UK small businesses ‘need more support’

The UK’s 4.5 million small businesses need more support to fuel growth, according to new research from BT Business.

Home-based businesses now make up 24 per cent of the UK workforce and contribute an incredible £364 billion to the annual economy*.

The independent research** in the “State of the Small Business Nation 2007” report unveiled today at the first-ever Small Business Week, highlights the issues that affect small businesses across a range of sectors – start-ups, home-based and growing companies.

Bill Murphy, managing director, BT Business said: “The world of British business is changing, with hundreds of thousands of new businesses being started every year. However, our report demonstrates that there are many areas of concern to small businesses and it’s critical that we provide more support and help these companies to thrive and grow.

“In order to help small businesses take advantage of the world of opportunities that are open to them, we need to get a better understanding of the issues they face – after all, that is what Small Business Week is all about.”

Small Business Week 2007 brings together a range of small businesses with BT Business, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), Business Link, everywoman and the Royal Bank of Scotland, and will see a host of initiatives happening across the UK.

The week also sees the publication of Enterprise Nation’s Home Business Report. Commissioned by BT Regions, it is the first report of its kind and identifies key regional home-working trends across the UK. It shows that 60 per cent of new businesses are now started from home.

The State of the Small Business Nation report highlights the areas where small businesses feel they lack expert knowledge. These include finance (37 per cent), HR (30 per cent) and sales and marketing (25 per cent).

Stephen Timms, Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, said: “Small businesses employ over 10 million people - nearly half of the total private sector workforce - and contribute £967 billion to our economy. The increase in their numbers has been a big success for Britain in the last few years. We want to build on that now, and help today’s small businesses grow and take advantage of the new global markets.”

Responding to the call for more support and advice, BT Business has launched BT Business Insight at www.bt.com/insight, a unique free online resource to give small businesses valuable information on important business and technology issues.

It provides knowledge focused on hot topics such as flexible working, serving customers, controlling costs and managing growth. It also provides a wide range of advice – plus regular webinars and podcasts from experts and other small businesses.

To help small businesses sell and market their products online, BT has launched BT Tradespace, the online community brings small businesses and individual sellers together with potential customers and partners to do business.

Free to join, Tradespace allows businesses to quickly and easily create and post content on the web and link to complementary businesses.

After just one month of using the BT Tradespace, HedgePig, an online business that sells a unusual gifts to both consumers and businesses, received more than 1,600 hits on Tradespace and saw a substantial rise in visitors and sales their main web site, resulting in a 20 per cent increase in their monthly turnover.

Across all three sectors, start-ups, home-based and growing companies, the State of the Small Business Nation report shows that growth is the key priority.

Continuing momentum was the major ambition for growing businesses (61 per cent). This extended to 49 per cent of home-based businesses and 48 per cent of start-ups.

It shows that start-up businesses are more likely to turn to the internet for advice about their businesses, ahead of private organisations, like lawyers, accountants, suppliers and business organisations.

In contrast, home-based businesses are the most likely to turn to private organisations for business counsel, except in Wales and Scotland.

Almost three quarters (74 per cent) also believe that the Government could do more to help.

This is particularly true in Scotland (89 per cent) and the North West of England (85 per cent). Only seven per cent of businesses questioned believed that the Government was doing everything it could.

In terms of the areas where state support could help, simplifying regulations topped the list (74 per cent), closely followed by reducing business-related taxes (70 per cent).

Half of the businesses interviewed believed that they could offer greater incentives, while 32 per cent wanted better advice and support provision.

Almost three quarters (74 per cent) also believe that the Government could do more to help. This is particularly true in Scotland (89 per cent) and the North West of England (85 per cent).

Only seven per cent of businesses questioned believed that the Government was doing everything it could.

The Home Business report by Enterprise Nation outlines a ten-point action plan targeted at areas where central government and central agencies to provide more support.

Enterprise Nation Founder, Emma Jones, said: “The Enterprise Nation’s Home Business Report further supports the message that small businesses contribute massively to the UK economy, yet more understanding of small business needs is required from central government and agencies.”