THE BLOG
10/12/2013 06:38 GMT | Updated 08/02/2014 05:59 GMT

VOUCHING FOR BUSINESS GROWTH

Next year, a new Government initiative will be announced that will deliver £30m worth of Growth Vouchers to small business in a bid to help them grow.

And it's setting a good example by appointing a small business to deliver the online marketplace on its behalf.

That's my company Enterprise Nation. We pitched for the work in an open tender and were delighted to win as we truly believe that with record start-ups in the UK, now is the time to help young businesses grow.

Our own Growth Survey suggests almost 95 per cent of small businesses expect to grow their business in 2014, with 54 per cent planning to fund growth with working capital.

That's why we are confident Growth Vouchers have the potential to play a pivotal role. By co-funding and encouraging expert advice, the Government hopes the new initiative will help small businesses make the right decisions with their limited funds early on.

We calculate that if all small businesses were to grow by 10 per cent, it would add a mind-boggling £21bn to the British economy. I think we'd all agree that's certainly worth a go.

The new service will be developed without any public sector funding and will be free for small business to use.

The single platform will make it much easier for businesses to find providers of strategic advice on key topics such as financial management, recruitment, leadership skills, sales and marketing, and digital technology.

At the moment, access to business advice is sporadic and highly variable with no means available to help businesses differentiate the good from bad. Our platform will address this by building a service that establishes suppliers' credentials to offer advice from the outset and then continually seeks feedback on the quality of those services for everyone to see.

By bringing together business advisers with the entrepreneurs that want to access good advice, we think the marketplace has the potential to deliver a significant boost to economic growth.

In his report 'Growing Your Business', the Prime Minister's Enterprise Adviser Lord Young said firms who 'seek and engage external business advice are more likely to grow. But much more needs to be done to encourage firms to invest in their capability.'

The Growth Vouchers programme will be launched early next year and vouchers will be available until March 2015. The programme will be using randomised controlled trials to help the Government gain a better understanding of the effect of business advice on growth and the wider economic implications of Government intervention.

Enterprise Nation has a membership of over 75,000 small and start-up businesses. It delivers a comprehensive package of advice for entrepreneurs including tips and advice on starting and growing a business, expert events, and well-attended start-up courses across the UK.

And the reason its delivery will not be a drain on public funds is because it the private sector considers this to be an important initiative too - and have put their money where their mouth is.

These are technology specialist Toshiba, co-working expert Regus, cloud-based collaboration and data sharing software provider Citrix, telecoms brand Vodafone, cloud-based accounts, payroll software provider Sage One, EDF Energy and business insurance leader Simply Business - all of whom are showing their support for business by backing the initiative.

The scheme comes in the context of record numbers of start-up businesses across the UK, with more than half a million new registered companies expected by the end of 2013 for the first time.