Thursday, 20 June 2013

Business Support – are you feeling it?

One of the biggest aspirations for most businesses is to grow. This at times can seem like an unachievable task, especially in a climate fraught with barriers and limited support. So the question I ask is, does there need to be more support to help guide businesses through the murky waters to growth?

It is clear when speaking to businesses that there is a definite gap in the providers of support and advice being given to SMEs. If you need business advice and guidance, where do you go? The banks, who have traditionally been seen as a reliable source of business support have reduced the decision making power of their bank managers, - or in some cases removed them altogether - leaving businesses to fend for themselves when it comes to sourcing the right financial services for their businesses.

Just one example of this, which highlighted the issue of awareness, or lack thereof, of government lending schemes, came after a conversation with Alan Todd, Director of Cambridge Business Advisers. He made a very good point that “There’s still little knowledge of what Government schemes can offer. Despite all the money that is going into the various schemes there has been little promotion of the schemes themselves. The two examples of Start Up Loans and grants to manufacturing companies – often SMEs are totally unaware these exist. Going back a few years, organisations like Business Link and its advisor network would have been advising local companies on what support was available. Business Link has now all but disappeared; it’s just a website. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills now has to consider how they communicate with SMEs.”

This just goes to prove that even in an area as crucial as advice on sources of business finance, there is a serious lack of knowledge share transferred to businesses. This is seen right through to lack of more general business advice, with a recent FSB survey showing that 37% of businesses go to friends and families for support and guidance, as they don’t know where to turn. Of course, the people they’re speaking to are likely not trained professionals with vast years of experience in managing and running a business, so are usually not the most reliable source of information!

There are however some companies who are seeing this unnecessary and potentially fatal gap for businesses and filling the void. Just one example is the business advisory group IBD who offer a full business advice service for businesses of all sizes. These type of companies are going to be crucial in not only providing support for businesses now, but also in bringing about change at a higher government level to ensure businesses are better served in the future.

CashFlows is also stepping up to the plate by creating a Business Growth Guide. This is full of information and top tips for online business or those thinking of using e-commerce as an additional sales channel. Check out the business growth guide here.

It is clear that more needs to be done to support businesses in their struggle for growth, and offering useful and intuitive advice is what is desperately needed. The government has the power to change and improve the support system for businesses, and this needs to be a priority, or the economic growth targets will not be achieved.

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