20 SME’s have tested a prototype of the SNOwMan counselling process

In general, much of the success of the counselling process depends on the intermediary’s skills and ability to move freely between phases based on the natural flow of the conversation. 

Throughout January and February, business intermediaries involved in the project tested a prototype of the counselling process with 20 SME’s participating. At each test, an observer was present to note the interaction between the owner manager and the intermediary during the counselling process. 

Trust building is key

All participants viewed trust building as an important and crucial part that shapes the further counselling process and the direction it will take. It was found that the trust building phase was very much dependent on the intermediary’s ability to create an open and cooperative atmosphere where the owner mangers felt safe to discuss details of their business.

It goes to show that the process of selecting the right intermediary before the counselling is important for the cooperation to become successful. In general, much of the success of the counselling process depends on the intermediary’s skills and ability to move freely between phases based on the natural flow of the conversation. 

Not surprisingly, the owner managers trusted intermediaries that they had been recommended or contacted themselves more than intermediaries that had contacted them first.

Spider Web Tool as a conversation starter

On the one hand, both owner managers and intermediaries perceived the spider web tool as a good tool to get the conversation started and to make sure that the intermediary covered a broad range of topics. On the other hand, many owner managers wishes to get advice on a particular topic, which on that term makes the tool too general.

Another point that was made was the rather rigid structure of the questions and the usage of computers during the conversation, which sometimes hampered the natural flow and made the conversation seem more as a Q&A session.

Some intermediaries avoided this by using the questions as a guiding principle and looped between the questions as the conversation led them through different topics as well as filling out the tool by hand and not until later on transferred it to the digital version.

The intermediaries were all able to recommend next steps and come up with action plans for the owner managers based on the results of the spider web tool. This was a good way to wrap up the conversation while encouraging future collaboration.

All in all, the participants thought the counselling process was easy to follow and well described, the spider web tool gave a clear visualization and overview of the challenges the SME’s were facing. However, many participants pointed out that it is important that the language is not too complicated and that it fits the target group.

The tool will be evaluated and further developed in the midterm conference in Finland in March.