Successful businesses know that they need to invest in business development programmes for a range of objectives and situations. Any business can benefit from such a programme, from a small start-up to a large multi-national and there are various implementation and support routes for developing such schemes.

Various consultancies and HR professionals run these business development schemes, which are highly valuable for periods of organisational change, new company direction, or for times when an organisation is seeking to grow or move into a new area.

Programmes may be entirely bespoke, or may take the form of business support packages run by facilitators. The former option is highly customisable and may be carried out within small groups of executives within the organisation, or on a one to one coaching programme. These bespoke programmes will be costly, however and tend to be favoured by larger organisations. SMEs and start-ups can benefit from a range of structured and commercial programmes where they may also have the benefit of attending courses and seminars with other business leaders. This facilitates knowledge sharing and cross-fertilisation of ideas and can be very powerful. Such programmes also tend to be subsidised or sponsored, whether by government or EU funding, private funding sources or sponsorships from larger organisations looking to support innovation and start-up businesses.

Why undertake such a programme?

The benefits of these programmes will depend on your particular circumstances. Typical achieved outcomes include accelerated and more manageable growth, the development of a higher value business, a more robust business plan, greater confidence and better leadership, clearer clarity over organisational direction and strategy - and from a personal perspective, valuable time out of the office to think and interact with peers and learn strategies for reducing stress.

How do they work?

Each programme will be different, but programmes will be structured around rigorous academic models and best practice thinking. They will use accepted models such as SMART goal setting, SWOT analysis and techniques to understand business goals and direction. Different themes will be examined in turn, such as money, management, marketing, operations, HR and more. There will usually be elements for individual development too and most programmes come with structured coaching on a one to one basis as part of the package.

Where do I find out more?

To start thinking about developing a business development programme for your company, get in touch with your local business advisor and network to learn about new opportunities. Look for government funded advice and support bodies working in partnership with the private sector as part of the new Local Economic Partnerships - some of these have been set up with specific audiences in mind such as organisations with high growth business capabilities and will generally offer a range of business support services to get you started and are a mix of chargeable, subsidised or free. There is plenty of great information, support and services out there for businesses looking for develop and grow, so spend time researching what's available and get your plans in action!