Why do I need a small business consultant to advice me about my business?

Small Business Advice

It is important to get the right advice for your business to gain competitive advantage. However, an element of trust is crucial to maintain a healthy relationship between small business owners and business consultants.

According to the Telegraph, small businesses have an inherent distrust of business consultants. The published article Beware of Business Consultant Charlatans highlights concerns affecting SME's and issues relating to small business advice.

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Small business accounted for 99.3% of the business population in the UK (Gov.UK, 2014)

The importance of small business to the UK economy is fundamental. In 2013, the UK Government took the initiative to commit funds and resources into small business advice and support. A report by Lord Young, an advisor to the Government on business enterprise states,

"Small businesses that take external help and advice are most likely to grow and maximise their contribution to the UK economy". (Lord Young's Report,2015).

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The report highlights the fact that only 30% of small businesses take external advice and suggest the reason is because of the lack of understanding of the benefits of business advice. The government has provided various schemes such as the New Enterprise Allowance to assist small business startup. The Growth Vouchers Program is one of the initiative schemes which provided a subsidy for half the cost of strategic advice to small and micro businesses. The program targets specialist areas of growth including finance, marketing, recruitment, digital capability, leadership and management. The government continues to provide advice and support to set up your business at Gov.uk

"Small businesses in particular new and startup business mostly require help in order to maintain sustainable growth. (Lord Young's Report,2015)

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  • Brent Online are registered members of the Institute of Consulting (IC). The Institute of Consulting is an organisation within the Chartered Management Institute.
  • Brent Online are approved advisers in the growth voucher program and provides small business advice for new business and business startup in local communities.
  • Brent Online are registered members of the Marketing Research Society (MRS)
  • Brent Online are approved advisers for Enterprise Nation (EN). Enterprise Nation is a networking organisation for small businesses.
  • Brent Online are members of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI).
  • Brent Online engages regularly with senior private and public sector professionals in business networking events and networking programs including the Brent Online Networking Development program (BOND).
  • BOND actively participates in marketing activities and promotional campaigns to develop brand awareness.

BOND Program

Small Business Dominate the UK Private Business Sector

"Almost all the business population in the UK consist of micro-entity and small business." (Gov.UK, 2014)

UK government guidelines states:

Micro business or micro entity is a business that has a head count of less than ten, a turnover threshold of £632,000 or less and a balance sheet of £316,000 or less. To qualify as a micro entity, the business must satisfy any two of these three criteria's

Small business or small company has a head count of less than fifty, a turnover threshold of £6.5 million or less and £3.26 million on its balance sheet or less. To qualify as a small business, the business must satisfy any two of these three criteria's.

Advice for Small Businesses

The Importance of Micro Entity and Small Business to the UK Economy

At the start of 2014 the estimated private sector businesses in the UK was 5.2 million.  Micro entity and small business (0-49) accounted for 99.3% of the business population with a annual turnover of £1.2 trillion. Medium size businesses accounted for 0.6% (50-249 employees) with only 0.1% for large businesses (250 or more employees). SME's (0-249 employees) accounted for 46.78% of annual turnover. Micro and small business accounted for 48% of private sector employment and 33% of private sector turnover. (Gov.UK, 2014)

How to Register your Business

Information on registering accounts including micro entity or small business is available at Accounting Guidance.

Detailed legal information is available under the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015.

Small Business Advice

Drivers of change in the Business Population

The key driver of change in the business population growth is self employment with an overall increase of 330,000 31since 2013 (up 6.7%) and 1.8 million (up 51%) from 200030.

In 2014, 62%30 of private sector businesses were sole proprietorships estimated at 3.3 million, 29% were companies and 9% were ordinary partnerships16. There is nearly 4 million businesses categorized as sole proprietorship or partnerships with no employees21.

While the increase in self-employment is a key factor affecting business population growth, some businesses have more than one owner and some owners have more than one business34. (Gov.UK, 2014)

There were 5.4 million private sector businesses at the beginning of 2015 with 4.1 million businesses consisting of owner only. Businesses without any employees is 76%. (Gov.UK, 2015) The private sector continues to grow with an incremental increase up to 5.5 million in 2016 (Gov.UK, 2016) and 5.7 million in 2017 (Gov.UK, 2017)

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Web site Design

It is important to ensure your website is functional, trust worthy and aesthetically appealing.

