We all recognise that we live in unprecedented times. Every month seems to bring a new set of challenges - whether they be economic, digital, environmental or political. Yet there are still millions of SMEs in this country who really need proper support.
Since the 1980s we've had a variety of Government schemes aimed at helping small businesses - some more successful than others. One of the most successful was Business Link which involved having a centralised website along with on-the-ground advisers to deliver support.
And this is the key. No matter how much support there is out there from member organisations, Growth Hubs, LEPs, local authorities, online portals and tech giants, the vast majority of small businesses need a friendly, capable human being to steer them in the right direction.
Traditionally these people would have been older men drawn from the professions, banking or upper management. Well intentioned and knowledgeable they may be, but they lacked knowledge of modern business - particularly digital elements.
So what does the ideal modern business adviser need to do, in order to help today's SMEs? Here are the six attributes we think they need:
- First up is financial literacy including a good working knowledge of online banking, Making Tax Digital, accountancy software and of course basic financial management. Whilst the world may have changed, having a sound understanding of figures is and always has been the most important element of running a successful business.
- Next up is overall digital knowledge. As we've seen with financial literacy, we now live in an essentially digital world where almost all processes rely on modern technology. Sales, communications, training, logistics, recruitment, HR, IT and governance all depend on using programmes, apps and modern equipment.
- The area most obviously impacted by digital transformation is marketing, and this is where many traditional advisers fall down. From social messaging to short form video, websites to analytics, data management and audience segmentation, anyone helping businesses needs to have a working knowledge of most key modern marketing methods.
- We then come to experience. Many of us working in business support come from a variety of backgrounds and have run our own companies so we have been there, done it and worn the t-shirt. We know what it is like to plate spin, to fail, succeed, to go down dead-ends and to lie in bed awake at night worrying where the next penny is going to come from.
- Coupled with this is empathy. We all know that running a business can be one of the hardest, most complicated, stressful things you can do in life. It can also be one of the most rewarding, uplifting and satisfying. An adviser needs to understand all these emotions as well as (if needs be) acting as a mentor, counsellor or even therapist.
- Finally there are the two qualities that are most prized in today's crazy, unpredictable business world - creativity and flexibility. If businesses have to change constantly and understand new trends and technology, so too then do the people supporting them. Trotting out the same old texbook examples of successful companies just won't wash any more.
If you think you have the qualities it takes to be a modern-day adviser, then get in touch with us as we are on the lookout for exceptional individuals with a passion to help today's small business owners succeed.