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UK lending figures point to cooling economy, market turmoil

LONDON (Reuters) – Lending to British consumers rose last month by less than expected and the number of mortgages approved by British lenders eased back, according to Bank of England data on Monday that point to tougher times ahead for Britain’s economy.

The BoE said net unsecured consumer credit rose by 745 million pounds ($861 million) in September, the smallest monthly increase since December 2021, following a 1.215 billion pound increase in August. A Reuters poll of economists had pointed to net lending of just under 1 billion pounds.

Mortgage approvals totalled 66,789 last month, down from 74,422 in August, the BoE said, broadly in line the forecast in a Reuters poll.

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“September’s money and credit figures point to further signs that consumers have been become more cautious in response to the weakening economic outlook,” said Ashley Webb, UK economist at consultancy Capital Economics.

The BoE figures showed a huge jump in the money supply, which on the M4 measure rose by 2.1% in September alone.

The last time there was a bigger increase was in March 2020, when financial market turmoil early in the COVID-19 pandemic led to a squeeze on money market funds which had to sell assets such as government bonds and Treasury bills for cash.

September’s jump likely reflected a fire-sale of pension fund assets to meet collateral calls in the wake of the ill-fated Sept. 23 economic growth plan, from the government of former Prime Minister Liz Truss.

The sub-category of M4 which covers companies like pension funds and life assurance firms jumped by a record 67.8 billion pounds in September, more than double the previous record.

Source: UK Investing

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The UK’s small businesses need mentors to navigate the tough times ahead and boost growth

Emma Jones CBE is the founder and chief executive of small business network and business support provider Enterprise Nation.

As we head into the most challenging macroeconomic environment for decades, the UK’s small business community will need careful guidance.

Navigating unimaginable scenarios has become second nature to the nation’s entrepreneurs for all the wrong reasons.

While you might think political ups and downs create that illusive quality ‘resilience’, what has actually happened is that too many founders have simply frozen their plans, like rabbits in the headlights.

If we are going to see growth, we must urgently focus on turning this around. Small businesses are crying out for a fresh approach and a new business action plan that will stand up to whatever the next few years are going to throw at them.

It’s no surprise then, that a recent report has uncovered a ‘pent up’ demand for mentoring in the UK right now.

Mentoring Matters launched today on National Mentoring Day, found that the nation’s appetite for mentoring is on the rise. Today, 82 per cent of businesses are interested in mentoring.

Two thirds (61%) of the 823 small business founders surveyed said that mentoring’s reputation among their peers and business colleagues had increased, with younger founders seeing fewer barriers to being mentored than older entrepreneurs, suggesting there is also a growing role for mentoring to play in the future.

The benefits of mentoring are obvious to most people who have had a mentoring relationship. The survey found 66 per cent of businesses that had received mentoring felt it had helped them survive and three quarters (76%) said it had been key to business growth.

But the report also found too many leaders amongst the country’s 5.5 million small and medium-sized businesses are yet to take part, despite a willing army of potential mentors waiting in the wings.

Put off by time pressures and a perception of an unachievable schedule of long meetings over dusty desks, entrepreneurs have been facing the increasing economic pressures alone for too long.

While taking time out of the business can be challenging, those that are working with a mentor tell us they are finding a way – they are making it work at a frequency and in a manner that suits both the mentor and mentee.

A friendly face on a Zoom after dropping the kids to school is a great way to start the day or a quick call with someone who has ‘been there and done it’ on the commute ahead of a key meeting, really helps to clarify strategy and cement goals.

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The reality is that the experience and wisdom that mentors can bring has never had greater value to our economy as we dive into a new era of book balancing politics under Rishi Sunak.

With a willing army of mentors waiting to be mobilised, we must break down the barriers to ensure more entrepreneurs can access this resource to navigate the tough times ahead.

