For small businesses and start-ups, the question about how to grow your business is one of the most pressing there is. But where do you turn for advice and help on growing your business - without needing to spend valuable resources on expensive commercial consultancy services? Luckily, there are plenty of places you can turn to.
Business Link is now delivered via a national online presence and it's a fantastic source of information, guidance, reference and expertise on all areas of business - from professional indemnity insurance, through to SEO, logistics, recruitment, HR legislation and regulatory accreditations. The database behind the website is huge and the site is a virtual treasure trove of business advice and guidance, which costs nothing and which has been endorsed by government sources and other partners as being quality, up to date advice.
UK Trade & Investment
UK Trade & Investment, or UKTI, is another government body devoted to helping small businesses. Whether you're new to exporting or an experienced overseas trader, the agency can offer a wide range of services, from credit checking through to trade missions. Many services are offered free of charge or highly subsidised and are very well recommended by previous clients.
Local Chamber of Commerce
Local chambers of commerce are another great source of business advice and often work in partnership with local economic development agencies and business service providers to promote the services and trade of their member base. Members also prefer to trade with other members, so joining the local chamber can be a fantastic step towards meeting new contacts and clients through events and networking.
Many chambers of commerce work with other not for profit providers who can offer services that will be funded by a variety of public and private sources. These might include access to finance, investment panels and business angels, business advice and consultancy, training and events, regulatory consultancy (which is also offered by local councils in a number of areas such as food hygiene and fire safety training) and apprenticeships provision.
Get in touch with your local provider to find out what services are available and what you may be entitled to. Eligibility varies, but tends to be for SMEs or start-ups who need extra support. Coaching and mentoring schemes are also popular routes to gaining the expertise or developing a strategy for business growth and these are well worth pursuing, as they offer you expert advice on growing your business from a seasoned professional with plenty of experience to share. Mentoring will tend to be a longer term one on one relationship, whereas coaching is usually shorter term and in specific preparation for a goal, but both have equally powerful results and are hugely valuable tools for entrepreneurs and business directors.
Regardless of where you feel that you need assistance with your business growth the most, getting in touch with your local service provider is the first step and they will assign a business advisor to you, to help understand your particular business and your requirements. He or she will act as the liaison point for your business going forward, build up a working relationship with you and signpost you to a range of valuable services.