Support systems for new activities in rural areas
Part 2 - Individual services
External specialist support
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
- It can be useful to set aside a budget for contracting in outside
- 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