West Midland SMEs still shy of asking for help on growth

MORE than a fifth of West Midland SMEs have never sought advice on how to drive business growth, new research has concluded.

The study by Yorkshire Bank also found that among those businesses which did seek advice, many were seeing a significant financial benefit.  

The survey suggests that 22% of the West Midlands’ 379,000 SMEs never seek out advice on gearing up to grow their business. The research also found that the average saving or extra profit made by businesses which did take external advice was more than £13,520 every year.

The bank said if this saving was applied to all 83,380 businesses which did not seek advice, the total saving could be in excess of £1.1bn.

The survey also found that the West Midlands was on a par with the UK average (22%) for firms not seeking out advice.

Of those polled in the West Midlands, two-thirds (66%) of businesses were convinced good professional advice was a key element in a successful company. Indeed 64% of businesses said they sought out advice at least once a year or more, 47% once every six months or more, while 40% looked for advice once a month or more.

While the main source of advice was from professionals such as accountants and lawyers (46%), others included trade bodies such as the Federation of Small Businesses (26%), peers, banks and free websites. Meanwhile, the most popular areas of advice sought were law and regulation (30%), industry specific issues (24%) and ways to increase your business (21%).

The bank said its own research suggested that business confidence appeared to be growing with 93% of businesses in the West Midlands looking to invest over the next year. The survey also revealed that 48% of West Midlands’ respondents believed there was enough public sector support for businesses that wish to set up or grow, while 49% said there was enough private sector support.

Brian Colquhoun, Regional Director for Business and Private Banking with Yorkshire Bank in the West Midlands, said: “The pressures and demands on business owners and managers have never been greater therefore finding the time to seek out external advice can be extremely challenging.

“It is more important than ever that businesses are aware of the specialist help and advice that is available to them and we will do all we can to help.”

He said the bank’s recent Business Week programme, where it hosted over 200 events throughout the UK, had given it the opportunity to provide relevant information on the topics that mattered most to businesses.

“SMEs are crucial to the UK economy and its emerging recovery and we will continue to support them and those that advise them, in 2014,” he added.