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Support systems for new activities in rural areas

Part 2 - Individual services
External specialist support



Introduction
How to use this guide & Table of Contents

 

The lack of access to high-level specialist
advice can be a major obstacle for rural
entrepreneurs. However, LEADER groups
vary considerably in the importance they
attach to this problem (1).

 

Common problems and bottlenecks Recommendations and guidelines
  • In some countries, high-quality external specialists are not available or are simply not known in many rural areas.
  • Sharing information on outside experts is one of the ways in which LEADER groups can cooperate at regional, national and even transnational levels.
  • The support available is often too general, theoretical and academic to be of practical use.
  • Rates charged by consultants should reflect their access to accumulated and live information. It may be cheaper to pay more for first-class information than less to learn what you already know.
  • The cost of external consultants is often exorbitant compared to the budgets available.
  • It can be useful to set aside a budget for contracting in outside consultants (2).
  • The organisation of a "talent pool" can serve to meet the needs of both general advice and specific training (3).
    Using "business angels", retired businessmen who charge between a quarter and a third of the cost of normal consultants, is also very practical, and is becoming more and more common in Europe.
  • Students, other trainees, even local residents can also be used to reduce the costs of external field work.
  • Bad experiences in the past mean that local development workers try to be a "jack of all trades" and end up advising on matters of which they have little genuine knowledge.
  • The "Methodology guide for evaluating a territory's touristic potential" (LEADER European Observatory / AEIDL, 1997) includes a useful checklist on how to choose and evaluate outside consultants.

(1) In the context of LEADER I in Spain, the proportion of the business plan set aside for carrying out studies and using outside help was limited to 5%. Realising that this work was often too academic or too general, this type of service was incorporated into the running costs of "LAG Operations" in LEADER II, representing a maximum 15% of the total budget of LEADER groups. In some LEADER 5b areas, on the other hand, up to 80% of the LAG's business plan was set aside for "immaterial investments" in the context of LEADER I, concerning design, manufacturing techniques, product marketing and the organisation and setting up in networks of producers and companies.

(2) Business and Innovation Centres (BICs) and other development agencies (the Mission Agro-Alimentaire des Pyrénées, for example) spend between 20- 25% of their total budget on this.

(3) BICs and other agencies use "talent pools": they form of a group of professional consultants with whom beneficial rates are often negotiated. Some LEADER groups use the services of regional development companies or BICs to take advantage of this.
The Galloway LEADER group (United Kingdom) has set up a team of 16 "business angels". The Noordwest Friesland LAG (Netherlands) uses 6 senior consultants who offer their services at very low rates. Tarn-des-Montagnes (France) uses multidisciplinary task forces to deal with product design, marketing and production technology.


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European
Commission

Agriculture
Directorate-General