What Can We Do For You?
The Local Enterprise Office offers a range of complementary supports to entrepreneurs and budding entrepreneurs. The supports range from providing an initial "First Stop Shop" service where individuals can receive advice on the steps involved in setting up a business, to the provision of grants for feasibility studies, provision of financial support for the establishment of new businesses or expansion of existing ones and the provision of a range of soft supports such as training and mentoring. The range of supports is designed to assist businesses to grow stronger and bigger by being able to provide targeted, and appropriate, assistance at each stage of their development. These supports are outlined in more detail in the following sections.
First Stop Shop
Local Enterprise Office, Longford is the first port of call for those needing information and advice on how to go about setting up or expanding a micro business venture. Our open door policy with respect to business advice/counselling services and information provision, allows us to maximise our resources and more effectively meet our community and clients needs. In response to client demand, LEO, Longford has developed a range of information services that we can provide directly, or refer clients to, including: access to a selection of business publications and periodicals, access to sources of market information, access to internet research, advice on business registration, advice on patents and intellectual property, advice on company law requirements, information on employment and health and safety legislation, guidance and direction on local and national support schemes and programmes operated by other public agencies, referrals to experienced business professionals, access to the range of supports provided by the boards
LEO, Longford offers a variety of financial supports to assist the start-up, development and expansion of small businesses in the manufacturing and services sectors employing ten or less people. Capital grants up to a maximum level of €75,000 are available for machinery and equipment purchases or for purchasing or altering business premises. Since 2000, a proportion of the total financial supports provided by LEO, Longford each year must be in a refundable form. Accordingly, repayable grants may be provided in which case the grants are issued subject to the normal conditions, such as production of invoices for eligible expenditure. Promoters then have to make repayments in accordance with agreed schedules, usually following an initial moratorium period. Employment grants towards the cost of labour are available to incentivise job creation in new/expanding projects. A grant of up to €7,500 for each job, up to a maximum of 10 jobs, may be provided. Feasibility grants may be provided to assist with the cost of necessary pre-start-up studies carried out for the purposes of assessing market interest in and demand for a proposed new product or service, the appropriateness of the associated funding plans and the general viability and sustainability of the venture. The maximum feasibility grant available is €7,500.
Soft Supports Training
The range of skills and knowledge needed by aspiring entrepreneurs can be extremely daunting as they try to get started in business. Small businesses are usually driven by one or two highly motivated people and they will know that they will often have to be the Managing Director, Personnel Manager, Financial controller and Marketing Manager all at the same time. Critically important success factors, therefore, for accelerating business growth and consolidation, include knowledge and intellectual input and skills/expertise resourcing.
Today's business promoters need good management competences to include budgeting, marketing, HR and resource planning skills. They need to be conversant with all regulatory requirements which impact on their operations whether in the field of corporate governance, health and safety or workers rights. Their employees too must have the necessary knowledge and skills to enable the functions of business, manufacturing and service provision to be performed efficiently, competitively and in a manner conducive to long-term sustainability.
To assist small business in meeting these challenges, LEO, Longford provides a wide range of "soft" supports, which are geared to meet specific business needs. Typically this includes training programmes, work-shops, seminars and mentoring services. All training programmes are business-specific in content and are designed through consultation with participating enterprises. Flexibility of approach is the key consideration involved. LEO, Longford normally sub-contracts the provision of these supports to specialist providers, where this is more efficient and/or most cost effective. While training content can be tailored to the particular knowledge and skills requirements of individual clients, certain common themes are ever popular and in high demand. Examples are start-your-own-business-programmes, management development courses, sales /marketing courses, financial management training, e-commerce and IT skills training, etc. Various women-in-business initiatives and networks are also in place with a view to encouraging higher female participation in entrepreneurial and business activity.
A significant and much utilised component of the "soft" support intervention of LEO, Longford is our mentor programme. This particular programme seeks to match up the knowledge, skills, insights and entrepreneurial capability of experienced business practitioners with small business owners who need practical and strategic one-to-one advice and guidance. The mentor contributes independent, informed observation and advice to aid the decision-making and action planning functions of the client but does not become involved in the day-to-day management of the client's business. Assignments under the programme are normally short-term and are governed as to duration, confidentiality, etc. by contract between mentor and client. The specialist fields for mentor engagement typically include general management, financial structuring, production planning, marketing, distribution, corporate organisation and strategic planning.