What do you determine to be a small business? Is it just being self-employed or based on annual turnover, of say less than £50,000?
You may be surprised.
If you refer to the European Union definition, a small business (SME) is a business with less than EUR2 million annual turnover and less than 50 employees. And Micro businesses are deemed to have less than 10 employees.
If we relate this to Cumbria and the North West of England region the small business description represents;
Within Cumbria alone, there’s 21,080 micro businesses. A whopping 89.1% of total businesses in Cumbria.
Across the North West of England, there’s 237,100 micro businesses, 88.8% of the total recorded businesses.
And those that are classed as Small SME’s (which have 10-50 employees) there’s a further 2,060 in Cumbria (8.8%) and 24,465 (9.2%) across the North West region.
Overall, more than 96% of businesses across the North West of England are small or micro businesses. However, business survival rates only average 50% after 4 years of trading.
So, when it comes to “small business advice”, for many of these businesses it tends to be focused on support post business start-up and accessing help to grow their businesses sustainably and to survive. As you can imagine there will be a lot of choice and availability of business advice due to the volume of businesses and varied support required. Below, I have tried to categorise what business support is currently available.
Free Small Business Support
Whilst the UK is no longer part of the European Union, currently there are still many EU funded business support schemes across the region. As a small business owner, you can access advice and guidance for everything. Help is available to tap into support for Finance, Marketing, Sales, Recruitment, social media, Website Design, SEO, Legislation, Human Resources (HR) and Business Developing, Business Networking and much more.
Simply “Google” business advice or look up your local Chamber of Commerce, Business Growth Hub or Local Enterprise Partnership websites. These organisations manage many of the European Rural Development Fund (ERDF) funded programmes.
Sources of Free Business Support Include:
Cumbria Chamber of Commerce https://www.cumbriachamber.co.uk/business-support
North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce https://www.lancschamber.co.uk/
Cumbria Business Growth Hub, https://cumbriagrowthhub.co.uk/
Lancashire Business Growth Hub, Boost, https://www.boostbusinesslancashire.co.uk/
Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership https://www.thecumbrialep.co.uk/business-support/
Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership, https://lancashirelep.co.uk/
Federation of Small Business is another good resource as a small business owner. https://www.fsb.org.uk/
You’ll find on research there is a vast array of business support, training programmes, business clinics, webinars, business podcasts and downloadable business support templates across these organisations. And many of the “business advice” providers through the funded schemes are small business themselves, freelancers offering advice, guidance, mentoring, training and business coaching.
Paid for Business Advice
Paid business advice can be charged by the hour, fixed price or project based. Sometimes it’s based on a monthly subscription, business consultancy retainer (which is how I offer my business consultancy services).
One of the issues with the free advice is that it’s limited in time, with a maximum allocation of 3, 6 or 12 hours. There will be a significant amount of paperwork to complete as well. Also keep in mind, once you have accessed the free business support, it can be difficult to reengage in the funded business programmes again.
Therefore, it’s good practice, should you require ongoing or specific business advice, to do your research. Create a brief of what you specifically require and ask your associates for recommendations. Then interview, and importantly, obtain references before you agree terms and enter into any payable business advice.
If there’s one piece of advice that I would share with small business owners, it’s always worth paying for business advice and buying experience. This is nearly always more transformative than someone just sharing a business model and theory. You want someone who has been there, done it and got a few scars to boot. As we all learn best from our mistakes and when it goes wrong. As that’s when the best learning and business experience fundamentally arises.
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Good luck with developing your business and whoever you choose as a business consultant it would be great to hear how it went. Or please just get in touch, as I am more than happy to catch up for a no obligation chat over a coffee to hear your story and challenges.