

Tel: 01203 654321

Fax: 01789 414265

CREWE & NANTWICH (south & east


Contact: John Dunning

Tel: 01270 504700

Fax: 01270 504701


Administration Centre

Contact: John O'Brien

Business Link Cumbria

Fax: 01900 828228

Fax: 01900 828979


Contact: John Mooney

Tel: 01228 34120

Fax: 01228 515602


Contact: Harry Knowles

Tel: 01229 822132

Fax: 01229 813504


Contact: Deborah Conlin

Tel: 01539 726624

Fax: 01539 730928


Contact: Barbara Stephens

Tel: 0190 065656

Fax: 0190 067587


Contact: Diane McCracken

Tel: 01946 590777

Fax: 01946 590595




Contact: G Goucher

Tel: 01246 207207

Fax: 01246 233228


Contact: G Goucher

Tel: 01629 814881

Fax: 01629 814405


Contact: G Goucher

Tel: 01246 823773

Fax: 01246 823491


Derby (HUB)

Contact: Jonathan Olaofe

Tel: 01332 371071

Fax: 01332 299736

Derby Inner City

Tel: 01332 298123

Fax: 01332 298345


Tel: 01335 345694

Fax: 01335 345732

(Open Wednesdays and Thursdays)


Tel: 01773 841385

Fax: 01773 841523


Tel: 01238 551324

Fax: 01283 552566


Administration Centre

Contact: Bob Baggott

Tel: 01752 785785

Fax: 01752 785777


Tel: 01237 424585

Fax: 01237 426426

East Cornwall

Tel: 01208 74444

Fax: 01208 78742


Tel: 01392 490700

Fax: 01392 490499

Newton Abbot

Tel: 01626 834555

Fax: 01626 832474


Tel: 01209 314555

Fax: 01209 314442


Tel: 01752 208208

Fax: 01752 206152


Tel: 01803 546600

Fax: 01803 665522


Contact: Neville Deardon

Tel: 01302 761000

Fax: 01302 739999


(Lo-call: 0345 448844 all outlets)

Poole (HUB)

Contact: Beryl Kite

Tel: 01202 448807

Fax: 01202 448838


Contact: Val Pothecary

Tel/Fax: 01747 824065


Contact: John Woodall

Tel: 01384 868000

Fax: 01384 868400


(Lo-call: 0345 171615 all outlets)


Contact: Paul Blackett

Tel: 01245 293040

Fax: 01245 263657


Contact: Stuart Kappie

Tel: 01376 555800

Fax: 01376 555809


Contact: Theresa Harrington

Tel: 01702 481200

Fax: 01702 481209


Contact: Rosemary Wheatman

Tel: 01277 698600

Fax: 01277 698612

GATESHEAD (see Tyneside)


Contact: Robin Grist

Tel: 01452 509509 Fax: 01452 509500 Cinderford

Contact: Paul Stait

Tel: 01594 827444

Fax: 01594 827057


Contact: Peter Silvester

Tel: 01472 312121

Fax: 01472 312131



Contact: Derek Ogden

Business Link Halton

Tel: 0151 420 9420

Fax: 0151 420 9424


Contact: Jacky Stevens

Lo-call: 0345 354555

Tel: 01329 223222

Fax: 01329 223223


Contact: Jackie Stevens

Lo-call: 0345 354555

Tel: 01705 656333

Fax: 01705 696666


Contact: Jackie Stevens

Lo-call: 0345 354555

Tel: 01256 375500

Fax: 01256 476040


Contact: Jackie Stevens

Lo-call: 0345 354555

Tel: 01252 367400

Fax: 01252 319384


Contact: Jackie Stevens

Lo-call: 0345 354555

Tel: 01703 213000

Fax: 01703 227426



Abingdon (HUB)

Contact: Amanda Martin

Tel: 01235 442400

Fax: 01235 862211


Contact: Amanda Martin

Tel: 01295 255275

Fax: 01295 273115


Contact: Amanda Martin

Tel: 01865 792020

Fax: 01865 724243


Hereford (HUB)

Contact: John Saunders

Tel: 01432 356699

Fax: 01432 274499


Tel: 01568 616344

Fax: 01568 616355


Tel: 01386 555577

Fax: 01386 22878


Tel: 01905 611611

Fax: 01905 22878


St Albans (HUB)

Contact: Eric Peacock

Tel: 01727 813813

Fax: 01727 813443


Contact: Ian Bell

Tel: 01442 219933

Fax: 01442 219966

Lea Valley

Contact: Jeremy White

Tel: 01992 588950

Fax: 01992 636122


Contact: Philip Cook

Tel: 01462 484222

Fax: 01462 686868


Contact: Philip Chapman

Tel: 01438 310101

Fax: 01438 310001


Contact: Roger Harrop

Tel: 01923 495051

Fax: 01923 445050

Welwyn Hatfield

Contact: Keith Harding

Tel: 01707 377377

Fax: 01707 335000


Contact: Richard Turner

Tel: 01298 74000

Fax: 01298 74141


Contact: Vince Turton

Tel: 01482 215500

Fax: 01482 581555


Contact: David Main

Tel: 01983 535353

Fax: 01983 535354


For enquiries by post only, use the West Malling address below.

