With the Autumn Statement only a few days away, there will be millions of small business owners wondering whether the changes announced are going to be of any benefit, writes Bobby Lane, partner at Shelly Stock Hutter.
To be fair, both the present and previous government haven’t been shy to bring in new initiatives.
In the last three years there have been measures introduced such as the Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme, Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme and the National Insurance Holiday.
Let’s not also forget the plans to launch a state backed bank in 2014. It looks good on paper and those responsible in Whitehall must surely be giving themselves a self-congratulatory pat on the back.
Yet the reality is the majority of business owners do not believe that they have been of any direct help.
Recently, our firm Shelley Stock Hutter conducted research among UK small business owners with an average turnover of £1-5 million.
Nine out of 10 did not believe that any of the above initiatives had directly helped their business. Plus, only one in 10 small business owners believe that a state backed bank will be of any help.
At the core of the issue is a lack of understanding as to how these initiatives can benefit them. Two-thirds of business owners we questioned did not understand the initiatives.
Less than a quarter understood the benefits of Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme, while just over a tenth have any knowledge of the National Insurance Holiday scheme.
The answer is not to saturate the small business marketplace with a spate of new initiatives. Far more beneficial will be for the government to follow up any existing schemes with an education campaign and make a concerted effort to provide more detailed information on the best way to access them along with the most appropriate sources of finance.
But before you think I’m in danger of government bashing, I also believe that business owners need to take some responsibility and realise the importance of preparation.
The reality is many businesses are rejected because they are ill prepared. A proper information pack including historic results, management accounts, a business plan and a clear understanding of the business and its requirements are essential rather than going to a meeting with a few calculations on the back of a cigarette packet.
Plus, many still are not planning or forecasting more than twelve months ahead.
Our research showed that a staggering seven in ten business owners do not have a plan past 2013. Without doubt businesses must look at their longer term strategy and objectives.
Worrying about the issues of today without a thought for tomorrow could mean the difference between survival and growth.