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1. Identify what problem/s the company was confronting in relation to expanding the business.

2. Why has their business grown or not? What are the hindrances to growth for their business? What makes for successful SME growth? Why they started their businesses? What are their long-term goals? Ask them what they consider to be the hurdles for managing their business? What have been the problems? What have been the changes that these owners have experienced in managing their firms? What do they think has made their businesses successful? What have been the skills you have required to achieve this success? 

Business Profile and Industry Information

The word SME refers to the small and medium sized enterprises. This report will shed light on the situations and issues that are faced by the SMEs. Further it has been noticed that the European Union comprises almost 99% of SME businesses. A case study of Blue Sky has been taken thereby focusing upon the internal and external issues faced by the company (Chell, 2007).

The SME Blue Sky can be considered as the brainchild of Mick Mary who dreamed the vision of employing the offenders who came out from prison. From its inception, which is 2005, the business enterprise has so far helped more than 1000 ex-prisoners to get settled with their lives. Mick Mary happened to be an ex banker from the city who met Steve Finn an ex offender thus came to know regarding the hindrances and difficulty faced by the ex-prisoners in getting employed and settled in their lives (Loosemore et al. 2015)

From there the journey of Blue Sky started thereby placing these offenders in public as well as private sectors with companies like Delloite, River Island, Nabarro and so on. Nonetheless, the small and medium business enterprise is known to win certain awards and recognition out of which it bagged the UK Social Enterprise Award in 2011 as well as in 2013. David Cameron nicely stated “It’s the only company in the country where you need a criminal record to work there” as per Blue Sky Development, (2017).

Further the company is noticed to bring down the rate of re-offending thereby providing the ex-offenders with updated training as well as real jobs. From its inception, Blue Sky has been able to provide employment to as many as 1200 persons (Aitken, 2014).

The vision of the business enterprise, Blue Sky is to “open new doors for the ex-offenders” and also to bring down the rate of re-offending. In a way the company offers offender rehabilitation. From the name itself, the vision of the company can be noted which signifies the commitment offered towards the ex-offenders in providing settlement and security in their lives through job opportunities according to Cosgrove and O’Neill, (2011).    

The mission of the company does not differ much from that of the vision. The main aim and objective of Blue Sky as specified before in this study is to provide job opportunities to ex-offenders. To obtain a job is considered to be one of the most significant aspects that act as a catalyst in minimizing the re-offending rate. It is further noticed that almost 75 % of the prisoners often struggle to settle their lives after coming out of jail as they do not get jobs to conduct their livelihood due to their criminal record. Nonetheless, Blue Sky has ways to deal with this disparity. The company’s mission is to create entry-level jobs as these job profiles do not require any prior experience or qualifications. Their mission is to become an integral part of the supply chain management that deals with human resources. The business enterprise supplies human resources comprising ex-prisoners for waste management, distribution, ground maintenance and so on as per Mason et al. (2007).

Identification of Key Business Issues and Challenges

The business objective of Blue Sky is to bag more and more commercial contracts with several companies so that it thrives better in placing the ex-offenders thereby extending its expanse geographically (Cornelius et al. 2008).

There are certain governmental issues that Blue Sky has been focusing at. The significant objectives set by the UK government comprise points like magnifying employment levels, development in investment, magnifying the globalizing rate of the domestic companies, encourage sustainable growth within the parameters of regional resources, improve human resources, and so on. Nonetheless, all these aspects fall under the category of national industrialization strategy stated by Ridley-Duff & Bull, (2016). Blue Sky has been able to respond positively to most of these factors thus coming up with a different perspective and a challenging concept. Nonetheless, there are other factors that might have caused hindrances to the growth of this social enterprise. Starting from convincing its partners or stakeholders, getting investors, investor returns, communication with the partners and others. Another important criteria that is to be dealt with is “social is not always considered to be goal oriented”. Therefore theses aspects certainly hampers the collaboration that the business enterprise would plan to form (Ridley-Duff, 2008).

However, irrespective of all these factors, the concept of Blue Sky has been hailed and appreciated by its stakeholders as well as the former British Prime Minister. The aim of the company has also been extended to provide support and services to its investors through alternative assets that are the human assets who are ex-offenders of the country as per Aitken, (2014). The strategies incorporated by the business enterprise concentrated on ushering certain true and longing amendments thereby challenging the notions that exist within the human minds in regards to the ex-offenders (Blue Sky Development, 2017). Further the small and medium enterprise noted that the rate of re-offending of the country must be brought down through the implementation of a sustainable strategy.

Blue Sky opines that re-offending can be considered as a negative blow to the financial aspects of the country. It causes an expense of around £ 13 billion to UK every year. Thus it appears that each and every re-offending costs £ 200,000. Another statistics provided by the Blue Sky is that both the country England and Wales liberate 90000 offenders every year out of which 60 % of these prisoners re-offend within a couple of years according to Loosemore, (2016). However, if these offenders are exposed to a stable job profile, it minimizes the chance of re-offending as noted almost by 50 %. Again on the contrary, more than 75 % of the offenders are jobless after they are set free as there are poor chances of them to get employed due to their criminal records. Hence, it is instrumental in making the entire process pretty difficult for a prisoner while compared to that of a normal record person Cosgrove & O’Neill, (2011) .

