Assessing the effectiveness of business support services in England: evidence from a theory based evaluation

Kevin F. Mole, Mark Hart, Stephen Roper, David S. Saal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In England, publicly supported advice to small firms is organized primarily through the Business Link (BL) network. Using the programme theory underlying this business support, we develop four propositions and test these empirically using data from a new survey of over 3000 English SMEs. We find strong support for the value to BL operators of a high profile to boost take-up. We find support for the BL’s market segmentation that targets intensive assistance to younger firms and those with limited liability. Allowing for sample selection, we find no significant effects on growth from ‘other’ assistance but find a significant employment boost from intensive assistance. This partially supports the programme theory assertion that BL improves business growth and strongly supports the proposition that there are differential outcomes from intensive and other assistance. This suggests an improvement in the BL network, compared with earlier studies, notably Roper et al. (2001), Roper and Hart (2005).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)557-582
Number of pages26
JournalInternational Small Business Journal
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009



  • business advice
  • Business Link
  • business support services
  • evaluation
  • sample selection
  • small business

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