Business Links, which provides impartial business advice to start-ups and SMEs, launched in 1996, but has been modified amid criticism some in the network were guilty of being ‘too inward looking’. Some of its advisers are accountants.
Theresa Graham, Baker Tilly partner and SBS national steering board member, said: ‘The relaunch represents a second chance for the Business Links movement. It will certainly not get a third. The SBS has to demonstrate that it realises its customers are SMEs and not the civil service. It has to be customer facing rather than inward facing,’ she added.
Changes to the Business Links include a reduction in the number of regional partners from 81 to 45. Some 32 of these were involved in the previous programme with the remaining 13 having been decided after compulsory competitive tendering.
Some of the main objectives for the BL include funding for small businesses and to help equip businesses with the information to be able to perform good management practices for themselves.
David Irwin, SBS chief executive, said: ‘Following an intensive contracting process, we are confident that all Business Link partners will have the needs of small businesses uppermost in their minds. This is being reinforced by a commitment to improve the quality of those working in the Business Link Network.
‘We are adopting revised standards for business advisers and other staff. Staff will be assessed against those standards,’ he added.
How accountants help start-up SMEs
A major role for the Small Business Service is to ensure government departments are thinking about the effects of their actions on small businesses. It should also provide top class support to start-ups and SMEs right across the country.
The Business Links provide independent and impartial business advice, information and services to help SMEs and those trying to start up new businesses. Advisers include accountants who offer their services free of charge part-time.
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