Friday, 19 April 2013

Broaden your business horizons

In amongst all the reports of a never ending tough economic climate for businesses, there are still some big opportunities out there that, if taken, can make a big impact on your business. This is supported by the aspiration of the 6 in 10 businesses that are targeting growth for their business for the next 12 months, according to a recent FSB survey.

With that in mind, here is a round-up of the top financial and business opportunities to support SMEs as we see them:

Funding schemes – There have been many changes and introductions of Government backed schemes for SMEs, designed to boost growth. These include: Community Development Finance, Enterprise Finance Guarantee, Business Finance Partnership, Start-up Loans, Regional Growth Fund (RGF), Growing Places Fund and EU funded sources of Finance. Depending upon your business, you may be eligible for several of these schemes, so if you are looking into start-up or additional sources of funding, they are well worth looking into.

Going global – Many businesses are seeing the rewards of entering into overseas markets, which allows them to both diversify their business and broaden their potential customer base. When looking at international opportunities, businesses will need to carry out considerable planning and research before attempting this step but support is close to hand. The UK Export Finance and UK Trade and Investments are government departments dedicated to providing support to UK exporters on all topics of international trade including financing solutions and are a good starting point for advice.

Government programmes – There are a number of government backed schemes that have been introduced to support the UKs SMEs. The Growth Accelerator scheme is a £200m programme aiming to help 26,000 SMEs over 3 years to overcome barriers to growth. In addition a further trade-specific example is the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS), a national service to support manufacturing businesses grow by providing experienced advisors.

Changes in buying channels – As you know, consumers are moving towards online and mobile methods to browse and shop, with internet retail sales estimating to grow from £28.3bn in 2011 to £33.7bn by 2015 according to a recent report. There are many ways you can incorporate these channels into your business with little hassle including a payment app on your smartphone to allow you to take payment on the move, or having an online shop to allow your customers to purchase your goods and services online using any device. Ensuring your business develops in line with your customer’s behavioural changes will be key to securing new customers and retaining existing business.

New technology – There are continuous advances in new payment technologies that if implemented correctly can be key in supporting your business to grow and potentially save you money. These technologies can range from streamlined e-invoicing to enable your business to get paid quicker and accelerate cash flow, to creating a mobile app to reach a considerably wider customer base. The size of the opportunity created will depend upon the scale and purpose of the technology and how you choose to use it within your business. Looking at ways to use payment technology to streamline your finance systems will make a huge difference in time spent running the day to day elements of your business, as well as save you valuable money on fees and unnecessarily high monthly fees.