Contact: Wynford Jones

26 Kings Hill Avenue

Kings Hill

West Malling

Kent ME19 4TA

Tel: 0345 226655

Fax: 01732 874818


Tel: 0345 226655

Fax: 01732 874818


Tel: 0345 226655

Fax: 01732 874818


Tel: 0345 226655

Fax: 01732 874818


Tel: 0345 226655

Fax: 01732 874818


Tel: 0345 226655

Fax: 01732 874818


Tel: 0345 226655

Fax: 01732 874818

West Kent

Tel: 0345 226655

Fax: 01732 874818

LANCASHIRE (Fylde Coast)

Contact: Tony Shaw

Tel: 01253 897000

Fax: 01253 897001



Contact: Malcolm Childs

Tel: 01772 459000

Fax: 01772 450501


Contact: Philip Burgess

Freefone: 0800 696696 Fax: 01254 604604


Contact: Dr Lynne Taylor

Tel: 01524 384000

Fax: 01524 384001


Contact: Fred McClenaghan

Tel: 01695 50200

Fax: 01695 50112


Contact: Peter Moore

Tel: 0113 2470000

Fax 0113 2471111


Leicester (HUB) Contact: Ron Lynch

Tel: 0116 2559944 Fax: 0116 2553470


Contact: Claire Woodward

Tel: 01530 810470

Fax: 01530 510452


Contact: Sylvia Clayton

Tel: 01455 891848

Fax: 01455 891923


Contact: Dawn Brown

Tel: 01509 215415

Fax: 01509 211878

Market Harborough

Contact: Carol Twigg

Tel: 01858 461914

Fax: 01858 463321

Melton Mowbray

Contact: Pauline Mapletoft

Tel: 01664 410401

Fax: 01664 850016


Contact: Tracey Halliday

Tel: 01572 724321

Fax: 01572 724628


(Lo-call: 0345 574000 all outlets)

Lincoln (HUB)

Contact: David Rossington

Fax: 01522 574005


Contact: Yvonne Stevens

Fax: 01205 359388


Contact: John Stanley

Fax: 01427 617057


Contact: Teresa Sumpter

Fax: 01476 577781


Contact: John Oliver

Fax: 01507 600767


Contact: Kay Willis

Fax: 01775 712834


Contact: Alison Green

Fax: 01529 303339


Contact: John Oliver

Fax: 01754 761987


Contact: John Davis

Tel: 01724 272200

Fax: 01724 276773


Business Link London

(complete coverage of London)

Contact: Tony Drewitt

Freephone: 0800 997998

Tel: 0171 557 7300

Fax: 0171 557 7305

LONDON (central)

Contact: Valerie Thompson

Tel: 0171 316 1000

Fax: 0171 316 1001


Contact: Alan Calder

Business Link City Partners Tel: 0171 324 2700

Fax: 0171 739 2989


Contact: Raphiel Onikosi

Tel: 0171 275 6800

Fax: 0171 249 1347


Contact: Sam Castle

Tel: 0171 354 6400

Fax: 0171 704 2565

LONDON (east)

Tower Hamlets (HUB)

Contact: Graham Fisher

Tel: 0171 505 2525

Fax: 0171 505 2545


Contact: Pat Newton

Tel: 01708 760963

Fax: 01708 738787

Barking & Dagenham

Contact: Steve Aiton

Tel: 0181 591 6606

Fax: 0181 507 0803


Contact: Paulina Bishop

Tel: 0181 519 0396

Fax: 0181 503 0737


Contact: Alison Raphael

Tel: 0181 514 7524 Fax: 0181 478 6615


Contact: Sarah Webber

Tel: 0171 537 3033

Fax: 0171 538 8899

Waltham Forest

Contact: Bernadette Johnson

Tel: 0181 531 2100

Fax: 0181 523 3828

LONDON (north)

Contact: Alan Mitchell Rae

Tel: 0181 886 4111

Fax: 0181 882 6978


Contact: John Matthews

Tel: 0181 346 6220

Fax: 0181 343 3455


Contact: John Lindsay

Tel: 0181 443 4040

Fax: 0181 443 5312


Contact: Efflong Akpan

Tel: 0181 880 4475

Fax: 0181 880 4476

LONDON (north west)

