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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Making Businesses Help Themselves During A Recession?

The British Government has announced a raft of measures to aid businesses through the recession, including the Enterprise Finance Guarantee, 'business health checks' offered by Business Link and a variety of schemes to help with staff training. Whilst the Government is offering "real help for businesses now" in reality it's taking time to feed through to individual businesses, as the banks are still deciding upon the best ways to use the funds made available to them.

Not all businesses have their own finance directors to provide strategic financial support and guide them through the recession, but that doesn't mean that sound financial guidance is impossible to find. As a business owner, there are many local initiatives available right now to help you through these tough times, along with business advisors that are dedicated to helping businesses like yours to thrive. There are even professional firms available, such as Orchard Growth Partners, which provide dedicated part-time finance directors to businesses that do not employ a high-calibre financial expert full-time.

Here is the tips for Starting a business during a recession

Whilst it may seem far too risky to start a business during a recession, anecdotal evidence suggests the contrary. If a business is able to weather an economic storm such as this one, it will be in great shape for the expected upturn. It also means that the business has a model that is likely to be less dependent on high risk lending strategies, and a product or service that is genuinely in demand. It can take time for a new business to find its feet, and having a chance to do that before the market picks up again may well benefit the business in the long term.
Whilst there is a lot of doom and gloom in the media, there are two major differences between this and the last major recession. One is that it is easier to start a business than ever before, and secondly, there has never been such a spirit of entrepreneurialism in our economy as there is now. The internet has opened up access to global markets for smaller businesses, as well as multinational corporations, so everybody has the opportunity to trade on a different scale than before.

Help for new and established businesses

Chambers of Commerce

Many local Chambers of Commerce are pulling the stops out to help businesses to not only survive, but thrive during the recession. Some, such as the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce are offering free director development workshops. Others are offering discounted training for members, whilst some are going the extra mile, such as the Surrey Chamber of Commerce which offers the Spelthorne EZone. The Spelthorne EZone (Enterprise Zone) is a scheme is designed to help businesses in their start-up phase. It provides a fully equipped office area with reception and secretarial support, along with access to business services and advice. It gives the opportunity for new business owners to share ideas and get peer support from other local entrepreneurs.

Business Link

Another place to look for help is the local Business Link branch. Again, there is a huge amount of support for new businesses, but for those that are already established there is a free Business Health Check that begins with an interactive tool on the business link website. Business Link is an excellent resource for practical advice, and also networking opportunities.
Business advisors

As well as the resources outlined above, there are many skilled business advisors out there who run courses and seminars designed to help businesses succeed; one example of this is the SMART campaign run by Orchard Growth Partners.
The SMART programme is a series of simple steps and tips which businesses can follow to improve business and financial performance. The programme can be carried out by companies using their own internal resources although there are major benefits in getting a fresh view from an outsider such as a non executive director or a flexible finance director. Orchard advocates this as it provides a business with dedicated attention from a financial management expert with commercial business experience.

The worst course of action is inaction

When times are tough it can be tempting to hide away, or just stick to old ways of doing business that once worked well. Businesses have to be creative and flexible in recession, otherwise they cannot adapt to the change in demand. The help is out there, if you want it, the businesses that thrive in this recession are going be the ones who seek advice and are then prepared to implement it.

Ash Mehta
Chief Executive of Orchard Growth Partners


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