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The IPG
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Critical Publishing co-founder Di Page reports on a very helpful business scheme from the British Library
As someone who has frequented the café at the British Library at St Pancras over the years—how perfect to have publishing meetings surrounded by books!—I was vaguely aware of the Business and IP Centre there but had never ventured inside. This summer I became much more familiar with it and realised what a fantastic resource it is for anyone in the publishing business. Our company, Critical Publishing, was accepted onto the Centre’s 'Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups' scheme, a three-month small business support programme that provides more than £10,000 worth of specialist advice. You might be looking to grow into a new market, launch a new product or implement a new process. Not sure how? Through one-to-one sessions and workshops, the programme helps you to develop your business model and fulfil your growth potential. A minimum turnover of £100,000 is needed to apply, and there are three intakes a year.
There were around 20 companies in my intake, and they were incredibly varied; from firms making high-end dog accessories, to running computer programming classes for primary school kids, to producing specialist surfaces used in the kitchens of the super-rich. The programme began with an introductory workshop to help businesses focus on their work and personal goals, and to get to know fellow travellers. There were plenty of opportunities to network, and it soon became apparent that we were all facing the same issues, regardless of our market. It was also good to get used to explaining a business model to people outside of publishing, and my ’30 seconds in an elevator’ pitch has definitely improved!
Over the three months there were workshops on refining business models, one-to-ones on building brands and creating marketing strategies, two sessions with an intellectual property lawyer and, perhaps most relevant to our business at the moment, two sessions on product and service innovation. We also had an individual session with the business centre’s librarian, and the programme was topped and tailed with a one-to-one meeting with a business specialist to really pin down our growth strategy. We were supported by a relationship manager throughout, and afterwards we got automatic membership of the Centre’s Growth Club, so I get a steady flow of invitations to talks by successful entrepreneurs, reduced price training and other networking events like Global Entrepreneurship Week, for which the British Library has attracted plenty of high-profile names this week.
The last session on the programme was the day before the IPG’s Autumn Conference, and I was surprised by how many themes resonated across both events, particularly around using techniques from the digital world to develop excellent new titles. A resonating phrase from one of the workshops was ‘A business is a solution to a problem’—and in these changing times it is a challenge for us to develop a deeper understanding of our customers’ problems.
Even if you are not interested in the programme, it is still worthwhile checking out the British Library’s Business and IP Centre. In addition to inspiring talks and practical workshops that are open to all, the library, run by the wonderful Irene, has an extensive collection of online databases, market and company reports and business publications. Staff are extremely helpful and will run searches for you if you tell them what you are after. Of course, they are particularly strong on anything to do with intellectual property and have the records for 60 million patents. For anyone not within reach of London there are also 10 Nationwide Network Business and IP Centres around the country. More details can be found here. The deadline for the next intake on the Innovating for Growth programme is 5 December; you can apply here.

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