Most small business owners have aspirations.
The majority would like to grow their businesses or consolidate their position in the market place. But the problem for many small businesses is working out how to achieve sustainable growth. Having entrepreneurial drive is one thing, but applying that drive without help and advice from a professional can be difficult. Most SMEs therefore turn to experts like accountants and lawyers to help them build their enterprises. Unfortunately professional advice costs, and for those businesses who are working to very tight margins this can be problematic.
Well, it seems the government has recognised that this issue is a problem, so it is trying to do something to help. From the end of January the government will introduce a £30 million Growth Voucher research programme designed to test the value to small businesses of accessing professional advice.
Growth vouchers were originally announced by Chancellor, George Osborne, in his 2013 Budget statement.
He told parliament that the Government would be fund a proposal by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) to make Growth Vouchers available to small businesses seeking guidance on how to expand. From the end of this month subsidised advice for the UK’s SMEs will be delivered in the form of randomly allocated Growth Vouchers which will provide business owners with a 50 per cent subsidy towards the cost of obtaining advice on the leading issues that aid business growth.
SMEs that participate in the programme will be randomly allocated vouchers to spend on any of the following business advice categories:
- Legal, HR and accountancy- Any company looking to take on more business and expand will inevitably find that accounting and HR systems become more complex. Small firms in particular can struggle to get to grips with employment law and tax systems. Growth vouchers will help SME owners make sense of these functions and improve overall efficiency.
- Access to finance- Small and Start Up businesses often complain about having greater difficulty securing finance than more established firms. Too many SME owners remain unaware of the additional options available outside of traditional debt finance. The Growth Voucher scheme will seek to address this issue and provide owners with new ways of obtaining finance to boost long term investment plans.
- Marketing- Growth Vouchers can be used to help businesses needing help with marketing their products and services obtain expert advice in order to generate more sales and increase brand exposure.
- Business planning- Short and long term business planning can often come at quite a cost, particularly if firms seek to outsource work to external consultants. Growth vouchers will offer SME owners free advice to motivate and drive businesses to expand their product and/or service offering.
- Workforce training- A skilled workforce is vital for the success and expansion of any business. SME owners often need direction and advice in providing increased staff training opportunities to up-skill valuable employees.
- Exporting- Exports are an essential factor in the rebalancing of the UK economy and many potential and current exporters require urgent advice and support on breaking into new markets. Export training, including access to market intelligence and trade shows, could help many small firms dip their toe into foreign waters and open up new opportunities for current exporters.
How will the Voucher Scheme work?
SMEs will be able to apply via a Government website for a Growth Voucher. Each business will have to meet the relevant criteria and undergo a diagnostic filter to help assess their business needs – a process that’s either carried out online or face-to-face with an adviser. The Government will then match your spending on business advice up to a maximum value of £2,000. Business owners can spend as much or as little as they want on business advice but the maximum contribution they can receive from the Government is £2,000.
Those businesses fortunate enough to receive a Growth Voucher will be required to visit the Enterprise Nation marketplace – which is already open – and source a supplier or advisor with whom they can spend their voucher. The organisations involved in the scheme are BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel Development), ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales), ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), CIM (Charted Institute of Marketing), The Design Council, Chartered Management Institute. Each supplier is a member of Founding Trade & Professional Bodies so businesses can rest assured on the quality of the advice on offer.
For further information about the new Voucher Scheme or for additional help on raising and sourcing business finance and calculating cash-flow projections, budgets, and trading forecasts, contact Steven Glicher accountants on 0161 485 8007.