How businesses can access government assistance

There are plenty of government schemes that have been designed to help companies across multiple sectors grow, says Chris Williams, chief executive of B60. 

You can’t do it on your own. All businesses, large and small, will need assistance at some point, in many different ways. When you’re a small business looking to make that step change and expand, there is help out there. That said, nobody will come knocking on your door to tell you. It’s your responsibility to get out there and find out what is available.

There are plenty of government schemes that have been designed to help companies across multiple sectors grow. In my own business, I have taken advantage of these schemes and they’ve been a huge help. By digging deep into these experiences and seeking to convert it into practical advice, hopefully you’ll also get some real value to help you on your own journey.

Seek help and you will find it

First things first, you have to go looking. You can’t expect initiatives to land at your feet.

Taking the first step can seem daunting, so a great place to start is with your local enterprise schemes. A quick search on Google will give you access to a number of websites in your local area, all run by local government, where support comes in many shapes and sizes. This can include grants for new employees, match funding for events, help with costs of new premises and even loans.

For B60, based in the West Midlands, our first bit of support came from a graduate scheme run by Worcestershire County Council. The idea was that we would take on a graduate at £20,000 per year and receive 50 per cent of the salary cost in support for the first 12 months. Essentially, the cost of a full-time graduate, with experience, was £10,000! We brought two on board, which was hugely beneficial for us and directly helped shape us into the business we are today. Both of those graduates are still with us; and one has grown to become one of our directors.

Get the basics right first

It shouldn’t be difficult to get access to government support. However, if you’re new to running a business and dealing with lots of paperwork, then it might feel overwhelming at first. Truth is, it’s not. In most cases, it’s really straightforward. Just make sure you:

  • Have your business plan in place. This doesn’t need to be a lengthy manual, but it should be simple, clear and concise.
  • Have your financials and forecasts (cash flow included) ready. Anyone starting a business should have these anyway. If you don’t, and you struggle with numbers, hire an accountant to help you.
  • Ensure your digital presence is good. It has never been more important than today. I spoke with a guy recently who told me he wasn’t being taken seriously. When I looked at his website, well, my three-year-old could have done better! He was also using a Gmail account for his business email. These things can seem like minutiae, but they all matter. Ensure both the online and offline presence of your company look and feel professional.

Having all your ducks in a row before applying for government assistance means you are more likely to be taken seriously. In truth, you should be diligent and already have these plans, reports and KPIs built into your business. If you don’t, and this process makes you install them, it can only be a good thing.

Notwithstanding any of the above, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Local and central government funding and support is there for you. After all, they literally exist to help businesses. As the saying goes, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Chris Williams is chief executive of B60 Apps.

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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