Research Report

Evaluation of the Cavendish Enterprise ‘Business Boost’ project

ERC Research Report


ERC, Stephen Roper, Halima Jibril,Ian Drummond, Doug Scott

Associated Themes
  • Management and Leadership
  • Productivity and performance

This research report documents the findings of an evaluation of Cavendish Enterprise’s ‘Boosting SME productivity’ project. The project was part of the government’s ‘Business Basics’ Programme which was designed to test new approaches to supporting improved performance in micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The Business Boost trial project involved providing young small firms – typically micro-businesses – with a treatment involving a series of workshops designed to enhance productivity. This was provided largely as a top-up to an advice and mentoring programme called ‘Start and Grow’.

The evaluation was conducted by the ERC between January 2019 and March 2020. It used a Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) approach. It involved analysis of three groups of firms: a Treatment group of 150 firms, a Control group of 150 firms, and a Comparison group also of 150 firms. As the evaluation was carried out six months after the treatment was given, the focus was on attitudinal and behavioural changes, with research questions relating to productivity enhancing tools, routines and behaviours.

Overall, the findings provide evidence of widespread positive and statistically significant effects of the treatment on awareness of a number of growth and performance related management tools. Effects on the use of the tools were generally somewhat weaker. There was also evidence of increased adoption of various performance related business behaviours (e.g. formation of mission and vision statements, formal business planning). The treatment applied was shown to have clear impacts on productivity-enhancing attitudes and behaviours in the target group of firms. The Business Boost trial generated some clear findings to inform policy. It also suggests some lessons for those planning future RCTs related to business support, particularly where this involves an element of face-to-face delivery