Web experience can influence the decision making process of virtual customers by engaging traditional marketing tools to enhance the user experience in a combination of online functionality, information, emotions cues, stimuli and products/ services through the medium of the website. (Constantinides, 2004)

The research argues that web experience embraces various elements such as searching, selecting, comparing and evaluating information. The controllable elements were categorised in three categories that included functional factors, psychological factors and content factors and then subdivided into five sub-categories that consisted of Usability, Interactivity, Trust, Aesthetics and Marketing Mix

Professional Website Design

Website Design Quality and Usability

Website quality is determined by the consumer’s perception of overall quality in the context of online shopping and considered a determinant of consumer intention. (Poddar et al 2009) overall quality is determined from a consumer perspective of information quality, system quality and service quality (DeLone and McLean, 2004).  (Hsu, Y., Tsou, H. 2011) argue the website quality has an impact on the emotional state of the user and influences consumer behaviour on repurchase intentions.

Various research studies demonstrated a direct correlation between website quality and consumer online shopping attitudes and behaviour. (Grefen and Straub, 2000) Independent studies identified five distinct elements which were promotion, service informational influence, self-efficacy and resource facilitation (Song and Zahedi, 2001). Zhang and Von Dran (2000) research attempts to evaluate website quality from a user satisfaction or dissatisfaction prospective by adopting Frederick Herzberg’s 2 factor theory. The research identifies hygiene factors as existing functionalities, content and usability features that provides the user with satisfaction and identifies the absence of these features as dissatisfaction. Some hygiene factors identified included privacy and security, technical aspect, Information content, impartiality and navigation. Motivators were the factors that add value and contributed to the over-all user experience and enjoyment. Liang and Lai, (2002) supports the view that good website design is likely to influence online consumer behaviour which also implies that poor design can create concern over usability issues (Venkatesh and Agarwal, 2006) and issues of low conversion rates (Moe and Fader, 2004)

Business Website Design

Marketing

Marketing is essential to any business that is serious about selling online. Developing a structured marketing strategy allows you to increase the traffic flow to your web site. One way to achieve this is to ensure your website consist of valid content that is relevant to your business. It is crucial your website reaches your intended audience. Based on the Pareto principle it is estimated that 20% of your customers generate up to 80% of your overall sales.

Brent Online can provide the tools to evaluate your business performance and the expertise to manipulate the data to create excellent sale opportunities.

Digital Marketing

Ecommerce Business

Ecommerce business accounted for 20% of UK turnover in 2013, an increase from 16% in 2009 which is higher than the EU average at 15%. Website sales accounted for 7%. 24% of UK businesses employs the services of IT specialist which is higher than the EU average value of 20%. (Office of National Statistics)

In 2014 ecommerce sales totaled £573.4 billion, an increase of 2.18% on 2013 and 41.65% on figures in 2008. (Statisca.com)

"Approximately a quarter of businesses in the UK employs the services of an IT specialist." (Office of National Statistics,2016)

Main Reasons why Small Businesses don't have a Dedicated Website

According to Go Daddy the main reasons for small business owners not having a dedicated website are:

  • The belief that the business was to small to warrant a website (35%).
  • The belief that a website would not make any different to the business (24%).
  • The lack of technical expertise (21%).
  • The perception of high cost to have a business website (20%).

The main reason why Small Businesses need to have a Business Website

Competition is the main motivator that influences small businesses to build a business website. 83% of small businesses that already have a website feel that they already have competitive advantage over those that do not.

  • 84% of small businesses say their website must be mobile friendly.
  • 48% of businesses plan to sell goods online within the first year of building their website. (Go Daddy, 2015)

eCommerce Website Design

Perceived concerns that can hinder eCommerce Business

There are a number of reasons that can hinder UK businesses from selling online. Factors include:

  • Goods and services not suitable (23%)
  • Problems related to logistics (14%)
  • Problems related to payment (11%)
  • Problems related to the legal framework (7%)
  • Problems related to ICT security  or data (7%)

The UK however had the highest proportion of online sales in 2014 in comparison to any other EU country. (National Office of Statistics)

Another area of concern for many small businesses is access to specialist advice including finance

