Government Growth Vouchers: What You Should Know

Scott Brown When was the last time you received some advice? And when was the last time you received some good advice relevant to your small business? If the answers to the above questions are ‘often’ followed by ‘rarely’ then you’re in the same position as thousands of small business owners nationwide. In response to this, the Government launched a funding scheme in January to help small businesses get the quality instruction they need to grow quickly and sustainably.

Enterprise adviser to the Prime Minister, Lord Young, is spear-heading Growth Vouchers (the name of the scheme), and small businesses can register for £2,000 worth of match funding (if your business is selected then you have to match the investment value of the vouchers). It’s a random selection process and to be eligible your business must meet the following criteria:

• have 49 employees or fewer (including any employees of companies that own a stake in your business)
• be registered in England
• have been trading for at least one year
• not have paid for business advice in the last 3 years
• be independent (i.e. no more than 25% is owned by other businesses or organisations)

The Department for Business Innovation & Skills is responsible for the scheme and selected businesses will, as well as receiving funding, work with the Cabinet Office’s Behavioural Insights team to measure the effectiveness of the programme – this research takes the form of online questionnaires or face-to-face meetings with business advisors working on behalf of the government.

The scheme was launched in January and over 600 businesses have already been awarded vouchers worth in excess of £1million. All vouchers have to be spent with the government’s official partner, Enterprise Nation, itself founded by small business champion Emma Jones MBE. The Enterprise Nation Marketplace has been set up specifically for the voucher scheme and it’s the only place you can spend them. However, with over 3000 advisors on the site specialising in recruitment, finance, IT, business management and marketing, you’ll be sure to find the right advice for your business.

To give you an insight into what your small business peers have been splashing the… vouchers on, here’s the breakdown of the scheme’s month one spend:

46% – marketing, attracting and keeping customers
21% – making the most of digital technology
15% – raising finance and managing cash flow
13% – improving leadership and management skills
5% – recruiting and developing your staff

Early indications suggest a lack of marketing understanding followed by a desire to get to grips with the bookkeeping. And that’s exactly it; when you’ve got your head down and you’re focused on building and sustaining your small business, you often don’t know where to turn or who to listen to when you come up for air and look to get your other business functions in order. Lord Young said it himself at the launch of the voucher scheme in January: “Most companies, when they are launching a new product or service, do a lot of research before they enter the market. With Growth Vouchers, the Government is doing just that to work out the value of early stage advice for the growing number of start-up, micro and small businesses.”

It’s a £30 million scheme and runs for 15 months, so be sure to sign up to give yourself the best chance of receiving valuable government growth voucher funding.

Useful links:

Scott Brown is MD at SME accounting specialist Sable Group

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