Mentoring has a very clear role to play in improving business performance and supporting growth. As a founder of a growing company myself, I’ve benefited from having a mentor over the past decade. When there are so many questions to address each day – about product, people, finances and growth – it’s vital to have a sounding board; someone with experience who can hear you out as you navigate the entrepreneurial journey.

Younger entrepreneurs see fewer barriers to being mentored. The under 40s see it as much more achievable than their older colleagues. The report suggested only 38 per cent of businesses founded by the under 40s said cost is a barrier to seeking a mentor, compared to 58 per cent of the over 40s. Half (52 per cent) of the over 40s claimed a lack of time as a barrier, compared to just 40% of under 40s.

Removing these barriers is, at least partly, about addressing perceptions. The report found the financial cost of participation was more frequently cited than any other barrier (51 per cent) – yet most (70 per cent) of the mentoring that respondents received was actually free.

A lack of relevance was also a popular barrier (cited by 45 per cent) but platforms to match mentees to mentors with relevant knowledge of their sector and business issues do exist, for example the support offered to firms on the Help to Grow: Management course.

The report found ethnic minority respondents to the survey saw less barriers to being mentored than their white British counterparts. Only 39 per cent of saw cost as a barrier, and 36% said it was a lack of time that stopped them seeking a mentor. The same figures for white British respondents were 57 per cent and 54 per cent respectively.

Another 38 per cent of ethnic minority respondents said that a perception of mentoring not being relevant to their business is a barrier, compared to 48 per cent of white British respondents, suggesting firms founded by minorities are more open to this kind of support.

The good news is the growing demand is matched with a growing willingness to become a mentor. The report found 83 per cent of business leaders polled were up for it. Now we just need them to get involved and sign up.

They could easily do that via Enterprise Nation and get training from the Association of Business Mentors as part of the Government’s Help to Grow: Management Course, a flagship programme launched by Rishi Sunak last year.

By Emma Jones

Source: This is Money

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One in four small businesses fear closure

Small business owners say survival is their key priority over next six months as energy prices rocket and 80% have difficulty recruiting staff.

More than a quarter (27 per cent) of small business owners fear their businesses may close in the future, while two in five (42 per cent) say avoiding closure is their priority over the next six months.

Almost a third (31 per cent) of small business owner-directors worry that their businesses won’t be able to keep up with outgoings, while over a quarter (26 per cent) are using less electricity to save on bills.

The research, conducted by YouGov and commissioned by Meta, polled over 1,000 British small business decision makers of companies with fewer than 50 employees.

Steve Hatch, VP Northern Europe, Meta, said, “Small businesses are the lifeblood of the UK economy and right now they face the challenge of a lifetime just to keep the lights on.”

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Recruitment problems

Meanwhile, nearly 80 per cent of businesses are having problems recruiting staff with manufacturing and hospitality most badly hit.

As a result, more than half of businesses (56 per cent) say they are operating below full capacity, with the problem most widespread in hospitality (71 per cent).

Sixty-two per cent of businesses are trying to recruit staff, according to the British Chambers of Commerce latest quarterly recruitment outlook. The figure is largely unchanged from the spring, before spiralling borrowing costs and political uncertainty rattled confidence among consumers and businesses.

Alex Veitch, director of policy and public affairs at the BCC, said: “Unless we find a solution to the longstanding recruitment difficulties facing UK businesses then any plans to boost economic growth are doomed to failure. We have to fix the people problem before we can make headway on the productivity issue.”

The unemployment rate in the UK is 3.5 per cent, its lowest level since 1974, but at 1.25 million, the number of vacancies is close to a record high.

British Chambers of Commerce surveyed more than 5,100 businesses for the survey, 92 per cent of which were small businesses.

By Timothy Adler

Source: Small Business

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Sustainability a high priority for small businesses, but they urgently need more support

A huge opportunity exists to support small businesses to become more sustainable as they face mounting economic challenges, according to a new report from Oxford Brookes Business School and Small Business Britain.

