Friday 1 November 2019 5:37 am

Startup entrepreneurs are seeking more advice than ever before

Emma Jones is founder of small business support network Enterprise Nation

As a nation, we’re not great at admitting when we need help. We like to soldier on with a stiff upper lip, while often heading for a fall. 

It was therefore interesting that in a recent poll among our Enterprise Nation adviser community, we found that more than half of them say that small business founders have an increasing appetite for advice. 

What are the reasons for this? 

It’s not just another looming election and a painfully slow Brexit process that’s making entrepreneurs take more advice than ever before. Rather, the upward trend in small business owners, side-hustlers, and self-employed individuals seeking knowledge from experienced advisers is more to do with the UK’s world-class startup economy starting to mature. 

The growing demand for advice is also due to the fact that, while startup rates remain astonishingly high here in the UK, with over half a million registered with Companies House every year, more of them are failing. Business deaths have increased slightly to 12.2 per cent in 2017, according to the Office for National Statistics. 

Meanwhile, all research suggests that those who take advice on board do better than those who do not. It’s a simple equation, but it’s taken 10 years for the penny to drop. 

This rise may also be to do with the changing face of advisers. Back in 2009 at the beginning of the tech-enabled startup revolution, taking business advice often meant filling out a lengthy paper application form to receive an appointment four weeks later. 

And before you could get near your assigned adviser – often a retired bank manager in a grey suit – you would have to plonk your Companies House registration papers, tax details, and everything else on the table before he could even mutter the words “business plan” and “income tax”. 

Today’s entrepreneurs are looking for bite-sized advice. A third of advisers said that they were being asked more often for one-off advisory sessions, with another third reporting more demand for remote sessions via phone or digital conferencing link. 

And our advisers are fine with that. Many are young (if not in age, then certainly in attitude), they are tech-enabled, and talk about search engine optimisation and digital transformation. In short, they reflect the modernity of the companies they’re advising.  

In response to these changes, we have taken a fresh look at the way our online support platform works, and are relaunching it today. We hope that by identifying this rising demand for specific advice, we’ll be able to influence the supply of support, cutting through what people think founders want. 

Some founders come to us wanting the business basics, but others want a more niche and sophisticated offering, whether that be around appropriate cultural branding to enter a new market, social media tactics to attract the attention of a buyer, or how to raise funds from an angel with Enterprise Investment Scheme tax relief intact.  

We want to give everyone access to support from the right expert adviser instantly, as well as serve up essential business tools and resources delivered by the private and public sectors. Making access to trusted support as easy as buying a book should open up the advice market yet further.  And we will all gain from that.

Main image credit: Getty

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