The business of Blue Sky has certainly grown due to their great mission, vision and the concept they implement in their work process. It is noted that the enterprise imparts training to the offenders even in prison to prepare them for real jobs after they are set free from prison. The company is “NCFE accredited training provider on the Skills Funding Agency’s Register of Training Organizations”. They also impart taster sessions as well as officially authorized crash courses pertaining to areas like HMP Wormwood Scrubs as well as HMP Belmarsh according to Blue Sky Development, (2017). These are few strategies that have remarkably impacted the growth of the business enterprise. The reason that they started their business has been clearly stated that they have been thriving to bring down the re-offending rates in the country which pose as a unique concept thus providing acceleration to the business. Their long term goals is also clearly stated in their website which declares that Blue Sky sets an objective to work through similar patterns in more prisons thus designing further courses so that the company is able to diversify both geographically and relating to other sectors (Doherty et al. 2009).

Considering Interview Questions

Nonetheless, the company faced certain hurdles while working collaboratively with big brands. While one of the ex-offenders of Blue Sky, Greg was interviewed, he talked about the hurdles that the company faced initially while supplying human resources to contract catering business in UK. Contract catering in UK is quite popular. It was a real hurdle of Blue Sky to set their first team within a catering contract. Moreover, the catering contract was made with Deloitte. Especially the risk management aspects that Deloitte, the famous financial enterprise follows made things appear stricter and more rigid as per Thirdsector.co.uk, (2014). However, it was Greg who took care of all the situations with a broad smile thus making an effortless room within the Deloitte kitchen for him as a kitchen porter. The above statements are further reinforced through the words of Deputy Group Manager of Deloitte Restaurant Associates, Andy Thorley who says “Everyone at Deloitte and Restaurant Associates support our arrangement with Blue Sky, and Greg has proven it was well worth persevering to overcome any minor procedural difficulties regarding his employment clearance”. Therefore, these are certain strategies that have been employed by Blue Sky to attain their growth and development (Blue Sky Development, 2017).

An environmental analysis corresponding to the businesses external factors as well as the internal factors are to be scrutinized in order to rate its growth in the competitive market and its concerning sector. SWOT analysis is to be conducted that will scale the aspects like strength (S), weaknesses (W), Opportunities (O) and threat (T). Opportunities and threats are considered as the external factors whereas strengths and weaknesses are known to be internal factors (Spear et al. 2009).

The opportunities of this specific social enterprise seem quite promising due to its unique concept and a beautiful social cause that it works for. Though there might seem challenges in working with the ex-offenders, getting investors, getting contracts and others, but still after its inception the company has seen a steady growth with several awards and accreditations (Mason et al., 2007). The opportunities can be spreading geographically to several new locations thereby catering better service and terms to its clients. Grabbing the attention of the investors and setting trademark investor returns can also be considered as other opportunities. the governmental policies of the country that focus on utilizing the regional labour resources, magnification of employment, exhibiting growth in investment and others are also opportunities for Blue Sky to accelerate its pace in the global society (Aitken, 2014).

The threats of the company can come from certain policies of the companies which display strict mandates in not providing jobs to the ex-offenders. The threats can also come from re-offending issues. Further there can be competitor threats in the near future. The threats can also be relating to societal issues which might pose difficulty in getting good investors, good clients and others (Blue Sky Development, 2017).

Strength and weakness are the internal factors that are required to conduct an environmental analysis. The strength of Blue Sky is its unique idea to minimize the re-offending rate of the country thus providing entry level jobs to the ex-offenders. It has bagged several awards and recognition for its aims and objectives. Further the social enterprise is always noticed to come up with new programs imparting to the ex-offenders either while they are in prison or with Blue Sky. For example, Blue Sky collaborated with RBLI (Royal British Legion Industries) and came up with a new project called VICTOR to support the lives of the offenders who possess an “armed force background” so that the re-offending rates come down considerably. Further the unique design and methodology of work procedures of the social enterprise Blue Sky can also be taken under consideration as one of its strengths (Blue Sky Development, 2017).

The weaknesses can refer to its working with the ex-offenders who have difficult and offending background. Another weakness of Blue Sky is that it is difficult to view the enterprise as a business as well as community institution. Another weakness can be that in deriving the social values, the enterprise might struggle in getting its business. They are not normal human resources that easily get set in a normal schedule. Therefore these are the external and internal factors that the company (Doherty et al. 2009).

Blue Sky belongs to social enterprising industry. Competitive analysis refers to identification of the competitors prevailing in the market thereby determining their strategies, strengths and weaknesses and thus coming up with an effective marketing plan. Similar scenario can be found in Blue Sky where it collaborated with another social enterprise RBLI to work collectively on the project Blue Sky ventured (Alliance, 2010). It is basically the corporate social responsibility of Blue Sky that rates its competitive analysis. As the enterprise thrives to promote rehabilitation, settlement of the offenders in England, Scotland and Wales through the incorporation and intervention of training and other educational needs, fixing up recruitment opportunities, it has shown a steady growth from the time of its inception.

