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Guest Blog – Mind the Advice Gap.

As always with the O2 Business Blog, if there is something going on in the world of small business that you need to know about, we are here to cover it. Friend of the blog, Emma Jones, who runs the UK’s most active small business network, Enterprise Nation, has written a guest blog to highlight an opportunity for small businesses to receive both financial and advisory support. To find out if this can benefit you and your business (or help turn your idea into a business) please read on:

Emma Jones from Enterprise Nation

The UK is home to over 5 million small businesses and most are ambitious to grow. One route to growth comes from taking professional advice on the business topics that matter most.

Growth Vouchers delivers results

In January 2014, my company was a key partner in the government’s launch of Growth Vouchers; a programme that delivered up to £2,000 in match funding to small businesses, to be spent on professional advice.

Enterprise Nation built the marketplace to which businesses with a voucher were directed to find an adviser with whom to spend the voucher.

Over the 15 months of the programme, more than 22,000 vouchers were issued and 12,500 advisers recruited. Early figures show the businesses that took advice increased turnover by at least £15,000 per annum, per company.

Further research is to be released showing the impact of Growth Vouchers and we fully expect it to conclude that taking advice is good for business. Which is why it’s a sorry state that there is currently no government backed advice based programme for the smallest of businesses in Britain.

Enterprise Nation has called on the energy sector to release some of the £200 million held in small business closed accounts, to support such a programme.  As we await a response, work continues to match small businesses with essential support.

In Hubs and on the High Street

Through August and September 2015, we take advice onto the High Street with 5 business support PopUps in Horsham, Birmingham, Wandsworth, Manchester and Bristol. The PopUps will be in Post Offices, libraries, coffee shops and a co-working space. Essentially we are plugging advice into the locations small businesses frequent, so accessing support becomes as commonplace as buying a coffee/posting mail etc.

During a week in each location, advisers will be on hand to meet with visiting businesses and offer light touch support in what will hopefully be the start of fruitful relationships. Within one hour of calling on advisers to volunteer their time to man the Popups, over 100 advisers had responded. There’s no doubt around the appetite from the adviser community to help.

Alongside the PopUps, we’re opening a hub in Barnsley, Yorkshire, from which to deliver public projects on broadband and helping businesses get online. This will be complemented by Enterprise Champions across the UK hosting meet-ups and events to make connections. A decade of experience shows small businesses want to be supported online and in person, so opening up the spaces to facilitate these connections has become a key target for Enterprise Nation.

Advice takes many forms; as a business grows, the owner and founder grows too. Taking on people requires developing new skills in HR management and motivation. Accessing finance brings a discipline to the company in reporting and ensuring a strong sales pipeline to repay loans or keep investors happy and, with the fast pace change of technology, we could all do with a bit of advice on how to make the most of digital technologies.

It is clear the advisers are willing and able to support. Taking their advice leads to growth, and so it’s left to conclude that matching the right advice to small businesses will deliver a stronger small business base, and that’s a positive outcome for all.


Emma Jones is founder of Enterprise Nation



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