Planning the advisory service
Planning of outreach advisory service
Purpose The purpose of detailed planning of the outreach work is to exploit the resources optimally and ensure overview, so that advisers know where they have been, can systematically experiment with different methods and can then evaluate the effect.
In planning the outreach work, besides their existing knowledge, the advisers use the following tools:
- City map
- Various databases
- Detailed descriptive data, e.g. of business owners in a specific area
- Materials used in campaigns, e.g., food safety inspections, workplace assessment,
own-check lists and Smiley-reports from the Danish Working Environment Authorities and the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration.
- Various homepages
- Newspapers, local papers
- Local networks
- Other shops; rumours and gossip
- The Business Centre’s internal registration database
Keeping yourself informed
The advisors constantly seek to be one step ahead of the business owners, both in relation to knowing what is currently happening in the neighbourhood, keeping up professionally with developments within the different branches and by keeping themselves informed about business policy, initiatives, regulations and new legislation as these appear in various home pages, in newspapers, campaign materials, etc.
Sharing of offices with the local Neighbourhood Renewal Office or something similar and participation in local networks help to reinforce knowledge of the local area. Observations
Walking around the streets and shops observing what is happening and where there is a need for input.
Community meetings and sharing knowledge
The advisers work as much as possible in pairs and in shared offices and they also hold weekly group meetings where they exchange information and plan common initiatives. In their everyday work, the mobile phone and e-mail are the links between the advisers and the Business Centre. The advisers use their colleagues as sparring partners if they have found out of something new or need information. Detailed analysis=== The advisers have used internet databases for making maps of an area in order to create an overview and to be able to follow developments in an area over time. In the databases, one can find information about ownership, type of business, branch, year of establishment, and accounts.
The advisers enter information about the businesses they have visited in the Business Centre’s internal database, including in what capacity and how long time they have worked with each business. Direct rejections for assistance are also registered, so that the advisers do not come again. There is a free field for comments so that the adviser can keep his notes for a later visit.
The advisers may have heard from the Working Environment Authorities, for example, that they are planning a screening or branch inspection and will therefore undertake outreach advisory work within the relevant area. On the basis of the experiences where the problems are greatest in the area, a theme for the information work is selected. If possible, they can offer the owner to review the workplace evaluation.
The local Tax Administration addressed one of the advisers and incorporated him into the information work within a campaign for their new service offering. The objective was that the material had to address itself in the best possible way to the target group. In the campaign newspaper, the business owners could thus see a photo of an adviser of Iranian origin and read an interview with him. In the interview he explains how shopkeepers allows themselves to be tempted by the black economy and the consequences it can have for them, for their employees and for society. In connection with the requirement that owners of restaurants and shops that sell food products be registered in a database and pass a test, a system introduced in 2005, an adviser elaborated and distributed a small information sheet which informs the owners about the test, what it entails and where they can learn more about it and test themselves using e-learning.
Systematic work can be done to achieve cooperation with other offices and private specialists in the area, so that the food safety authorities and accountants, for example, will refer those in the target group to business advisers and vice versa.
Detailed descriptive data and registrations
Systematic registration is time-consuming and requires that clear categories be defined so that the advisers register the data as uniformly as possible. But beyond being a documentation requirement from the authorities who grant licenses to sell food, it is the advisers’ experience that it also promotes the necessary knowledge sharing among the advisers and with other colleagues in the Business Centre. Furthermore, it makes it possible to elaborate analyses and evaluations on the background of the collected data, so that the project manager and the advisers can see whether they meet their targets and ascertain the extent to which their outreach work results in more inquiries.
In relation to the detailed descriptive data and preparation prior to the initial contact visit, the advisers’ experience is that it makes a serious impression on the owners when the adviser is prepared and knows something of the business in advance, e.g., whether the owner might owns several businesses.
Following up on an initiative of the authorities often creates motivation among the shopkeepers, inasmuch as the problem is timely and gives the adviser credibility because he has up to date knowledge of the authorities’ plans. But it can also create a suspicion that the adviser is collaborating with the authorities. Hence, it is essential for the adviser to be aware of his role and to make it clear to the client. An adviser can also be subjected to pressure from the authorities regarding whether he or she should report any illegalities observed. It is important to clarify the content of the cooperation in advance and mark out one’s independence and pro-active role, if this is what one has.
Participation in networks
There are many indirect sources of knowledge in this work and many possible networks and meetings in which the adviser can participate. It is therefore constantly necessary to set priorities regarding which knowledge and what contacts will give the greatest benefit to the advisory process, so that time is used in the most optimal fashion.