Taking advice can be hard, and entrepreneurs are often particularly headstrong. But running a business can be incredibly lonely, and it’s not always obvious what next step to take. There are also classic mistakes business owners can avoid if they only ask others in the know for tips and guidance.
Today sees the launch of Small Business Advice Week, an event that’s been running for 12 years, giving SMEs access to experts in business and management, information about where to find support, and recommendations on how best to develop, run, and grow their enterprises. The idea is to encourage business owners to get advice on all aspects of their company to give them a competitive edge, and a greater probability of future growth.
The value of advice
There is strong evidence that taking external advice is more than just common sense for small companies – it has a material impact on their future success. Government research indicates that:
- The majority of SME owners who use strategic business advice believe it improves their performance.
- Business owners report that taking advice increases company sales, improves profitability, and safeguards the organisation’s survival.
- Outside guidance is also deemed by many to help when dealing with regulation, tax and compliance issues, as well as sales and marketing.
Whose advice to take?
Sources of advice for small companies are many, varied, and sometimes conflicting. Since the demise of the Government-backed Business Link service in 2012, there’s no central, authoritative resource for business information, and many wonder where to turn and who to trust when they have questions that need answering. But help does exist – it’s just a question of knowing where to look. The following are just a few examples of some of the tailored advice on offer to Britain’s SMEs:
- The National Enterprise Network is particularly useful for new or relatively young companies, giving details of local and regional organisations offering firms help.
- The Institute of Chartered Accountants for England and Wales (ICAEW) also runs a free business advice service, which covers a whole range of issues, including growth plans, securing business finance, meeting tax and regulatory requirements, and performance measurement. The organisation can also put companies in touch with a chartered accountant who can act as a longer term advisor.
- Enterprise Nation is an organisation run by small business owners that aims to give those running SMEs support, encouragement, relevant publications and new information, and a voice on the national stage. It also organises events for specific business groups, such as female entrepreneurs.
- There are a raft of membership groups for business owners publishing factsheets, offering advice, and running workshops on topics relevant to small and medium firms, including the Federation of Small Businesses, the British Chambers of Commerce, the Forum of Private Business, and the Institute of Directors – though most of their resources tend to be for paid-up members.
Despite disbanding Business Link, the Government does still provide a helpline for business advice, with more information and numbers for different parts of the UK on its website. Official bodies such as UK Trade & Investment can also provide guidance for SMEs looking to expand into overseas markets.
Where do you need help?
The Small Business Advice Week will involve a series of activities nationwide covering all aspects of running a business from finance, HR, legal issues, marketing, and accounts. Other common areas about which business owners want information are technology, managing cashflow, access to business funding, and hiring staff. Experts from the event’s official partners will have some top tips on mastering these weak points, with Royal Mail commenting on how to make the most of key sales periods, and Santander offering thoughts on how SMEs might get the most from their relationship with their bank, for example. Events management platform Eventbrite has provided a Youtube video with tips on using events to promote your business, and insurance broker Simply Business will also be providing helpful hints.
One of the biggest mistakes a business owner can make is being too proud to ask for help. There’s a wealth of knowledge, experience, and expertise available via many membership groups, official bodies, and organisations run by fellow entrepreneurs, so take advantage of the support on offer. Businesses can follow the events of the week ahead on Twitter by searching under @SmallBizAdvWeek or the hashtag #SBAW, as well as via Facebook.com/SmallBusinessAdviceWeek or by visiting the Small Business Advice Week website. So, overcome your ego, and see how someone out there might be able to help you to make your business bigger, better, and a force for the future.