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Support Services for SMEs: Does the ‘Franchisee’ Make a Difference to the Business Link Offer?


  • Robert Bennett

    (Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, Downing Place, Cambridge CB2 3EN, England)

  • Paul Robson

    (Aberdeen Business School, The Robert Gordon University, Kaim House, Garthdee Road, Aberdeen AB10 7QE, Scotland)


Business Link is a government-financed support body for small firms in England in which local franchisees provide a range of business advice services. Franchisees must act as independent bodies with the franchise as their ‘only line of business’. Yet franchisees are of various types: some are de facto partnerships, some are linked to chambers of commerce, some are linked to other bodies, and some are private sector companies. Although all are arm's length of any related organisation, and work to a standardised contract and target regime, it is possible that the type of franchisee makes a difference to the management of the franchise, how the targets are prioritised, and how this affects referrals and links to other service providers. This in turn could be reflected in the level of market penetration and user experiences. This paper assesses, using analysis of variance, the relationship of the type of franchisee with propensity to charge fees, market penetration, impact, and customer satisfaction. It shows that there are significant effects of the franchise on client impact and satisfaction, but not on market penetration. In general, chambers of commerce and private sector franchisees perform best. But there is immense variability of all measures of performance, with all franchise types providing both high performing and poorly performing Business Links. This variability, which is of long standing, provides one of the strongest challenges to the credibility and justification for providing a government-financed support system. Within this pattern, fees in general have little statistical relationship with client satisfaction.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert Bennett & Paul Robson, 2004. "Support Services for SMEs: Does the ‘Franchisee’ Make a Difference to the Business Link Offer?," Environment and Planning C, , vol. 22(6), pages 859-880, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:envirc:v:22:y:2004:i:6:p:859-880

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    Cited by:

    1. Marta Gancarczyk, 2010. "System wsparcia dla przedsiębiorców - doświadczenia brytyjskie," Gospodarka Narodowa. The Polish Journal of Economics, Warsaw School of Economics, issue 5-6, pages 41-60.

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