In findings that point to the ambition amongst small firms to take action on climate change, 71% of small businesses said they intend to reduce their carbon emissions over the next two years, but many feel that barriers such as lack of finance (41%) and time pressures (30%) are holding them back.

The research, which was gathered earlier this year, shows that over two thirds (69%) of British small firms were already actively lowering their carbon emissions and over half (56%) were taking action to optimise energy usage and reduce waste in their business.

Experts behind the report believe that escalating energy prices and growing economic uncertainty is likely to have strengthened this desire among small businesses. They call for greater support and collaboration to guide small businesses on the journey towards net zero, which would not only have positive impact on the environment, but open up growth opportunities and help insulate small firms from further economic shocks and uncertainty.

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“The challenge of climate change looms large, and the conversation around business sustainability is only going to get bigger and more critical. This is going to increasingly be the focus for all business as we continue through 2023 into the next decade and beyond,” said Michelle Ovens CBE, founder of Small Business Britain.

“Entrepreneurs are natural changemakers, and they have the ability to make real impact quickly. With 99% of the UK economy made up by small businesses, they play a vital role in helping the UK achieve net zero. This passion needs to be supported and directed, however, to ensure that it converts to action that has impact.”

Despite clear intentions from entrepreneurs to incorporate sustainability into their business, 41% feel that access to finance is holding them back and almost a third (30%), do not feel they have the time to prioritise green switches. Furthermore, over half (54%) either do not understand or are not aware of the government’s net zero commitments.

To help address this, Small Business Britain launched the Small Business Sustainability Basics Programme earlier this year, in partnership with Oxford Brookes Business School. This is a free six-week course designed to help firms kickstart their sustainability journey, which has now been completed by over 1300 small firms across the country.

“Small businesses play a big role in achieving our Net Zero targets, so it’s incredibly encouraging that our research shows many are already taking action or want to do more,” said Dr Lauren Tuckerman, Senior Lecturer at Oxford Brookes Business School and co-author of the report Small Business Sustainability: Insights and Implications.

“In this report, there are not only recommendations for small businesses, but also for policymakers, intermediary organisations and bigger businesses too, so that we can all work together to achieve our sustainability goals. Sustainability is not a cherry on the top of a good business, it is the strong foundation for them to thrive, and small businesses are ideally placed to show that.”

Source: Ealing Times

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How Are UK Businesses Being Impacted By The Current Cost Of Living Crisis?

The last few years have been detrimental and troublesome for many businesses within the UK, thanks to the global pandemic and issues transpiring from inflation. As a result, businesses and economic leaders have had to remain resilient during these tough times in order to survive.

To assess the influence of the current cost of living crisis on UK businesses and the challenges they are presently facing, business loans specialist Nucleus Commercial Finance surveyed 1,000 individuals within the business management sector, where they relayed their biggest concerns for the growth and stability of their company within this financial year.

The findings of the study revealed that 72% of business owners are now worried the current cost of living crisis is going to negatively affect their business somehow, with 23% admitting they don’t picture their business surviving as prices continue to increase day by day. One of the reasons behind this could be due to customers no longer being able to afford their products, which 68% of the study predicted. Overall, the five biggest concerns from the study were:

  • Price of fuel
  • Energy expenses
  • Cash flow
  • Employee retention
  • Transportation costs

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Price of Fuel

As of lately, the price has fuel has soared and hit record highs across the country, which typically affects business both directly and indirectly. The increase in cost of fuel will likely hit certain businesses harder, such as those involved in haulage and delivery, where their services will see a direct impact. Additionally, rising fuel prices can also affect supply chains and the daily undertakings of employees.

Energy Expenses

The cost of energy bills is another major stressor to businesses in the UK, with 42% claiming it is a threat to their stability this year. In the last year, small businesses have faced a 250% increase in gas bill prices alone. Recently, the government has announced that the energy bills for UK businesses will be cut to around half of the expected level during the winter months in order to shield them from crippling expenses. The scheme will fix wholesale gas and electricity prices for businesses for six months starting from October; however, many fear what will occur after this period, particularly for vulnerable businesses that need the additional support.

