As the post-recession environment becomes the new normal for young businesses, Lucy Delaney, business development manager at Keele University Science and Business Park (KUSBP), explains how small businesses can learn from those which started life after the crash. Since 2008, young businesses have been faced with many a hurdle, from access to finance to balancing staffing levels. The recent Witty report into how universities can support economic growth suggests that Britain is creating endurance entrepreneurs. These are businesses which are equipped from the start to overcome various hurdles to succeed. Here in Staffordshire, this is certainly a trend we’ve seen in young businesses on the Keele University Science and Business Park. They see the recession as the norm and have had to take flexible and innovative steps to grow and achieve success. For businesses looking to expand their team for the first time, it’s crucial to do so in a way that won’t mean over-committing on resource – a path that could see them having to take on extra finances. With many banks seemingly unwilling to lend to SMEs, businesses must find alternative routes to grow their teams and in turn, their business. Internship programmes such as that offered by Santander, enable companies to employ interns at no cost for three months. This gives companies insight into what it’s like to be an employer and which areas need extra support to drive growth. These schemes also offer graduates first-hand experience of working in a small business, helping them to develop their own entrepreneurial spirit. Alliances with other local businesses have also proved to be a low risk, cost effective way for small businesses to offer greater skills and grow in recent years. One of the businesses at Keele which has implemented this is CIF Management Consultants. Keen to build on their change management consultancy, the company formed a partnership with another local provider to incorporate HR advice into its offering for clients. Networking has stood the test of time and is now something that takes shape in many a form, from black tie dinners to informal ‘kitchen’ networking sessions held at Keele. For start-up businesses which have achieved success during recent years, applying resilience and exploring all of the opportunities out there, as well as identifying the right ones for their business, have been key. Even when the economic wave is easier to ride this is an approach that all businesses should adopt. What makes a successful small business? Tips from Keele University Science and Business Park: Apply resilience and tenacity – an approach that can help businesses secure success, even in tough market conditions. Know your sector – strong sector knowledge can ensure businesses are aware of any new market challenges and can adapt quickly. Implement a clear marketing strategy – a clear vision for getting a product/service to market, demonstrates understanding of market demand and shows the best routes have been considered, this can help secure financial investment. Consider a commercial address – a business address can provide credibility and a professional platform to secure and retain customers. Tap into local business networks – many local authorities and universities run their own initiatives, making additional support and expertise readily available to small businesses. Keep a tight rein on cash flow and credit control – meeting personal, and supplier, costs with a tightly controlled finance is instrumental to success.
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