The government’s decision to roll back the BusinessLink service has caused consternation in some camps. BusinessLink, while much maligned, has proved an invaluable resource for many thousands of business owners at every stage of their career.
BusinessLink is not being scrapped altogether – but the local groups that provided face-to-face contact for business owners will no longer exist by the end of the year. So where else can you go to get practical business advice?
While the local BusinessLink groups are being phased out, the popular website will remain in action. In fact, the government has announced a series of new additions to the site, which it says will improve the user experience.
The additions include a new ‘Start-Up Hub’, which will make it easier for new business owners to complete the necessary paperwork by putting things like incorporation processes and tax enrolment forms all in one place. There will also be a ‘tax dashboard’ that will apparently provide an easy way for business owners to see how much tax they owe at any point.
The public sector procurement process will also become more closely attached to BusinessLink, with the Contracts Finder service becoming an intrinsic part of the site. This is part of the government’s efforts to increase small business access to public sector contracts.
The BusinessLink website is clearly here to stay. But it is worth remembering that the service has come in for significant criticism, with some members of the government suggesting that it costs too much to run and doesn’t offer value for money. We may therefore still see cut-backs to this vital service.
In addition to the online service, BusinessLink will also survive as a telephone helpline. As the situation currently stands, business owners can call a central number, and they will be connected to a representative of their local BusinessLink branch. In future, presumably, there will be a single call centre through which all enquiries will be handled.
You can currently contact BusinessLink by phone on 0845 600 9 006.
British Chambers of Commerce
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) are an invaluable resource for business owners – and yet they are chronically underused by those who run small firms.
The BCC is a network of Chambers that aims to represent and support businesses at a range of different levels. Part of its work involves liaising with government to encourage a better environment for business. But it also provides practical, hands-on advice to business owners.
There are Accredited Chambers across the country. You can find your nearest Chamber using the BCC website.
Accountants and solicitor
The importance of your own accountant or solicitor should not be overlooked. If you find a good, reputable one, they can provide a veritable wealth of information.
Many business owners avoid finding an accountant, preferring to do the work themselves – often because they consider the cost of hiring an accountant to be unjustifiable. Of course, there is much to be said for doing your own books and your own accounts; it can help you to keep on top of your finances, and give you an accurate idea of your position. But this is not all that accountants are good for. It is also incredibly useful to have someone who you can call when you are confused about something, or when you need a bit of advice. You should therefore think carefully about finding an accountant with whom you are comfortable, even for an informal relationship.