Posted: Wed 2nd Dec 2020
Despite the disruption of the Covid-19 crisis to the small business world, many have persevered and bounced back stronger than before by taking advantage of free support and the generosity of business advisers.
Sometimes out of crisis come opportunities in the form of helping hands. Hundreds of accountants, lawyers, HR experts, business coaches and marketing pros rallied to the rescue and signed up to offer free advice through the Government-backed Recovery Advice for Business (RAB) scheme to help business owners back on their feet.
Small Business Minister Paul Scully, a big supporter of the scheme, said recently:
"Support for business comes in a variety of forms, and I know from my own experience of running a small business just how invaluable advice and mentoring from knowledgeable peers can be.
At a time like this when many businesses are facing serious challenges, schemes like this can make a real difference. It is really encouraging to see so many top professionals offering their time to help out small businesses, and I'd urge business owners to make use of this service."
"I'm here to help."
Since launching in July, over a thousand small businesses accessed the scheme, which is supported by 16 professional bodies and hosted on the Enterprise Nation website. Business owners are able to book an hour of free, virtual one-to-one advice now until the end of the year to help them prepare for long-term recovery.
Paul Savage, a chartered accountant at AIMS Accountants for Business was one the first advisers to join the scheme through his professional body the ICAEW. He has since offered advice through free webinars, blogs, and events.
Paul said this of his commitment to the cause:
"Now, more than ever, business owners will benefit from having detailed cash forecasts for the next twelve months to reassure them that they understand their resource requirements for the months ahead.
As an experienced, qualified accountant with a proven track record of dealing with businesses undergoing rapid change, I am delighted to be able to support this initiative and help owner-managed businesses to bounce back."
More than a third of all small businesses using the initiative have asked for calls with advisers around sales, marketing and PR mentoring (38%), a quarter needed urgent help with accounting and finance (23%), almost a fifth (18%) asked for instruction on planning and strategy with 10 per cent seeking digital guidance.
Erica Wolfe-Murray, innovation consultant and founder of Lola Media, has helped several small businesses in the last five months.
She said this of her experience delivering free 1-2-1 calls:
"These calls can be really valuable. As the adviser, you have to learn about their business quickly in the first 5-10 mins, so the owner can then follow on asking you the questions they need answers to. Often these businesses are tiny, owner-managed but are also tight on time and resources so you have to be inventive, thinking on your feet as to how you can best help them.
I try to draw on my past experience working with a wide variety of companies to support them and answer their questions. Many that I've spoken to say 'wow, this changes how I think about my business and the art of the possible'."
If you're looking for an adviser to help you as lockdown restrictions ease, check out one of these 45 advisers offering free recovery advice.
The value of taking advice and getting an outside perspective
Ever wondered what it's like to work with an expert? Here are three stories of small businesses who received emergency advice from advisers on Enterprise Nation.
Developing an SEO and PR strategy
Brian Allen from Isle of Wight-based Spanish language tuition firm Learn Spanish In and his new firm Ingles Ya took advantage of free expert guidance through the scheme after his launch plans were put on hold. He booked a free call with Bristol-based Content and PR expert Dan Martin and picked up tips to boost his business.
Chatting to Dan gave Brian some immediate takeaways, for example, Brian embedded Facebook reviews on his existing website within half an hour to boost SEO. He's also set up Google My Business to help search rankings.
Brian said: "I wanted to ask Dan about backlinks. I could see that was a theme in SEO I wasn't exploiting properly. I wanted to get the website optimised and get ideas in place for when I launched Ingles Ya.
"Dan's input helped a lot at a moment when I had the time to devote to it which has helped me build SEO and work on the PR strategy for the launch."
Generating new revenue streams
Gavin McDougall, MD of Edinburgh-based publishing house Luath Press had a call with innovation consultant Erica Wolfe-Murray, based in Thame, Buckinghamshire. The call sparked a new business idea and the potential for more revenue.
Gavin said: "It's a small example of a third-party person looking in on a business and asking questions. Making you as the person that runs the business think outside the box about the opportunities that might exist."
Understanding your financial options
Nicky Spencer, founder of Haven't Stopped Dancing Yet, has been running 70s and 80s soul funk and disco nights for the last ten years, but business stopped overnight when the lockdown was put in place. She discovered Amit Gupta, from Allenby Accountants, who is offering free emergency accounting to small business owners.
"I was in panic mode and Amit explained the situation in no-nonsense terms and was very calming and understanding. It was really important to me," she said.
Nicky added that when the crisis started her accountant wasn't picking up the phone and she was at a loss on what to do. She's since cancelled and moved to Allenby.
_If your business needs support on how to thrive in the new normal, speaking to Enterprise Nation advisers can help you navigate the next phase of your growth. You can book a free one-hour call with advisers as part of the Recovery Advice for Business scheme.