Last November, Business Link support for businesses went on line and their old system ceased to be. There are no advisers, there are no more face to face consultations
So, now that one less option is available to businesses looking for support, where do business owners go for that essential piece of personal advice?
Participants of the UK Business Barometer (UKBB) and UK Business Adviser Barometer (UKBAB), run by The University of Nottingham Institute for Enterprise and Innovation (UNIEI), posed that very question, asking businesses to whom they would turn to first when the need for advice arose?
Just over one-quarter (28 per cent) of respondents use an accountant, one-fifth go to colleagues (21 per cent), smaller proportions use business advisers/consultants (15 per cent) and trade organizations (8 per cent). Just over one-tenth reported that they used nobody in particular (12 per cent).
Martin Rigley of Lindhurst Engineering Ltd said: “There are a plethora of business support organisations, the part of the jigsaw that is missing is finding out about the organisation you need to interface with. Business Link did this to some degree.... what do we do now?”
James Briggs of The Harboro Rubber Co Ltd agreed: “It is shocking that there is no clear place to go for advice for someone wanting to start a business!”
Ian Thomas of Proactive Trading Group said: “A first class network of business advisors can be used to great effect for SME’s.”
“If the Government is really committed to helping small businesses, it needs to spend more money on providing good, long term assistance for such companies; two days a month for at least four consecutive months,” added Laurie Spragg of LKS Business Network.
Of those that found Business Link useful, Alfred Graham of The Silk Forest said: “I don’t know why people have a down on Business Link. We have used them several times in the last 20 years. Unfailingly useful, always a source of information. Helped us through some very hard times.”
Bernard Goodchild of Management Support for SME’s stated: “My own experience suggests that clients and advisers all believe that the withdrawal of face to face government funded support is a retrograde step.”
Business advisers were asked if the demise of Business Link had led to an increase in new clients. The majority of the sample (64 per cent) stated that there had been no increase with only a small proportion stating that there had been a noticeable increase (15 per cent).
Michael Reid said: “New clients come almost without exception from networking and recommendations.” Laurence Ainsworth of Exigent Consulting added: “I think those people who used Business Link did so for the large part because it was free. If they are looking for free advice they will go to other free sources irrespective of their capability. I would expect more to go to their accountant.”
The UK Business Barometer (UKBB) and the UK Business Adviser Barometer (UKBAB) provide a snapshot of how small and medium-sized businesses are coping with the current state of the economy and aim to uncover the key issues affecting the small business market. Operating over the web means that results can be rapidly generated and the surveys have unique software that enables results to be processed and posted on their respective websites immediately they arrive.
More information, including results and analyses, can be found on the web at www.ukbb.ac and www.ukbab.ac. Businesses and advisers wishing to contribute as panellists on the project should visit the appropriate Business Barometer website to register.
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