Contact: John Daly

Tel: 0181 733 8000

Fax: 0181 733 8007


Contact: Alistair Fraser

Tel: 0181 427 6188

Fax: 0181 861 5709

LONDON (south)

Administration Centre

Contact: Jacqueline Ginnane

Tel: 0181 315 6666

Fax: 0181 464 8704


Contact: Joanne Davies

Tel: 0181 315 6666

Fax: 0181 315 6686

LONDON (south west)

Contact: Peter Nicholson

Tel: 0181 877 7000

Fax: 0181 877 3456

LONDON (west)

Contact: Miranda Cook

Tel: 0181 577 9119 Fax: 0181 570 9969

MACCLESFIELD (south & east Cheshire)

Contact: John Lamond

Tel: 01625 664400

Fax: 01625 664401


Manchester (HUB)

Contact: Peter Hills

Tel: 0161 237 4000

Fax: 0161 236 8878


Contact: Paul Shambrook

Tel: 0161 237 4050

Fax: 0161 231 0695


Contact: Wayne Wilson

Tel: 0161 742 4413

Fax: 0161 742 4401


Contact: Anne Maher

Tel: 0161 337 4216

Fax: 0161 337 4201

Trafford Park

Contact: Tony Pembrook

Tel: 0161 848 4312

Fax: 0161 848 4327


Liverpool (HUB)

Contact: Linda Bloomfield

Tel: 0151 236 0026

Fax: 0151 236 4013

Liverpool 3

Contact: John Murray

Tel: 0151 224 2445

Fax: 0151 224 2446


Contact: John Wright

Tel: 0151 224 2410

Fax: 0151 548 4007


Contact: Simon Mountney

Tel: 0151 224 2420

Fax: 0151 944 1464


Contact: John Wright

Tel: 0151 224 2440

Fax: 01704 539396


Contact: John Slamson

Tel: 01942 705750

Fax: 01942 705272


Contact: Michael Hind

Tel: 01908 660004

Fax: 01908 230130


Contact: Barry Tarling

Tel: 01603 218218 Fax: 01603 218219 Lowestoft

Contact: Harvey Richards

Tel: 01502 502200

Fax: 01052 502202

King's Lynn

Contact: Peter Bridgeham

Tel: 01553 666200

Fax: 01553 666201


Contact: Anne Grahamslaw

Tel: 01604 643777

Fax: 01604 670362


Blyth (HUB)

Contact: Liz Kirk

Tel: 01670 363239

Fax: 01670 363655


Contact: Sue MacKay

Tel: 01665 603726

Fax: 01665 510509


Contact: Jim Redpass

Tel: 01670 528206

Fax: 01670 528221

Berwick upon Tweed

Contact: Yvonne Patterson

Tel: 01289 331084

Fax: 01289 303255


Contact: Deborah Johnson

Tel: 01434 608932

Fax: 01434 608021


Contact: Emanuel Gatt

Tel: 0115 9111500

Fax: 0115 9111511


(Lo-call: 0345 573680 all centres)

Functional Support Centre

Contact: Linda Shepherd

Tel: 01623 825531

Fax: 01623 825304

Sutton in Ashfield

Fax: 01623 510047


Fax: 01623 825304


Fax: 01623 648579


Fax: 01636 605558


Fax: 01909 479710


Contact: Ed Stacey Tel: 0161 633 6336

Fax: 0161 633 6333


(see Heart of England)



Contacts: John Adams, Jenny Weston

Tel: 01733 451999

Fax: 01733 451900


Contact: Eric Howes

Tel: 01354 660999

Fax: 01354 660021


Contact: Peter McNally

Tel: 01780 480999

Fax: 01780 756462


(central England)

Contact: Jill Hall

Tel: 01527 515000

Fax: 01527 501221


Contact: Cliff Ellison

Tel: 01706 644664 Fax: 01706 713211


Contact: Andrew Milner Tel: 01709 371611 Fax: 01709 539004


Contact: Don Scriven

Tel: 0121 543 2222

Fax: 0121 543 2233


Contact: Colin Offer

Tel: 0114 2813813

Fax: 0114 281850/1


Telford (HUB) Contact: Justin Bartlett

Lo-call: 0345 543210 Tel: 01952 208200 Fax: 01952 208208

Craven Arms

Contact: Jill Stone

Lo-call: 0345 543210

Tel: 01588 672100

Fax: 01588 672205


Contact: Maureen Evans

Lo-call: 0345 543210

Tel: 01691 679915

Fax: 01691 670865

SOLIHULL (Central England)