As stated earlier, it collaborated with RBLI to visualize its dream collectively thereby earning a competitive advantage in its sector as per the reports of Blue Sky Development, (2017). It has also successfully grabbed the attention from big time investors like Deloitte, Virgin Active, Amey, River Island and many more. For instance, the individual centred program “Get Ready, Get Working” has worked miracle for the enterprise thereby opening doors for them to work with the governments. Further the Ministry of Justice Data Lab of UK recognized Blue Sky to attain the most minimal rate in re-offending cases. It has also given direct returns pertaining to income tax as well as national insurances to the Treasury which is around c£ 250,000 during Financial Year 2014-15 (Chell, 2007).

It is further noted that it made an income of £ 1.7 million during the year 2016 out of which, the 60 % of the income was contributed by the local contracts while 40 % contributed by the trusts. Therefore all the above aspects exhibit a strong competitive advantage of Blue Sky in its sector (Bull, 2007).

It is recommended that the social enterprise can extend and share its beautiful concept on the global platform. Along with small crash courses it can start imparting basic educational degrees to the offenders that are required to working in white-collared jobs. Blue Sky can also thrive to place the ex-offenders in better designated job spheres other than the entry level jobs (Nicholls, 2007). For fundraising activities, it can participate in events and programs organized by its offenders thereby exhibiting their talent, skills and dedication to work. Moreover, the social enterprise can also get collaborated with more multinational companies like Marks & Spencer who wilfully recruit ex-offenders. Further it can become more visible and active in the media through posting its work, recognitions and strategies virtually, getting connected with more and more people through social networking sites like Face book, Twitter and so on (Ridley-Duff and Bull, 2015).   

Conclusion

Thus to conclude, it can be stated that Blue Sky has come up with a great social and innovative idea that alone can be counted as the unique selling proposition of the company. Nonetheless, the beautiful idea of transforming rehabilitation has earned the enterprise both a competitive advantage in its sector as well as a strong CSR (corporate social responsibility) value (Bull, 2007).  

Strengths

Unique concept

Winner of awards and recognitions

Great vision, mission and objectives

Collaboration with RBLI

Weaknesses

Recruits only offenders

Multi-tasking strategy to gain business as a social enterprise

Opportunities

spreading geographically to several new locations

Grabbing attention of investors

Setting good investor returns

Governmental policies favouring the utilization of regional human resources

Threats

Re-offending issues

Companies not recruiting offenders

Societal issues

Convincing investors

References

Aitken, J. (2014). Meaningful Mentoring. The Centre for Social Justice. Available.

Alliance, S. E. (2010). Succeeding at Social Enterprise: Hard-Won Lessons for Nonprofits and Social Entrepreneurs. John Wiley & Sons.

Blue Sky Development. (2017). Welfare to Work - Blue Sky Development. [online] Available at: https://www.blueskydevelopment.co.uk/welfare-to-work/ [Accessed 19 Apr. 2017].

Bull, M. (2007). “Balance”: the development of a social enterprise business performance analysis tool. Social Enterprise Journal, 3(1), 49-66.

Chell, E. (2007). Social enterprise and entrepreneurship: towards a convergent theory of the entrepreneurial process. International small business journal, 25(1), 5-26.

Cornelius, N., Todres, M., Janjuha-Jivraj, S., Woods, A., & Wallace, J. (2008). Corporate social responsibility and the social enterprise. Journal of Business Ethics, 81(2), 355-370.

Cosgrove, F., & O’Neill, M. (2011). The impact of social enterprise on reducing re-offending. Durham University, School of Applied Sciences.

Doherty, B., Foster, G., Meehan, J., & Mason, C. (2009). Management for social enterprise. Sage Publications.

Loosemore, M. (2016). Social procurement in UK construction projects.International Journal of Project Management, 34(2), 133-144.

Loosemore, M., Raidén, A. B., & Aboagye-Nimo, E. (2015). Barriers to social enterprise in the UK construction industry. In THIRTY-FIRST ANNUAL CONFERENCE 2015 September 7-9 (p. 407).

Mason, C., Kirkbride, J., & Bryde, D. (2007). From stakeholders to institutions: the changing face of social enterprise governance theory.Management decision, 45(2), 284-301.

Nicholls, J. (2007). Why measuring and communicating social value can help social enterprise become more competitive. London: Cabinet Office, Office of the Third Sector.

Ridley-Duff, R. (2008). Social enterprise as a socially rational business.International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, 14(5), 291-312.

Ridley-Duff, R., & Bull, M. (2015). Understanding social enterprise: Theory and practice. Sage.

Spear, R., Cornforth, C., & Aiken, M. (2009). The governance challenges of social enterprises: evidence from a UK empirical study. Annals of public and cooperative economics, 80(2), 247-273.

Thirdsector.co.uk. (2014). Getting a social enterprise off the ground: Blue Sky Development and Regeneration. [online] Available at: https://www.thirdsector.co.uk/getting-social-enterprise-off-ground-blue-sky-development-regeneration/social-enterprise/article/1309028 [Accessed 19 Apr. 2017]

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