When it comes to advice, Britain’s smaller businesses are still looking for personal relationships. The latest (Q3) Quarterly Survey of Small Business in Britain* from The Open University Business School (www.open.ac.uk/quarterly-survey) has found that face-to-face communication channels are the most popular way of delivering business advice and information.
Dr Richard Blundel, Senior Lecturer in Enterprise Development at The Open University Business School and editor of the report said: “Our findings suggest that, while web-based advice and information services are becoming increasingly important, most business owners and managers still value the personal touch.” The survey also found that accountants remain the most commonly cited source of helpful advice or information, identified by 50% of businesses. Customers, suppliers and other business people’ are second (37%), and banks take third place (31%).
Amongst the report’s key findings:
Caroline Elsey of Essex-based CME Personnel Consultancy took part in the survey and her business is one of the three featured case studies. Caroline values face to face contact when in need of business advice. She employs five people and together they provide payroll services for over 110 businesses and engage directly with HMRC on their behalf. Her business also offers a range of personnel services, which includes employment contracts and handbooks as well as personnel policies and procedures. She uses a variety of channels but Business Link was one of the most valued. Speaking about when it was absorbed into www.gov.uk she said, “I thought they were wonderful and it’s a shame they’ve gone”. She now goes to a variety of organisations when she needs business advice and information, depending on the specific requirements including LinkedIn.
Dr Blundel concluded that,
“Getting the right business advice and information is crucial for the UK’s small and medium-sized firms. We found that owners and managers make considerable use of external business support, whether it is to help them grow, to fill a gap in their knowledge and capabilities, or simply to ensure their survival. We estimate that three quarters of the country’s SMEs accessed this kind of assistance in the last year, particularly the larger and more growth-oriented businesses. Our survey picked up mixed messages on ease of access, suggesting that, while there are plenty of service providers, provision is often fragmented. This means it can be difficult to find timely, high quality and trusted advice.”
Commenting on the findings, Manos Schizas, Senior Economic Analyst at ACCA said:
“It is heartening to see that Britain’s small businesses continue to rely on accountants as their most trusted advisers, for a range of advice that goes beyond any narrow definition of ‘accounting. We believe that the profession should take note of the broad needs of growing businesses and continue to expand its offering.’”
Sue Hayes Managing Director of Barclays Business said: