How to Get Advice for Business Start-Up

At one time anyone needing advice about starting a business was automatically referred to the three wise monkeys: the bank manager, solicitor and accountant. Any one of these may have had the knowledge or ability to understand the needs of the prospective small businessman, but often their advice was either not sought or was ignored, or they gave advice which was either wrong or not relevant.

It is not really their role to act as a general business advice service. Few have the knowledge to do so effectively and many are disinclined to offer such a service. Their particular specialist knowledge is of great value and the prospective businessman still needs that advice. The fact that they are no longer regarded as sources of general advice enables them to concentrate on the work for which they are best suited rather than offer advice in areas where their knowledge is limited.

Business Start-Up

The role of adviser and signposting service has now passed to a number of organizations which are generally better able to carry it out because that is their principal function.

The first point of contact for someone wanting to start a busi­ness but with no knowledge of how to go about it will probably be the Small Firms Service sponsored by the Department of Employment. The DoE is directly responsible for the service in England, but operates through the Scottish Development Agency in Scotland and the Welsh Development Agency in Wales. In Northern Ireland a similar service is provided through the Department of Commerce by the Local Enterprise Development Unit.

The service can be contacted more easily from any telephone by dialling 100 for the operator and asking for Freefone Enter­prise, for which, of course, no charge is made. The service, which has 11 regional centres in England, publishes a range of leaflets on their own services and on several aspects of running a business. Its most useful function is that it can put the pros­pective business operator in touch with a wide range of specialist advisers. These can range from the most appropriate people in government departments or local authorities, to chambers of commerce or the professionals in accountancy, law, property, finance and exporting. The signposting service is one of the most valuable for the person starting out in business and even the New Business Guardian finds that it frequently operates in this role.

The service is manned by civil servants, but they display great enthusiasm in trying to meet the demands of their clients. Although the service has come in for criticism, and there are variations in quality as there would be in any organization which tried to span the country on such a diverse subject as small business, the general response is that it is a very useful facility which could be more widely used.

Where the officials of the service are themselves unable to help they can put the inquirer in touch with the Small Firms Counselling Service, which is also the responsibility of the Small Firms Division of the Department of Employment. There are some 50 area counselling offices around the country and the inquirer will usually not be too far from a counsellor. All counsellors are experienced businessmen, some still in busi­ness, some retired. The initial counselling session is free and the charge for subsequent sessions (limited to 10 days in any one year) is not high and frequently offers very good value for money.

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About the Author: Marie Mayle is a contributor to the MegaHowTo team, writer, and entrepreneur based in California USA. She holds a degree in Business Administration. She loves to write about business and finance issues and how to tackle them.

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