There are six main stages in the Growth Vouchers programme:
Stage 1 is the initial application stage in which businesses apply to join the programme. The application process must be completed online at GOV.UK.
The Growth Vouchers programme is open to any business based in England that has been running for at least one year, has fewer than 50 employees, and has not paid for external strategic advice in the past three years.
As part of the application process, eligible businesses will complete a brief questionnaire that is designed to help assess what type of business advice might benefit them most.
At Stage 2, businesses carry out an assessment of their business advice needs. They can do this by completing an online assessment or meeting with an adviser. Meetings with an adviser may be carried out over the telephone but most businesses will book an appointment and arrange to meet in person.
At Stage 3, businesses will receive a recommendation for advice in one of five areas (see below) and then select their preferred area of advice. Businesses will then be told whether they have been allocated a Growth Voucher to help pay for the cost of advice.
A majority of businesses that reach this stage will receive a voucher. This allocation will be random: no assessment about the viability of the business will be made. This is to ensure that a wide range of businesses receive a voucher and that the impact of advice can be measured effectively.
Growth Vouchers may be used to subsidise one of the following five types of advice:
• Raising finance and managing cash flow
• Marketing, attracting and keeping customers
• Making the most of digital technology
• Improving leadership and management skills
• Recruiting and developing staff
At Stage 4, businesses select a supplier from the list of registered providers on an online marketplace.
This online portal is managed by Enterprise Nation. It contains hundreds of suppliers of expert advice in each of the five areas above. Suppliers are selected based on their experience, qualifications and membership of organisations recognised for setting the standards for advice on these important topics.
Some of the providers in the marketplace also offer advice on a much wider range of topics that can help businesses grow.
Stage 5 requires businesses to make arrangements to receive their selected advice. It is essential at this stage that the business agrees a price for the advice and checks whether it is suitable to be subsidized using a Growth Voucher. Vouchers will cover up to half of the cost of advice, up to a maximum of £2,000 (non-inclusive of VAT). Businesses may pay more, if they choose, but the maximum they can claim back is £2,000.
At Stage 6, businesses can submit a claim for their subsidy. They will have to provide evidence that the invoice has been paid and details of the advice they received. Claims will be processed on receipt and paid within 30 days.
There are three main treatments in this RCT:
• Personal business advice assessment
• Online business advice assessment
• Growth Vouchers
As shown above, all businesses will be sent to the online marketplace.
Treatment allocations map onto the journeys that a business might take through the Growth Vouchers programme.
Personal business advice assessment
This is an in-depth assessment conducted with the help of an expert business adviser. Assessments will mostly take place face-to-face but are also available over the telephone and via online voice or video calls.
Businesses will be able to discuss their plans for growth, current concerns about strategy and so on. They then agree which area of advice is most important for them with their adviser. Advisors will write up an action plan that notes which area of advice was agreed and details some specific next steps.
The personal business advice assessment is designed to give real value to small businesses, even if they do not receive a Growth Voucher.
Businesses can choose from one of five geographical regions in England, in order to identify the appropriate regional delivery partner for their assessment. Businesses may then contact their delivery partner directly or wait to be contacted in order to arrange an appointment.
All businesses will be offered an appointment within two weeks of completing their application for the programme.
Online business advice assessment
This is a simple, online questionnaire that was developed in conjunction with a number of leading national professional bodies. The questions cover all five areas of advice, so that businesses fully consider the options available to them.
On completing the questionnaire, businesses will receive a recommendation on the area of advice best suited to them. This recommendation is not be prescriptive – each business may choose to accept it or select a different area of advice.
Businesses will access the online business advice assessment directly after confirmation that they are eligible to participate in the Growth Vouchers programme. Alternatively, it is accessible via a link that will be emailed to a business should it prefer to complete the assessment later on.
Businesses may use a Growth Vouchers to claim up to 50% of the cost of any strategic advice, up to a value of £2,000 (non-inclusive of VAT).
There are effectively five types of Growth Voucher, each valid for only one area of advice:
• Growth Voucher for: raising finance and managing cash flow
• Growth Voucher for: marketing, attracting and keeping customers
• Growth Voucher for: making the most of digital technology
• Growth Voucher for: improving leadership and management skills
• Growth Voucher for: recruiting and developing your staff
That is why Growth Vouchers are only allocated to a business after it selects an area of advice.
This sequencing and the fact that Growth Vouchers are valid for only one area or advice means that we can analyse whether subsiding advice in one area or another results in a greater return on investment. This is in addition to analysing the impact of offering Growth Vouchers overall.
Vouchers may be spent only with accredited suppliers for the Growth Vouchers programme. All such suppliers will be registered on the online marketplace hosted by Enterprise Nation.
To note, businesses that are not given a Growth Voucher will also be directed to the online marketplace but will not receive a subsidy for any advice they purchase.
The online marketplace has been developed by the private sector and is hosted by Enterprise Nation. Hundreds of accredited, expert suppliers will be listed and easily identifiable by the Growth Vouchers logo pinned to their profile.
Businesses will use this portal to identify an appropriate supplier of advice in their specific area. The marketplace cannot be used to process any transactions: businesses will need to contact suppliers themselves, agree a level of advice and arrange to receive it, pay the supplier and then claim their subsidy by redeeming their Growth Voucher.
Businesses will be encouraged to leave feedback on their chosen supplier, which should help others judge whether a given supplier is likely to offer a good service and value for money.