Craig Humphrey, the managing director of the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub, says the organisation is providing reassurance to businesses as well as information and help during the Coronavirus.
“In the last seven days, we have seen demand rise by 300 per cent throughout all our channels, whether that is over the telephone, email or website enquiries which is understandable as businesses seek answers to help keep their companies going,” he said.
“I have always stressed the importance to our account managers at the Growth Hub of face-to-face meetings and its value has been underlined since the Covid-19 crisis began.
“It has been difficult for research institutions and those who conduct surveys to contact businesses for information because many people have had to close their premises and work from home, so normal routes to contact companies are not available.
“The reason account management is so important is that we have a great understanding of the business landscape to a very detailed level – including very good contacts.
“That has allowed us to access key individuals within companies quickly and easily and feed the information back to Government to help them provide the support which businesses need right now.
“The Growth Hub team has been brilliant and I don’t think you can overstate how important it is for businesses to have someone to talk to.
“There is so much uncertainty, that having a friendly ear to talk to – one who knows the landscape but can also take a wider view – when very little is making sense, shouldn’t be under-estimated.
“Since the lockdown began, our reach across Coventry and Warwickshire is unprecedented.
“Our online service has had nearly 300 enquiries since it went live which is throwing up all sorts of questions.
“We have sent 62 questions to HMRC around the furlough of staff because when schemes such as this are announced, we may interpret what is said one way but it could mean something else, and mis-information is as bad as no information at all.
“We need to be absolutely clear that the advice that we’re giving is correct which is why we submitted 62 questions to HMRC for clarification. If not, it will return to bite us.
“Given my experience of working in Coventry and Warwickshire and as Cluster Lead for the West Midlands Growth Hubs, the last few weeks have demonstrated once again that our area is one of the most joined-up in the country.
“When you have a crisis like this, it puts it to the test. No matter who a business has contacted in Coventry and Warwickshire, each support organisation has worked to deliver the right answers.
“Many businesses are being routed in the direction of the Growth Hub because it is easier and more effective to keep one website up-to-date with all the latest information and advice.
“So people contacting the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses, Coventry and Warwickshire Reinvestment Trust, Warwickshire County Council, Coventry City Council, North Warwickshire Borough Council, Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council, Stratford-on-Avon District Council, Rugby Borough Council, Warwick District Council or Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council have been directed to the Growth Hub website.
“Some businesses may not be members of the Chamber of Commerce or FSB but they are still being signposted to the Growth Hub to receive the latest information which is crucial in a crisis because it is vital we manage this situation as effectively as possible in Coventry and Warwickshire, to benefit our business community in the short and long-term.”
Caption: Craig Humphrey, managing director at the CWLEP Growth Hub