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Spokespeople from a variety of industries take part in roundtable event

During this September’s Small Business Advice Week, a panel of industry experts from different fields took part in a roundtable event at the ICAEW offices in London. The panel discussed the threats and opportunities SMEs encounter, and gave their advice on the topics.

Small business in the UK

As per the latest annual Department for Business Innovation report, ‘small businesses accounted for 99.3% of all private sector businesses at the start of 2015… and 99.9% were small or medium-sized (SMEs).’ [i] The same document added that in the UK ‘the combined annual turnover of SMEs was £1.8 trillion’.

In line with the vital contribution that SMEs offer the UK economy, Small Business Advice Week exists to serve the interests of these particular enterprises. The 13th annual awareness platform aimed to advise and celebrate small businesses, while offering insight to the UK’s thriving SME sector.

The Panel in attendance at the ICAEW

  • The Chartered Accountants Of England And Wales (ICAEW)
  • 123 Reg
  • Pension Bee
  • UBM Media
  • Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA)
  • CVS Business Rent & Rates Specialist

The ever growing functionality and need for social media and business websites

Kate Cox (123 Reg) commented on the importance of an online presence explaining that “55% of SMEs don’t have a website” although “70%” of the SMEs 123 Reg speak to feel that digital will be their future success. The panel also highlighted the growing importance of social media as a PR and customer interaction tool for SMEs, citing customer interaction as crucial in 2016.

The importance of careful planning and adapting to the environment

Romi Savova (Pension Bee) and Mark Rigby (CVS) commented on the importance of SMEs being able to demonstrate that their service solves a problem, adding the importance of “taking a helicopter view” and evolving with the environment whilst ensuring to stay true to the brand’s image.

The competitive advantage SMEs have over larger organisations
Andrew Mawson (AWA) praised small businesses for their vibrancy, energy and ability to embrace change. Barney Stinton (UBM) in agreement expanded: “You must start the business with a clear idea and clear vision, but it’s important to remain flexible”. The panel discussion highlighted evolving work models, such as flexible, agile, remote and home working. These work models effect how a business community communicates. The workplace, in addition to technology, plays a fundamental role in supporting such collaboration. Recognising that SMEs are operating in an uncertain world, Mawson advised business owners to understand the associated volatility of the changing world of work and to ensure their business model can be flexible and respond to change.

The panel discussion pivoted on the overarching question: what can small business owners do to ensure their business is as successful as possible? Focusing on three key areas – strategic planning, financial and human resources, and physical / virtual infrastructures – the panel of experts, drawing on their experience as a collective, offered their top tips for business success.