Business advice for UK SMEs - Business Works
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Business advice for UK SMEs

by Scott Brown, Accounting MD, Sable Group Access to high-quality business advice at the right time can make the difference for small business owners aiming to realise their ambitionsx. Whether it is growth, moving into new markets or hiring more staff, there is a wealth of expertise available to small businesses.

Or, so said enterprise and skills minister Matthew Hancock at the launch of the government's £30 million Growth Voucher scheme in January 2014.

If youre a small business (fewer than 50 employees) and you want advice in any of the following areas ...

  • finance and cash flow;
  • recruiting and developing staff;
  • improving leadership and management skills;
  • marketing, attracting and keeping customers;
  • making the most of digital technology.
... then make sure you've registered with the Department for Business Innovation & Skills' Growth Voucher scheme so you're in the draw for £2000 worth of match funding (you do have to commit to matching whatever you're awarded if you're one of the lucky businesses to receive a voucher).

You're eligible if you meet the following criteria:

  • have 49 employees or fewer (including any employees of companies that own a stake in your business);
  • be registered in England;
  • have been trading for at least one year;
  • not have paid for business advice in the last 3 years;
  • be independent (ie. no more than 25% is owned by other businesses or organisations).

And, if you are selected (it's a random process as there's not enough funding for all the businesses that want it), then the government will assess you to find out how the funding has made a difference this will either take the form of an online questionnaire or a short face-to-face business assessment.

Businesses receiving vouchers have to spend them with the government's official partner Enterprise Nation. You have to visit the Enterprise Nation Marketplace, the only place you can spend the vouchers and select one of the advisors listed on the site - handily broken down into the following categories: expanding your workforce; finance and cash flow; IT and web; leadership and management; and marketing and customer service.

There are over 3000 advisors listed and approved on the site, so plenty to choose from in your local area. As of the end of month one, over 1400 businesses applied for vouchers and 598 were awarded them, with the total voucher value in excess of £1 million.

Enterprise Nation broke down the voucher spend into categories and revealed some interesting patterns:

  • 46% - marketing, attracting and keeping customers
  • 21% - making the most of digital technology
  • 15% - raising finance and managing cash flow
  • 13% - improving leadership and management skills
  • 5% - recruiting and developing your staff.

don't delay

So our advice to you don't delay! The scheme runs for 15 months and we're already three months in. One of the biggest challenges small businesses have is simply a lack of experience. Even if you've set up a small business before, it doesn't mean you got everything right first time and therefore know what to do again. And it's hard to be good at every aspect of running a business so take some advice from the professionals!

Whether it's developing a staff training strategy, implementing Google Analytics to help you fine-tune your e-commerce platform, improving as a leader of people or managing finances to ensure cash flow remains steady, no one's great at everything and we could all use some expert advice from time to time if we're to maximise our chances of success, and grow to the point where were no longer eligible for small business support schemes!



Some useful links:
Growth Vouchers programme
Enterprise Nation
Enterprise Nation Marketplace

Scott Brown is Accounting MD at Sable Group - for more information, please visit: www.sable-group.com




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