YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOU ON THE INTERNET

TO DELIVER a major kickstart to the economic recovery we need to get British businesses working better online. 2012 is set to be one of the toughest economic environments in recent history – and our economy depends on the survival of our small businesses.

Young businesses are the firms with the most potential to create new jobs, wealth and innovation in the UK, and will haul us out of this recession. But in order for them to thrive, they must use the internet as their lifeline.

So this is my Lord Kitchener moment – and my goal is to persuade Britain’s small businesses that your country really does need you.

The truth is, small businesses in the UK currently hugely under-utilise the internet. Most small business efforts to date have focused on getting startups online; which has translated into support in creating a simple web page.

Though this is of course an essential first step, I believe that the internet provides the transformative potential to change every element of a business’s profit and loss statement, helping them reduce costs, increase sales and exports and thus increase profitability and employment. The web gives businesses the potential to become global in just a few clicks.

Therefore, an intensive effort is required to help SMEs to exploit the web to its fullest extent, to use the speed of the internet to rapidly and radically change the business prospects of a large number of small businesses.

In 2012, small businesses need to know more than just how to sell online. They need the skills to drive marketing through social media, increase their website exposure through search engine optimisation, and procure and enhance supply chains through business-to-business websites.

School for Startups has developed a nationwide programme of bootcamps called the Web Fuelled Business initiative to help UK small businesses grow more quickly and become more profitable by teaching them to fully exploit the internet and the opportunities it brings.

Supported by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the national three-month pilot programme kicks off next week, and through a tour of one-day bootcamp events all over the UK and web-broadcasts, 3,500 small businesses will be supported.

The goal is to boost the productivity of those firms as they apply the skills they have learnt within their individual businesses.

It’s an example of a successful partnership between the public and private sectors that aims to rapidly create growth, and if this pilot programme can be built upon, it means that we can play our part in assisting in the creation and safeguarding of jobs in Britain.

Locations for the training sessions include Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich, Nottingham, Portsmouth, Reading, and Torquay. Applicants can register at www.webfuelledbusiness.com

Doug Richard is the founder of School for Startups @DougRichard