Cash Flow

Cash flow is another primary concern for business leaders, and for good reason. Maintaining a steady cash flow is vital for a business to operate successfully. Having access to cash is necessary for businesses to pay employees, fund opportunities for growth and pay suppliers. This is particularly difficult for start-up businesses or those who do not have a cash flow high enough to support them during the financial crisis. When faced with a loss of clientele and a reduction in employee retention, these businesses must be selective when spending their cash reserve. The Confederation of British Industry (SBI) has stated the trade that has seen the largest decrease in sales is the retail industry, which encompasses clothing retailers and specialist food stores – demonstrating how customers are now prioritising their basic necessities in response to the increase in the cost of living.

Source: Manchester Gazette

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Graduates accelerate SME growth across the North East

Graduates are our future business leaders.

They play an important role in supporting the health and growth of our regional economy-encouraging them to stay in the region is vital to both.

The University of Sunderland has an excellent track record in delivering programmes of support with graduate employability and retention in the region at their heart.

One such pioneering scheme is the Graduate Internship Scheme. First launched in 2011, the University of Sunderland received European Regional Development Funding (ERDF) to run its Graduate Internship Scheme, connecting graduate talent with regional, Small to Medium Enterprises. It has since provided over 650 graduates the opportunity to work in a variety of small-to-medium private sector organisations across the north-east and delivered nearly £2.4 million in funding to those businesses.

By Autumn 2022, the internship scheme will have placed 250 graduates into full-time roles within growing SMEs, earning an average salary of £20,000.

Graduates typically bring fresh ideas into those organisations, as well as a new perspective, and often help deliver a new product, process or service for the business. After 12 months, employers can decide whether to extend the intern’s contract, and most do, with a high rate of graduates being offered full-time employment on completion of their internship.

Project manager Laura Foster says: “It’s been a well-documented difficult and uncertain time for businesses over the last couple of years, and our project helps SMEs in a really practical way with help towards graduate’s salary costs”.

There are many success stories to have come out of the project and the internships team regularly receives positive feedback from SMEs and graduates who have benefited. One such example is Blaydon-based HLF Group. They recently recruited BA (Hons) Graphic Design Graduate, Brooke Gerrens.

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Director Rachel Conroy said, ‘Brooke’s appointment has had a hugely positive impact on our business. Previously we outsourced a lot of this work (Graphic Design and Media Management) which took time, and they didn’t know our products as well. I believe we can clearly demonstrate we have grown the business through the work Brooke has produced’.

‘The future is very bright. We have three very large tenders going through at the moment with multi -national companies to refurb their stock across the country. We are also seeing steady growth into new trade sectors.’

Brooke told us of her internship experience so far, ’I have always had a creative eye, in particular editorial design which feeds into designing brochures for customers, therefore the job fits into everything I have wanted to do.

The atmosphere working at HLF is fantastic, design is something I have always had a passion for, so to have the opportunity to be creative in my career is great.’

The scheme delivers European Regional Development Funding (ERDF) and supports SMEs with the cost of employing a graduate, providing up to £3,500 in subsidy payments. After 12 months, employers can decide whether to extend the Intern’s contract.

Source: Bdaily News

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SMEs reap benefits of digitalisation cause by Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic made online purchases increase and drove customers to use different channels to find products and services. For the UK’s small and medium-sized businesses, this meant having to implement new digital strategies to grow their online presence, while competing with the bigger fish on the market.

Capterra UK conducted two surveys on nearly 300 professionals from SMEs to find out how companies have developed their digital presence since the pandemic, and what digital investment plans are in the pipeline.

