National Business Incubation Association; Your source for knowledge and networks in business incubation

The other staff: 20 ways to find and keep the best business assistance professionals

by Sally Hayhow

June 1998

The main feature distinguishing business incubators from mere real estate operations is the assistance they give clients. Not just phone answering or conference room privileges, but advice and hard resources available for every aspect of a start-up business. Now try pinning that responsibility on the average incubator staff of three, who does everything else the building, program, board, sponsors and clients require.

Although incubation professionals can and should be very involved with incubator client companies, no time is better spent than time finding, recruiting and managing good business assistance consultants. You need them even if your incubator is lavishly staffed (indeed, is there such a thing?). No staff can be so diverse, so current on everything or so well connected that they meet the needs of every client.

If you're going to put your companies' futures (not to mention your incubator's reputation) in the hands of outside consultants, they'd better be ones you trust. Consultants aren't just the volunteers you settle for because you couldn't afford staff to do the job. They have the potential to be the resource that makes your program exceptional and effective.

Now for the best news. NBIA members with strong consultant programs told us in a recent Internet survey that they have excellent people at low or no cost and they have to spend very little time managing them. Managers commonly spend no more than 10 percent and sometimes 3 percent to 5 percent of their working days even when they have more than 100 consultants on their regular rosters.

Here are 20 ways to work smart, not hard, at having an effective program of service providers.

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Keywords: coaching clients, service provider network, staffing, strategic partnerships

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