So what is behind all the fuss about the SME Instrument coaching services?
As part of Horizon 2020’s SME Instrument, the European Commission is providing business innovation coaching services to its Phase 1 and Phase 2 project beneficiaries (3 days and 12 days respectively), an important feature that distinguishes this Instrument from other SME funding schemes. The aim is to create a permanent learning effect that will build the beneficiary’s innovation and business capacities. Participation is mandatory and the choice of coach, from an available database of coaches, must be made before project kick-off. Seems simple enough right?
Wrong! As it turns out, some of our clients feel that they don’t really need a coach. Maybe it’s because they have managed to come so far without one? I guess it’s because they’re so delighted to have received recognition of their innovative, disruptive idea and marketing potential that they’re in a state of blissful happiness, excited about realising their projects, forgetting about the many benefits such expertise advice could bring them.
What added value can coaching bring to your company?
Whether you’re a small start-up still structuring and building your company’s team or whether you’re a more established SME with an already experienced management team on board, you could always use a fresh pair of eyes. We all have the inherent tendency to think in certain ways or patterns, we process information differently, we have certain routines and behaviours that influence the decisions we make on a daily basis.
"We all fall into that proverbial box. This is exactly when a coach can come in handy and help you start thinking outside of that box"
A coach may approach problems in a new way, conceptualize them differently, find means to tackle challenges you thought were unbeatable. As an innovative company you have a mission, a vision and so you have a business strategy in play to achieve your goals. A coach can help you re-design your business and marketing strategies so as to allow your business to grow and thrive. Aid you with deciding which direction is the most practical and feasible for your company’s success. They can effectively bring your company added value by showing you a new perspective on which stakeholders to approach, what new partnerships can or even need to be developed (distributors, suppliers, private investors, etc.), which potential customers you can target or different distribution channels you could use. Moreover, coaches have strong industrial experience and vast networks of contacts that can facilitate the commercial launch of your product or service. They can open doors to new clients, partners and investors! The benefits are endless. Coaches are without a doubt, an inestimable source of information and contacts for you and your business.
“The experience was tremendously valuable and eye-opening”
Two of our clients actually could not stop praising their coaches and the wonderful impact they had on their companies and their business strategies. One of them, an IT start-up (beneficiary of Phase 1) offering cloud-storage services, had their business model reformulated to using a freemium model for their services. This enhancement took their feasibility assessment report to a whole new level which then became the core of their Phase 2 application. The case was pretty similar with another client of ours, also an IT company but specializing in clinical trials. The coach, too helped them re-design their business model. The CEO even stated that: “the experience was tremendously valuable and eye-opening”.
Picking the right coach for you and your company
- First of all, remember to take your choice seriously. You have an amazing chance to receive professional advice that could have a direct, positive impact on your company.
- Review the coaches’ profiles thoroughly an decide what to look for. Look for someone who has experience in your field/industry, has come across the same obstacles, has dealt with the same issues, challenged the same tasks or on the contrary, someone who has competencies that your company is currently lacking.
- Get to know your potential coach. Is he/she the right fit for your company? Is there “business chemistry” between the two of you? Even just a simple telephone conversation can tell you a lot about a person.
- And last but not least, don’t rush it! Our clients have approached us saying that choosing the wrong coach has done them more harm than good. So, take your time. Make picking the right coach for you a well thought-out decision process. Trust us, you will not regret it!
Małgorzata Wójcik, proposal writer, GAEU Consulting Horizon 2020 Centre of Excellence