As part of the Chancellor’s Budget 2013 statement, Mr Osborne announced the government would be funding the proposal by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) to make growth vouchers available to small businesses seeking advice on how to expand.
The BCC proposed the scheme way back last September, with a £100m scheme open to 20,000 small and medium-sized businesses across the UK. The Chancellor endorsed the proposals in this week’s Budget, pledging £30m towards kick-starting the system.
So what’s in it for the typical SME owner?
Growth vouchers each worth £5,000 will be issued to businesses, providing them with access to advice on helping them grow and drive their business forward.
The scheme is designed to generate activity in the domestic business services market, boosting business investment and the productivity of the UK’s SME sector.
John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, commented on the Chancellor’s Budget:
“The British Chambers of Commerce proposed a voucher scheme to help businesses access growth advice in September 2012. We are pleased that the Chancellor has accepted our proposal and committed £30m to help companies around the country get the advice they need to grow, on their own terms.
“Chambers of Commerce around the country look forward to working with the government to bring the scheme to life – and enable businesses to get the specialist assistance they need, whether on finance, employment law or other areas.”
Where will business growth advice be focused?
Legal, HR and accountancy
As firms look to take on more business and expand, accounting and HR systems inevitably become more complex. Small firms in particular can struggle to decipher employment law and tax systems and growth vouchers will help SME owners make sense of these functions and improve overall efficiency.
Access to finance
Many smaller and younger businesses often complain of having more difficulty securing finance than more established firms. Too many SME owners remain unaware of the additional options available outside of traditional debt finance. The scheme will seek to address this issue and provide owners with new ways of obtaining finance to boost long term investment plans.
Some businesses need help with marketing their products and services in the best way possible in order to generate more sales and increase brand exposure.
Short and long term business planning can often come at quite a cost, particularly if firms seek to outsource work to external consultants. Growth vouchers will offer SME owners free advice to motivate and drive businesses to expand their product and/or service offering.
A skilled workforce is vital for the success and expansion of any business. SME owners often need direction and advice in providing increased staff training opportunities to up-skill valuable employees.
Exports are an essential factor in the rebalancing of the UK economy and many potential and current exporters require urgent advice and support on breaking into new markets. Export training, including access to market intelligence and trade shows, could help many small firms dip their toe into foreign waters and open up new opportunities for current exporters.
Businesses wishing to apply for the Growth Voucher scheme are likely to need to be able to demonstrate a sustainable business growth plan. Each voucher will only be available to use on gaining advice, as opposed to boosting working capital, and will also have a time limit on its usage.
More information is expected to be filtered through in the coming weeks and months to enable businesses to receive the specialist guidance they need.