How UK Business Schools can support their local small businesses
Set up by Lord Young, the Chartered ABS and Dept for BEIS in 2014, the Small Business Charter was designed and conceived with just this idea in mind - helping small businesses thrive. Business schools were, and still are, seen as a huge resource of knowledge, support and inspiration. Connecting this with the vast UK small business community seems like a great way to maximise the UK's potential. If you imagine for a moment the incredible innovation, drive and value that could be unlocked if all small businesses had all the knowledge that resonates through our fantastic business schools, it is just a little bit mind blowing.
So with the goal of highlighting, celebrating and encouraging this, the Small Business Charter was born. The SBC is an award that recognises the valuable work an institution does to help small businesses flourish and grow. It does this in a number of ways - recognising work across the institution, recognising quality of teaching, valuing start-up incubation, commending outreach into the small business community. Schools that have the Charter are already demonstrating these activities - and those keen to achieve the SBC are building on their capabilities as a result.
Business schools often sit at the centre of communities - in towns and hubs connected to local networks. This makes them the ideal core of small business support. They are reachable, they are relatable, and they have relationships with key organisations that can help mobilise small businesses to take the support on offer. This may include the council, LEP, trade organisation, chamber of commerce, or any number of formal or informal networks.
This gets to the heart of the small business skills issue - it is a considerable challenge to get small businesses to take the support on offer. One thing that characterises small businesses across the UK is limited resources - time constrained, cash flows are tight, owner managers are often doing many jobs as well as their own. Even the most accessible and well-meaning offer of skills and support can seem more of a burden than a help to these over-stretched organisations.
This is where the SBC plays a critical role. Working with the SBC award holders, the network of schools can reach out and engage with small businesses and better articulate, persuade and encourage businesses to get the critical support they need. This will include strategic goal setting, financial management, digital skills and any number of areas that increase productivity, reduce costs and open up huge opportunities for growth for businesses.
Working together, along with the wider stakeholders in the SBC - such as central Government, national trade bodies like the FSB and a host of supportive organisations - we can make a step change in the number of small businesses getting quality training and support. This will in turn pay huge dividends to the small business sector - a "sector" that in fact employs 16.5 million people! Just a small change can make a big difference to the economy and ultimately many peoples' lives. And a big change can indeed change the world....
So to help small businesses in the UK thrive, do get involved with the SBC and work out how you can play a role in growing small business success into the future.
Michelle Ovens MBE is Chair of the Small Business Charter, Director of peak b, and Director of Small Business Saturday in the UK.
You can find out more about our network of Award-holding business schools here.