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Running your business

5 places to get business advice you might not have thought of

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever had? Maybe it came from somebody you used to work for, a parent, a friend or a trusted mentor you’ve known for years. Perhaps you simply read it in a book. 

Either way, the advice you’ve received from others has probably played a big part in how you run your business. It may have helped you see things differently, test out an ambitious new approach or avoid potentially costly mistakes. 

Advice is one of the few constants available to business owners right now. Time will tell just how tough this winter will be, but as more restrictions and government support schemes emerge, it’s vital to seek out the right guidance to help you navigate whatever challenges lie ahead. 

But a lot of business owners don’t actually know what’s out there – and that a lot of advice is totally free. So we’ve collated some key resources you may not have been aware of. 

1. Recovery Advice for Business scheme

You can access free one-to-one business advice via the Recovery Advice for Business scheme, a government-backed platform launched by Enterprise Nation in July. 

The scheme is designed to help small businesses recover from the impact of the pandemic. It  provides free support from experts in a range of areas, including accounting, advertising, HR and legal affairs. 

The programme is running until the end of the year and is supported by a whole host of professional bodies, like the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and The Law Society.  

How can I access this advice?

Visit the platform on the Enterprise Nation website, sign up for free and create a business profile. After that you can take a business health check and receive recommendations for relevant advisers, who you can arrange a call with you on specific aspects of your business. 

Calls last up to an hour and aim to provide you with advice you can put into practice immediately. 

2. Small Business Leadership Programme

Advice and education go hand in hand – whether it’s learning from teachers, classmates or textbooks. But finding the right course and the time to learn is rarely easy for busy, time-pressed business owners.

The Small Business Leadership Programme, another government-funded scheme, solves this problem with a free 10 week online course delivered by business experts from leading business schools.

The course has been structured with the realities of full-time work in mind. Participants will attend eight 90-minute webinars across 10 weeks, and complete up to two hours of independent study and peer-supported learning per week. Courses begin between September 2020 and January 2021. 

How can I access this advice?

You can register here. There are programmes for businesses in every region in England – and you have the option to choose which business school in your area you study with. 

Dates for courses will be announced soon. If there aren’t any dates available in your region, you can register interest and your local business school will notify you when registrations are open.

To be eligible your business must be based in England, employ between 5 – 249 people and have been running for at least one year. The participant should be a decision maker or member of the senior management team within the business, with at least one person reporting directly to them. 

3. Your local Growth Hub

A lot of business owners don’t know about Growth Hubs, which join up national and local schemes to make it easier for businesses to find free support.

From Newcastle to Newquay, there’s 38 regional Growth Hubs across England – you can see the full map here. Each local hub differs slightly, based on the resources available in that area, but the focus is on helping businesses through free one-to-one advice, funding, events and other schemes. 

Growth Hubs are delivered by Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), voluntary partnerships between local authorities and businesses, which work to drive economic growth, job creation and improve infrastructure within local areas.

(They are also where you can find out about grant schemes you might be eligible for).

How can I access this advice?

Once you’ve selected the Growth Hub for your region from the list, it will take you to your specific Growth Hub’s homepage. From there you can see what’s on offer in your local area. 

Each Growth Hub homepage should have a phone number you can call to talk through the options available to you. And depending on the hub, you may be able to book an appointment with an adviser or request a call back.

4. UK Business Forums

UK Business Forums is a bit like Mumsnet for small business owners. It can be less polished and more straight-talking than other platforms, but sometimes the best person to speak to is another business owner who can offer you honest, candid feedback.  

“We’re here to say what your friends and family probably won’t,” says UKBF’s ‘About page’. It’s the kind of place where you can find real stories from real businesses in the same position as you. 

The forum sees almost nine thousand posts and over half a million users each month, so it has quite an active user base. There’s a broad range of forums too, whether it’s sector-specific discussions or different aspects of running a business, like marketing, finance or the impact of coronavirus. 

How can I access this advice?

Head to the main UK Business Forums page, where you can access the website’s different forums. 

It’s free to create and comment on threads as well send private messages to other members, but only paying members can post adverts in the UKBF Marketplace and Business Directory. 

5. Your accountant

Whether it’s dealing with your taxes, your company’s legal structure or looking after your finances more generally, there’s a whole range of areas where an accountant may already help you. 

But the relationship between accountants and their small business clients has changed a great deal even over the past few years. It’s become more tech-driven and about more than traditional compliance services, like tax returns and bookkeeping. 

Accountants are emerging as a key source of advice for business owners – particularly around areas like cashflow and funding. In fact, they’ve been ranked small businesses most trusted source of advice – ahead of friends, family and other business owners (British Business Bank).

How can I access this advice?

Don’t feel like you can only speak to your accountant once a quarter, drop them an email or give them a call to see what other services they might be able to help you with.

The best thing to do is to touch base regularly and to build a relationship so you feel comfortable going to them for support.

If you don’t have an accountant already, we have an accountant directory on our site where you can search for a local advisor.

 

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