Strategic Innovation helps entrepreneurs to progress

As an entrepreneur, you have to have a growth plan in order to develop a successful business. You have to be able to give that plan your attention somewhere in between the products, customers and administration. Even if you feel like you are loaded down already. Fortunately, there is help for entrepreneurs from Maastricht and the South Limburg Heuvelland area. The Strategic Innovation programme supports them, teaches them how to set priorities and allows them to make their own decisions that will help their business to progress.

The Municipality of Maastricht attaches great importance to entrepreneurs and helps local businesses to move forward as well as possible. An indispensable tool for this is the Business Contact Centre, the information point that provides entrepreneurs with the necessary support. Pieter-Paul van de Wouw is account manager at the Business Contact Centre and the person involved in start-ups and innovation. He is responsible for introducing entrepreneurs to the Strategic Innovation pilot: a programme of the Municipality of Maastricht and the South Limburg Economic Alliance (ESZL) to help businesses with their strategic choices. "This tool helps entrepreneurs to draw up a written plan of action for innovation on the basis of clear steps. We takes these steps in cooperation with the business."

New, improved, innovative

The Strategic Innovation pilot is an updated version of a programme developed decades ago with European funding. This provides a huge range of comparative material. "We have now resurrected this tool because we see that more and more businesses are being started. Unfortunately, entrepreneurs miss opportunities for growth and innovation because they are too busy with their daily work. We are helping them to seize those opportunities." Although the tool is currently described as a pilot, the municipality and ESZL want to expand the programme, if it is successful so that even more entrepreneurs can benefit. In that case, it won’t end in Maastricht and the Heuvelland area, it will be extended to include the whole of South Limburg.

In 5 steps to growth

If you want to apply for the Strategic Innovation programme for your company, you will be put in touch with one of the four consultancy firms selected for this purpose. In cooperation with the consultant, the entrepreneur will go through a series of 5 steps. Programme manager Raf Sluismans explains these steps. First of all, an extensive introductory interview takes place. This is followed by an innovation scan, in which several statements are used to assess the current situation within the business. Next there is a group discussion, a strategic session with participants from the company about the future plans and possibilities. A second strategic session determines the priorities, the division of tasks and the available resources. Finally, the business handles the implementation itself, with the consultant as sparring partner and background support. "This approach enables us to identify the aspects that are important for a healthy future in the context of the business. We take a small step back, assess the business and its environment and let the entrepreneur set the right priorities on that basis.”

Satisfaction among entrepreneurs

With a satisfaction rate of 8.2 among participants, you can safely say that entrepreneurs greatly appreciate the support of Strategic Innovation. The programme has already helped entrepreneurs to storm new markets, set up new business locations and replace less profitable production lines. However, Raf attaches particular importance to the personal reactions of his participants. "They say: ‘thanks to you I have time for my hobby again,' or 'thanks to you I enjoy running my business again, and we're doing well financially too’.” "The analysis and prioritisation come from the employees themselves", Pieter-Paul adds. "And that makes more of a lasting impression than a report from an external advisor. Strategic Innovation is recognizable and action-oriented."