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17 January 2020

Puff Story - investing in talent can drive business

Guest blog: Puff Story, Director at 3 Sided Cube

With over 50,000 businesses in Dorset, small to mid-size enterprises (SMEs) sit at the heart of our economy. Their competitiveness, innovation and growth directly impact the overall economic success and productivity of our region.

Yet several challenges face Dorset’s SMEs - the biggest of all being access to, and retention of, an appropriately skilled workforce. With technology moving at such a pace, courses struggle to keep up with industry developments. Too often fresh-faced graduates need re-training and tend to lack softer work skills and practical experience that can only be acquired through on-the-job training.

However, we mustn’t let convention dictate how we find, recognise and harness talent. At 3 Sided Cube, our Cube Academy offers paid work opportunities for students from local schools, colleges and universities and gives them real client work experience alongside their studies. Once they’ve built up their skills, by learning from our own team, we offer them the chance to join us as permanent employees. Training the next generation of developers, designers and marketeers not only benefits our organisation but the whole of Dorset’s creative sector. SMEs across Dorset should be encouraged to embrace this type of early investment in young talent to the benefit of all; the Dorset 2020 Employer Skills Survey is a brilliant opportunity for businesses to help future-proof strategic investment in skills and training provision across Dorset, and I encourage all employers to complete it.

We need to sharpen networking in Dorset. There is a tight network in Dorset but bringing new people into this existing network is quite hard. We’ve got so many outstanding, experienced business leaders here that could easily help early SMEs build their networks. It’s happening in pockets, but not as extensively as it needs to. We need to recognise and better tap into our local experienced workforce.

Similarly, better collaboration is a key scale up enabler for SMEs in Dorset. Open, honest and transparent workshops led by high-growth businesses would give vital support for SMEs and help them learn and grow at a faster, earlier and more efficient pace. Dorset is already pretty good at being collaborative, especially in the creative sector.  At 3 Sided Cube we enjoy a very positive collaboration with local digital agency Crowd, who have shared their experiences of scaling up internationally. By being honest and open and sharing experiences of what’s worked and not worked for them has been incredibly valuable to us as we embark on our own scale-up journey in the United States later this year.

We need more of this type of collaboration but on a larger scale, and at a cross-sector level too. We shouldn’t see other businesses as competition - we will be more successful if we work collaboratively. If businesses stay true to their USPs and stick to what they’re good at then there’s more than enough work for everyone. We really can help each other make the sum of our parts bigger, better and more successful than we ever will be in isolation.

There is already plenty of innovation happening across Dorset, and we have the opportunity to be bolder and louder about what we’re doing. We need a platform for people to share and celebrate successes - failures too - so that we can acknowledge and learn from them. And this is where collaboration comes in again, so that we can inspire people to innovate, share where it’s happened, what went well – and what didn’t. Businesses need to have the confidence to know that it’s OK to try something new - and if it fails then that’s fine too, you learn and move forward. 

And finally, another key challenge for smaller organisations in Dorset is access to funding. It’s just not reaching as many SMEs as it should, and huge growth opportunities are being missed.  There is a disconnect between available funding and access to it. Better awareness and signposting about where the funding opportunities lie and guidance on eligibility and how best to apply for it is paramount if we want Dorset’s SMEs to scale up faster and be more productive. Dorset Gateway, for example, is one of a number of local business support services offering free advice and information on a range of local and national funds for enterprises. More businesses in Dorset should take advantage of this type of service that are available to them.

Dorset’s SMEs face big challenges and big opportunities - and that’s what’s exciting. We have an ageing population, some very grand Smart City plans, a 5G testbed, a big increase in digital tech jobs, and a commitment to making Dorset greener. We have a talent pool of young, digitally savvy people that can use new technology, Big Data and AI to solve some incredible, meaningful problems. We need to play to our strengths, connect everything and work together. There is no limit to Dorset’s success if we unleash the potential of our SMEs.

 

Dorset Gateway is Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership’s business support service, free to any Dorset based businesses looking for help to source appropriate solutions for growth and development. It offers an extensive business support service including advice on access to funding, finance, mentoring, business planning and training.  Find out more about Dorset Gateway’s services here.

 

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