According to the first survey, one in five businesses (23%) did not have a digital strategy before Covid-19 but had to define and implement one as a result of the pandemic. For more than half of companies, Covid-19 accelerated their digital transformation processes because their initial digital strategies were not sufficient.

Covid-19 accelerated digital strategies, but most SMEs say it was worth it
Despite challenges brought on by the pandemic, the majority (56%) of the surveyed respondents thought that their company would have been worse off or even not exist today had they not carried through with digital initiatives. That said, nearly two-thirds (64%) of respondents found it extremely or somewhat difficult for their company to implement its digital strategy.

In fact, a combined total of 55% said they recruited new employees (36% hired more people and 19% hired and fired staff) to help them carry out the digital migration, with 58% identifying Digital Marketing Specialists as the top recruited role. However, while some have new recruits, 19% of SMEs still have somebody in charge of digital strategies who is not an expert in the field.

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Omnichannel strategies are being used to meet customer demands
According to 38% of the respondents, the top reason for the companies’ digital transformation was to respond to customer demands, with over half (51%) saying customer service support tools, including customer relationship management (CRM) and chatbots, are focal points that needed improving.

In particular, with more people working from home and using multiple devices, Covid-19 accelerated the deployment of omnichannel strategies to cater to users: While 31% of businesses had these strategies in place before Covid-19, the number rose to 37% during the pandemic.

SMEs’ investment in Email Marketing and Data Collection will be key to success
Capterra UK’s second survey shows that while many businesses invested in digital strategies to adjust to the changes brought upon by the pandemic, most UK SMEs will maintain (46%) or increase (50%) these investments for at least the next two years, with 55% saying the strategy is working well and that more investment means more revenue.

According to 35% of the respondents, the main reason new digital strategies help businesses is that it increases sales opportunities by reaching new people from different channels. It is therefore no surprise that for 91% of businesses, email marketing is an important element of their digital strategies (39% say it is somewhat important and 52% say it is very important), followed by Data Collection (90%).

Big companies are competition for SMEs but are also beneficial
Nearly three-quarters (72%) of the surveyed professionals somewhat or strongly agreed that “big companies are more favoured than SMEs in the digital age”, which may explain why a quarter (26%) of respondents said their company adopted a digital strategy to keep up with competitors.

Although this may be the case, others are leveraging the benefits: The results show that 15% of SMEs see the existence of big companies as beneficial to their company, with 42% of this group saying that they observe and learn from the way big companies work.

By Alice Cumming

Source: Business Lender

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London start-up founders reap rewards of almost £200m in loans

London has received more start-up loan cash than anywhere else in the country after a decade of a programme supporting entrepreneurs.

Founders in the capital have received £187.1m through the government backed Start Up Loan scheme, with businesses across the country being provided with loans and mentoring.

The scheme has delivered more than 97,000 loans since 2012, worth over £900m to businesses in the UK.

Thanks to such loans thousands of firms were “thriving today” from as far ranging as “from Shetland to Scunthorpe and Carlisle to Cardiff,” business minister Dean Russell said this morning.

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The programme was launched in 2021 as a £10m pilot scheme, as the brain-child of Lord Young following the 2008 financial crisis.

One business includes Old Street-based start up, Ochushield, which sells screen protectors and has now inked a deal with Peter Jones and Tej Lalvani from Dragon’s Den.

The business first received a £500 loan via Virgin Startup in 2015, with the cash being used to set up the firm website.

“The mentoring programme was really important in the early days of the business, as it helped me take all the right steps,” Ocushield founder Dhruvin Patel said.

Source: CITY A.M.

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SMEs now twice as big

The definition of an SME – a small and medium sized enterprises – has officially changed.

As of today, 3rd October 2022, any company with fewer than 500 employees is classed as an SME and therefore exempt from certain bureaucracy.

The maximum size of a small business remains 49 employees but for a medium sized business it has been raised from 249 to 499 employees.

