For newly launched businesses, keeping control of finances is a necessity and those that act nonchalantly about expenses will often pay the price later down the line. Many start ups fall into the mistake of taking on too many overheads, particularly fixed overheads such as office space and cars. It's tempting to convince yourself that you must have an office where people can come and see you but in reality there are many appropriate, and often free, alternatives. I've found that public libraries in particular often invaluable resources.
One of the most significant benefits of public libraries for businesses are the resources they can offer. Not only do they provide free internet access, which in itself is an essential tool, but some libraries have dedicated business centres, such as the British Library in London, which can offer a range of tools, resources and advice to entrepreneurs and business people including help with safeguarding their intellectual property.
These dedicated business centres offer a range of services and resources aimed at start ups; from helping to develop business plans and researching prospective markets and clients to networking and advice on protecting intellectual property.
Keeping business overheads low and maintained is essential, especially for new businesses starting out. Many small to medium-sized companies fail to understand this and can often rush and commit to renting unnecessary office space that they see as essential, in a bid to come across as a "proper business". However, spending unnecessary funds on office space and the like is one of the easiest ways to see overheads steadily rise and begin losing control of the finances. It is especially unnecessary with ever-evolving mobile technology allowing entrepreneurs to work whilst on the move. This flexibility, aided by technology, has lead to an increase in 'third space working' that has allowed business owners to cut down on their fixed costs; with public libraries proving to be a particularly prevalent choice as a work space.
The business landscape has changed dramatically in recent years and SMEs nowadays have a wealth of free or low-cost options where staff can work, socialise or hold meetings. Being out of the office once meant that executives were forced to hop between high-street coffee shops in order to access the internet and check their emails. Now the face of 'third space working' has altered into a much more proficient operation.
Many public libraries have free wifi for research and email access, as well as areas to hold informal meetings. Most libraries also offer more formal meeting spaces specifically catered to entrepreneurs and business people wanting to meet clients, employees and network with similar organisations.
In recent years, the role of the public library has dramatically transformed into a hub offering advice and resources to budding entrepreneurs, SMEs and start up businesses. However, it is essential that aspiring business people understand the options available to them to ensure they have control on their overheads and understand that one of the most powerful and useful business tools could be found in their local town centre.
Dr Stephen Fear, British Library's Entrepreneur in Residence and Ambassador, will be speaking at The Business Show 2014 on Thursday 27th November.