engage magazine issue 007/\'08 - Page 59

BIRMINGHAM COUNCIL 59 Growing Ethnic Minority Businesses So how does this affect local businesses? Based in Birmingham, Vince Farqherson has been providing screen replacements for commercial and private vehicles within the West Midlands area. He started out as a screen fitter for a family run business called ‘Birmingham Safety Glass’ over 33 years ago and was promoted through the ranks until he ran his own deport on their behalf. Vince realised that it was time to flex his entrepreneurial wings and set up his own business when the company was sold and became part of the RAC group. ‘When I set up Turbo Windscreens, the easy part was delivering a first class service’ explains Vince. ‘The difficult part was taking responsibility for all areas of the business without the support that working for a larger and established company offers you.’ ‘Main car dealers and haulage companies need specialist companies like Turbo Windscreens to meet their needs in a more cost effective way’ continues Vince. ‘However, with talk of new markets within the sector, this means that smaller companies will not be able to compete against the larger companies like RAC and the AA.’ ‘By 2010/2012 the West Midlands will be an ethnic minority city and there is a fear that the African Caribbean business community will not be succeeding in the numbers that they should’ continues Vince. ‘Many businesses will only be able to survive if they are fit to supply however there seems to be an imbalance in terms of support and our businesses are not getting a piece of the procurement pie in the numbers that they should.’ Vince sees getting fit to supply as the biggest challenge for his business. Due to changing regulations and policies, timing is a big issue, and for a small company like his, it is not often possible to get the information that is vital for his growth on time. ‘It will be important that my business secures contracts from the Council, The Fire and Police Service (to name a few) if we are to grow’ says Vince. ‘These organisations say they have a commitment to working with local companies like mine, but practice is difficult due to the processes involved.’ ‘For Turbo Windscreens to grow, we need to work with the right advisor who will guide the company through the whole lifecycle process’ continues Vince. ‘When I wanted to win accounts from larger companies it was a challenge working through the regulations and paperwork which are often time consuming and act as a major barrier to engagement. Local authorities have become compliant to their criteria, but we have found the tendering process difficult because of these issues.’ ‘I recognise that there are more tools and support around procurement and commissioning issues’ concludes Vince. ‘But micro and small ethnic minority business need better access to information, a more coordinated training package and a central support system that will give them a realistic opportunity to win contracts.’ ISSUE SEVEN 2008 engage | uk