Contact: Graham Colling

Tel: 0121 7048181

Fax: 0121 7048180


Bridgwater (HUB)

Contact: Steven Holmes

Lo-call: 0345 211112

Tel: 01278 436500

Fax: 01278 453058


Contact: Sandra Lavelle

Lo-call: 0345 211112

Tel: 01373 456150

Fax: 01373 453021


Contact: Ron Blundell

Lo-call: 0345 211112

Tel: 01643 700400

Fax: 01643 704500


Contact: Trisha Farrer

Lo-call: 0345 211112

Tel: 01823 340100

Fax: 01823 338245


Contact: Larry Smith

Lo-call: 0345 211112

Tel: 01935 403450

Fax: 01935 78550


Contact: Peter Hulmes

Tel: 01744 742000

Fax: 01744 742001


(Lo-call: 0345 202122)


Contact:Jennifer Carley

Tel: 01785 222300

Fax: 01785 225070


Contact: Joy Brassington

Tel: 01543 570501

Fax: 01543 577627

Stoke on Trent

Contact: Steve Colbert

Tel: 01782 202222

Fax: 01782 274394


Contact: Kevin Hunt

Tel: 0161 491 7300 Fax: 0161 491 7339 SUFFOLK

Lo call: 0345 254254

Contact: Peter Button

Tel: 01473 282800 Fax: 01473 288008 Bury St Edmunds

Contact: Albert Cook

Tel: 01284 757700

Fax: 01284 767157


Contact: Arnol Raine

Tel: 0191 5168088

Fax: 0191 5484044


Contact: Ermine Evans

Tel: 01483 713300

Fax: 01483 771507


Contact: Ken Calderwell

Lo call: 0345 830345

Tel: 01444 259200

Fax: 01444 259255


Lo-call: 0345 556575; International

callers: 01642 341431 all outlets


Contact: George Rafferty

Fax: 0345 697728


Fax: 01642 341826


Fax: 01642 341720


Fax: 01642 341610


Reading (head office)

Contact: Roy Knott

Tel: 0118 9210320

Fax: 0118 9753051


Contact: Brian Paine

Tel: 01296 392288

Fax: 01296 434142


Contact: David Balmer

Tel: 01753 512288

Fax: 01753 533523


Gateshead (HUB)

Contact: Irene Mulharron

Tel: 0191 491 6161

Fax: 0191 491 6199


Contact: Carrie Kiarnan

Tel: 0191 477 5544

Fax: 0191 477 4650

Newcastle upon Tyne

Contact: Paula Hill

Tel: 0191 230 5989

Fax: 0191 230 5517

North Shields

Contact: Ann Dawson

Tel: 0191 200 6262

Fax: 0191 296 4499

South Shields

Contact: Lindsay Glynn

Tel: 0191 4283400

Fax: 0191 4283399


Contact: Lisa Pritchard,

Tel: 01606 868000

Fax: 01606 861465


Contact: Angela Patterson

Tel: 01924 299299

Fax: 01924 201888


Contact: Linda Harrison

Tel: 01924 299299

Fax: 01977 516154


Contact: Reshma Mistry

Tel: 01924 299299

Fax: 01924 291397


Contact: Bob Boswell

Tel: 01922 433333

Fax: 01922 433343


Contact: Phillipa Sudlow

Tel: 01925 668000

Fax: 01925 668008

WEARSIDE (see Sunderland)


(Lo-call: 0345 678100)

Bristol (HUB)

Contact: Phil Smith

Tel: 01179 737373

Fax: 01179 238024


Contact: Roger Williams

Tel: 01225 338383

Fax: 01225 443220


Contact: David Knight

Tel: 01761 411800

Fax: 01761 411431

North Somerset

Contact: Angela Hicks

Tel: 01934 418118

Fax: 01934 629541

South Gloucestershire

Contact: Kathy Morris

Tel: 01454 888181

Fax: 01454 888191

WIDNES (see Halton)



Contact: Linda McCrum

Tel: 01249 445511

Fax: 01249 448270


Contacts: Catherine Cade, Helen Thompson

Tel: 01793 488088

Fax: 01793 485186


Contact: Sharon Brockwell

Tel: 01722 411052

Fax: 01722 415447


Contact: Paula McGrane

Tel: 01225 774222

Fax: 01225 774018


Contact: Tom Kenny

Tel: 0151 650 6900

Fax: 0151 650 0101


Contact: Graham Ashmore

Tel: 01902 824200

Fax: 01902 824201

WYRE FOREST (central England)

Contact: G Smith

Tel: 01562 828200

Fax: 01562 827555


Contact: Helen West

Tel: 01904 656769

Fax: 01904 686020

For information on your local Business Link equivalents in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, call 0345 567765.

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime