As we move into an ever more tech-driven world, inevitably the focus will be on improving the digital skills of our workforce and business owners. However, this is only one piece of the jigsaw. In order to have a vibrant, healthy and successful SME sector, there needs to be an holistic approach to enterprise support. One which also has to include financial literacy, sustainability and mental health awareness.
Over the last few years, DNAsix has supported hundreds of businesses – from micro-SMEs and start-ups to more established companies and high growth organisations. Initially we focused solely on digital communication skills such as using websites, understanding social media and how to create content.
What became quickly evident though were the low levels of understanding around financial basics such as pricing strategies, understanding basic cashflow and setting aside money to pay taxes. These were causing even greater problems than being unable to get the most out of Facebook or TikTok!
At the same time, it was clear that very few SME owners had any clue about measuring the online performance of their businesses – using website analytics, social media insights or tracking email campaigns. So even if they were running seemingly ‘successful’ campaigns online, it was impossible to verify their actual effect on the bottom line.
The result - a harmful double whammy where people were completely in the dark when it came to understanding how their business was doing financially and digitally.
The challenges don’t stop there though. The UK Government has a Net Zero Strategy, so all organisations, whether large or small, will have to develop some form of sustainability plan in order to hit the incredibly ambitious - but nonetheless vital - 2050 Net Zero target.
Alas, in an economic environment where businesses are just struggling to stay afloat, sustainability is often the last thing on people’s minds.
Which brings me to my final subject – mental health. It is no surprise to learn that business owners are suffering from extremely high levels of stress at the moment. Rising prices, threats from artificial intelligence, GDPR compliance, economic uncertainty, climate change and the looming threat of MTD (HMRC’s Making Tax Digital initiative) are creating a toxic blend of problems which would challenge even the most organised and forward-thinking entrepreneur.
Trying to tackle any one of these in isolation is not a sensible policy. Running a business in 2023 is incredibly complicated and to be successful, you have to have a proper plan which tries to encompass as many of these points as possible.
Equally, if you are an enterprise support organisation or business adviser, you have to be conversant with all these issues. Too often, advice has been one-dimensional or lagging well behind the technological curve. We know that micro-SMEs make up the vast majority of businesses in the UK. So if we are really serious about competing in this new, post Brexit landscape, we need a new type of approach to business support.
Watch this space!