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Community Contribution

Getting Down to Business: CLA Improves Capacity of Sri Lankan Enterprises

Michael Parr, Laura Schmidt, Giselle Aris

USAID BIZ+ is a grant-based investment program that helps small and medium sized enterprises build their capacity and thrive as businesses. The BIZ+ model has always included a strong technical assistance component; short-term volunteers would travel to partner businesses (grantees) for a few weeks to help them with specific tasks, like HR policies. Due to the good results of the BIZ+ program, the Mission issued a funded extension and asked BIZ+ to issue a program description for an additional 2 years. This gave us time to Pause and Reflect on what was working well, and what could improve. We noticed that while a light-touch approach to short-term technical assistance was working, it was not working as effectively as a more hands-on approach. We saw that a long-term business coach (Kate Coffey) had significantly improved the efficiency, financial performance and capacity of four businesses.

Through M&E data around businesses’ capacity and qualitative lessons from other volunteers, we made a design to change our capacity building approach from STTA to coaching. For our purposes, the definition of coaching is a long-term commitment from a business professional that guides managers and owners of businesses in important issues of running their enterprise effectively and are more knowledgeable about the overall industry. A consultancy or STTA generally helps a business solve an immediate challenge. For example, rather than sourcing a generic industrial engineer to coach on production planning and a generic accountant to coach on financials, we hired a single business coach familiar with the overall business/industry experience to coach on both issues and explain how they work together to strengthen the business. We have now paired 24 of our partners with business coaches as opposed to intermittent short-term technical assistance and paired with a formal long-term training program. As an outcome, we have data and documented examples demonstrating that partners improved productivity, planning and operational practices through the Training + Business Coaching model.

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