Finance and Funding

The ability of SME's to access funding is of vital importance in order to maintain sustainable growth. According to a Department of Business, Information and Skills survey (BIS,2010) 40% of SME's seek loans and 35% seek overdrafts. The main reason SME's seek finance is for working capital and cash flow with a small percentage seeking finance for investment. (Gov.uk)

Finance and Funding Schemes approved by Government

  • Small business loan scheme
  • Startup loans scheme of up to £25,000
  • Business plan and cash flow forecast advice and support
  • Competitive interest rates
  • Up to 5 years loan terms

Grants

Finance and loans

Small Business Loan

Business Networking

"Small business is about networking, building strong relationships and taking action."
(smallbusinessbc)

Business networking is a popular marketing activity employed by small businesses. According to a study by Imago and Loughborough University School of Business and Economics. On a scale of 0 to 100, delegates ranked engagement during face-to-face meetings at an average of 85%. (Forbes.com)

Brent Online implements networking programs as part of a structured business strategy. We actively promote networking activities through our BOND program. The BOND program enables partners to engage with small businesses in local communities to provide advice and support.

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Business Strategy

What is Strategy?

"Strategy is the direction and scope of an organisation over the long term, which achieves advantage in a changing environment through its configuration of resources and competence's with the aim of fulfilling stakeholder expectation. " Johnson, Whittington & Scholes (2011)

Brent Online business strategy is to actively engage with small to medium size enterprises (SME’s) . Our priority is to gain competitive advantage for BOND members and deliver exceptional customer service to small businesses. Our target audience is local business communities.

Mission, Vision, Aims and Objectives

According to Johnson, Whittington &Scholes, the strategic intent or vision is the aspiration of the organisation or a desired future state. The mission is the overriding purpose in line with the value or expectations of the stakeholders. The aim is a statement of the general aim or purpose whereas an objective is a more precise statement of the goal.

Brent Online intends to achieve its aims by setting SMART objectives.

Our Purpose

  • Developing brand and product awareness.
  • Creating value to add to the customer experience.
  • Developing relationships with stakeholders in order to drive our mission and vision statements.

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Mission Statement

"Our mission is to provide professional support to SME's in local communities with exceptional customer service and to continually add value to the customer experience."

Vision Statement

"We are committed to provide the highest professional standards and expertise for small businesses to EXCEL."

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References

Constantinides, E., (2004) Internet Research: Influencing the online consumer: The web experience behaviour

DeLone and McLean (1992) Information systems success: the quest for the dependent variable. Information systems research

Gefen, D., and Straub, D. (2000) The relative importance of perceived ease of use in IS adoption: a study of e-commerce adoption,î Journal of the Association for Information Systems (1:8), pp.1-28

Hsu, Y., Tsou, H. (2011) The effect of website quality on consumer emotional states and repurchases intention – SOR Model [Diagram] 4 August, (2011) African Journal of Business Management Vol. 5(15), pp. 6197, 

Jiang Z, Chan J, Tan B, Chua WS (2010) Effects of interactivity on website involvement and purchase intention. J. Assoc. Inform. Syst., 11(3): 34-59.

Johnson, Whittington & Scholes (2011) Exploring corporate strategy. 8th edition. Harlow: Pearson education limited. 3.

Liang and Lai, (2002) Consumer online shopping attitudes and behaviour: An assessment of research. Available from http://www.ecrc.nsysu.edu.tw/liang/paper/16-Effect%20of%20Store%20Design%20I&M%202002).pdf

Li, N and Zhang. P (2002) Effect of store design on consumer purchases. Available from http://aisel.aisnet.org/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1433&context=amcis2002

Moe, W. and Fader, P. (2004) Dynamic Conversion Behaviour at e-commerce sites. Management
Science, 50 (3), 326–35.

Poddar et al (2009 Poddar A, Donthu N, Wei Y (2009) Web site customer orientations, web site quality, and purchase intentions: the role of web site personality. J. Bus. Res., 62(4): 441-450

Song, J., and Zahedi, F. M. ìWeb design in e-commerce: a theory and empirical analysis,î Proceeding of 22nd International Conference on Information Systems, 2001, pp. 219

Zhang, P., and von Dran, G. M. “Satisfactor and dissatisfactors:  A two-factor model for website design and evaluation,” Journal of the American Society for Information Science (51:4), 2000, pp. 1253-1268

Small Business Consultants