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Business advice toolkit: Tailored support

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What is it and what does it aim to do?

Tailored support is the provision of business advice that is tailored to the requirements of the specific firm or entrepreneur. It may involve any type of support (e.g. counselling, subsidised consultancy, training, or other types) but often involves a greater degree of support over a longer period of time. Tailored support may be offered either to established firms or to individual entrepreneurs before or after they start a business and may target a number of different aspects of firm performance.

How effective is it?

The evidence suggests that tailored support may be more likely to increase employment and productivity than survival or sales. This is in contrast to the findings of our systematic review of a broader range of business advice programmes which showed somewhat better results for sales than for employment and productivity. It is important to note, however, that our evidence reviews apply higher evidential standards and it may be that the stronger effects for employment and productivity simply reflect the self-selection of firms that use tailored support when they are already looking to grow employment or improve productivity.

How secure is the evidence?

Generally, the evidence base on tailored support is quite weak, meaning that the conclusions on cost-effectiveness are based on a limited number of studies. More rigorous studies are required. We found no systematic reviews of effectiveness and no meta-analysis.

We found only four studies that examined the effectiveness of tailored support. All of them provided before and after comparisons using a control group.

One of these studies comes from the UK. For a full list of studies and summaries of their findings please see the Annex in the PDF download below.

Is it cost-effective?

There is an overall lack of information on cost effectiveness in the area of tailored support.

Of the four studies evaluated here, only two present information on cost figures. Both studies present evidence on cost-effectiveness for two different schemes. One reports figures of £12,000 per job created when tailored support is the only scheme in place and is delivered to already existing firms. The other reports figures of around £2,000 per additional job created when tailored support is targeted at start-ups and delivered on top of previous forms of advice. However, while this may be cost-effective from the firm’s point of view, if this additional employment comes at the expense of other local firms, this may not be cost-effective from an area point of view.

Things to consider

  • Will it provide value for money? Tailored support is likely to be more expensive than standardised support. Given the limited evidence base on effectiveness, the impact on firm performance needs to be further monitored and evaluated.
  • What type of firms will benefit most? The benefits of tailored support may differ according to the type of firm (e.g. young firms may benefit more).
  • How should the programme be structured? The impact of tailored support may vary depending on the structure of the programme (e.g. programmes with fewer firms enrolled may provide bigger benefits to targeted firms).
  • Is additional employment likely to come at the expense of other local firms? If so this will reduce the net-benefit of the programme. This is more likely to be a problem for firms that tend to serve local markets (see our evidence review on other Area Based Initiatives).
Business advice toolkit: Tailored support