Just as it had entered the world as one of the UK's best kept business growth support secrets, the Business Growth Service was a casualty of last week's Government funding cuts. Nary a ripple about it in the business or Sunday papers - sad for a scheme that delivered real growth to many of the 28,000 companies it supported over the 4 years of its existence - first as Growth Accelerator and then as the BGS. Not to mention the £4.8 billion added to the economy or the 110,000 new jobs it helped create.
For those of you running companies who missed it, the BGS primarily funded business coaching - knowledge transfer - that supported boards in their ambitions to grow their companies by more than 30% within three years. They were hungry, they were determined, they wanted to be better, to innovate, to export, to deliver more. And, boy, was it fun working with them.
The programme emerged from Vince Cable's team at the Dept of Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS). Removing money from Business Link, the older support service spread across every English town, BIS asked for private consortia to pitch for a growth support fund to help England's fastest-growing, most ambitious companies. The consortium led by Grant Thornton, ably supported by Winning Pitch, Pera and Oxford Innovation won it. Growth Accelerator was born.
Bizarrely from such a visionary start, BIS then limited how it could be marketed... presumably not wanting to be seen 'wasting' money.
For the first 18 months of the 3-year contract it was a hugely well-kept secret!
But the real strength of GA/the BGS lay in the team of growth managers employed by the consortium to sign up companies and the extensive database of coaches they pulled together to deliver the service on the ground.
Despite the endless paperwork, the growth managers truly wanted to help companies and did great work getting the word out. Set ambitious targets by the government - hard when you have little marketing support, they went after companies determined to grow. And found 28,000 of them.
But the true delivery team of the GA/BGS offering lay in the huge resource of coaches that the consortium quickly had to find, approve and register. Working with the supported companies on the ground, week after week, using their experience, their vision, their passion for business, their belief in the companies they were coaching, these were the heroes. Many of them coaching whilst also running their own companies. So they knew the marketplace, they were working in industry, they had their feet firmly on the ground.
I run Lola - we deliver growth to companies by innovating and finding new audiencesand revenues using the intellectual assets underpinning their intellectual property. For just over three years, we also coached companies for the BGS. It was a real pleasure and an utter priviledge. We met and worked with companies with whom I would never had crossed paths, but whom I came to love and deeply respect.
Gregory Bonner Hale, one of the UK's leading design companies; Factory Settings, exhibition builders for the likes of the V&A; Pie Mapping - winners of the DPD logistics accelerator; the Business Creative - a small event production company in Brighton, now proud owners of not one, but two subscription platforms generating passive income; Flashing Lights - award-winning programme-makers who focus on inclusive storytelling for the sensory impaired - these are companies who are growing fast, who are employing more people, who contribute to the British economy.
It was these type of companies that the Business Growth Service aimed to help through its system of grants from BIS, from the Intellectual Property Office, the Design Council, from MAS, from UKTI.
So as it is wound down closing finally on the 31st March 2016 - RIP Business Growth Service. British industry will miss you, even though so many of them never had the chance to meet or engage with you. And well done to all of those growth managers and coaches who worked so hard to deliver it on the ground.