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The former definition was in line with EU definitions. The motive for changing the definition is to free up more companies from ‘the burden of regulation’.

Ministers do not yet know what the impact will be but hope to be able to go further. Once the impact on the current extension is known. “The government will also look at plans to consult in the future on potentially extending the threshold to businesses with 1000 employees, once the impact on the current extension is known,” it said.

Source: The Construction Index

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Business Loan Requirements: How to Qualify and What is Needed?

No matter what kind of business you run, eventually, you’ll probably need a cash injection to facilitate future operations. To replenish your business capital, you might apply for business loans from a lender. This is a common practice conducted by many enterprise owners every year.

Unfortunately, the loan application procedure can be very frustrating if you don’t know what lenders require. To receive loan approval from some lenders, you must fulfill specific requirements. Understanding these terms as a borrower will help you secure a loan faster and improve cash flow efficiency.

We hope this post will help you understand some basic business loan requirements and conditions. So, let’s start:

The Process Of Qualifying For Business Loans

It may seem intimidating to submit an application for company funding. Understanding the conditions for company loans, which could include excellent personal credit scores, collateral, and a long history of business operations, could speed up the procedure and raise your odds of being qualified for business loans.

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Factors That Lenders Consider For Your Loan Qualification

Depending on the kind of loan you are looking for, your company, and the lender you are collaborating with, you may need to provide specific documents and information. Usually, you can expect to provide the following information in addition to fundamental business information like your tax ID and business industry:

  • Credit score

Owners of businesses must keep an eye on both their personal and corporate credit scores. Since it takes time to establish a credit history for your company, your personal credit score is often more important. When evaluating your loan application, expect lenders to look at your personal credit history. To increase your chances of approval, you might wish to hold off on applying until your credit is in good standing. Additionally, you can ask one of the commercial credit bureaus, such as Bradstreet, for a report on your company’s credit history.

  • Business operational aging

Most lenders like to engage with companies that have been around for a while. They frequently require operations having been established for at least six months to a year, and banks may require two to three years. Since startups have a poor track record of paying back loans, lending to them is regarded as risky. Check the lender’s minimum time in business standards before submitting your application for financing to be sure you fulfill them.

  • Business strategy

A detailed description of your products and services, your costs, and how you make a profit should all be included in your business strategy. The financial sections of your business plan, including the financial statements and balance sheets, are probably of most interest to lenders. However, your business plan as a whole would show lenders that you have good managerial abilities, an understanding of the industry, and the capacity to repay a loan.

  • Balance sheet

Your balance sheet would show the company’s assets, liabilities, and owner equity. The company’s financial situation at any one time could be displayed by compiling this data into a single document.

To determine the company’s value, you would need to subtract your existing liabilities from your current assets. Lenders would use the balance sheet to assess the business’s financial health.

  • History and cash flow projections

The amount of money left over for a business after paying for routine daily expenses is known as free cash flow. Another instrument that lenders use to assess a company’s capacity to pay back debt is a cash flow analysis.

In addition, lenders would be able to determine how much debt your company could bear and how much money would be available to reinvest in your company by breaking out your cash flow history and estimates.

  • Account receivables and payables report

The amount customers owe you for any completed project is known as accounts receivable. On the other hand, accounts payable refers to the unpaid sums you owe to vendors.

The specifics of how your business handles payments and accounts payable demonstrate to a potential lender whether you are well-organized enough to utilize your resources efficiently or not.

  • Collateral

In order to secure a business loan, borrowers might pledge assets as collateral, giving the lender the right to confiscate those assets in the event that the borrower fails to make payments.

Although not all lenders demand collateral, if they do, the loan amount would be based on the asset’s worth. Among acceptable assets are real estate, machinery, bills, and receivables.

Final Thoughts

Before acquiring a loan for your business, make sure to research and compare lenders. Find a lender whose minimum requirements your company can meet and whose terms and conditions you can survive with.

Source: Financial Investor