Where to look for business support

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No matter how resilient we are or how much we think we know, there will come a time when some external support is needed. Whether it’s a mentor, a shoulder to cry on, or just some friendly advice from a like-minded group, no one should ever feel too big to ask for help from others.

Where to turn

There are many sources to turn to, but it should be no surprise that social media — in particular Facebook — has groups that may be of value. Unlike formal organisations, such as the British Chambers of Commerce, CBI, or the likes of Business Networking International, Facebook groups allow businesses to dip in and duck out as they both seek what they need and potentially find a forum to promote their own businesses.

Social media’s success follows from being online as there’s no need to wait on busy phone lines for support and there’s a fair degree of remoteness and anonymity if required.

Coronavirus support is available, but there is a word of warning: don’t take everything at face value — sense check what is read or told before action is taken. Social media is useful as it’s a great enabler, but it can also be a source of misinformation.

Even so, if used for nothing else, it can be a great relief to some to be able to unburden and share experiences with like-minded people, all of which are in the same boat as you — suffering as their businesses were forced to close or customers have become risk averse and are staying away.

Of course, social media is nothing new and fi rms turning to it for advice is nothing new either. Indeed, before the pandemic broke out, small business finance provider Iwoca ran a survey that asked more than 820 business owners about their use of social media. The results were very interesting.

In particular, those surveyed were asked what they thought was the best way to link up with, and network through to, other fi rms. Not unsurprisingly, social media featured high up in the options with it beating the old-fashioned telephone call 15 per cent to 12 per cent. Higher in the standings, in second place came the personal introduction at 25 per cent, but networking came in first at 26 per cent. Of course, Government restrictions and the need to social distance has made personal contact and networking impossible, and has left social media to be the method of choice. Even so, some 48 per cent of business owners with both an online and physical presence said the feeling of being in a community of businesses had improved since they started trading.

Facebook groups to explore

According to those surveyed by Iwoca, 90 per cent of business owners use Facebook. Below are several groups that might offer some support. Naturally, there will be many more groups, it’s just a question of searching:

Coronavirus Business Support Group UK Public Group

https://www.facebook.com/groups/496854554285978/

This is a private group with 6,100 members. Its community aims to help any business owners looking for support and positivity during the crisis. It holds Zoom events where members share useful information on their areas of expertise, based on questions that members are asking. While the group’s administrators are presently collating a businessto- business directory to make it easier for members to promote their businesses via the network, it’s notable that the likes of accountants are offering help and advice to those that ask, including how to make successful applications to Government schemes.

British Small Businesses Network

https://www.facebook.com/groups/bsbnetwork/

The British Small Businesses Network has 5,800 members but is a public group that seeks to support the self-employed and small business owners. Set up before coronavirus struck, the group shares its experiences and advice on, for example, the Government schemes and how businesses should apply for them.

Small Business Support Group UK – Coronavirus Outbreak

https://www.facebook.com/groups/610449959506807/

Next comes this private group with 1,900 members. Like the others before it, the goal is to offer help, advice, and support to the owners of small businesses and anyone else who seeks to support a small business. A useful asset of the group is that many are sharing what they are doing and offering discounts to members during the crisis.

Coronavirus business support

https://www.facebook.com/groups/CoronavirusBusinessAdvice/

Another small group on Facebook, this was created so that UK business owners can offer each other support and advice in these current times. It features free marketing workshops offered through the group and seeks to help any business owners who are struggling. It also encourages any members who have the skills to do so to offer help. The group also has photos of businesses with contact information on the image, which are uploaded into a photo album so users can search for help if they need it.

Self Employed and Coronavirus – UK Support Group

https://www.facebook.com/groups/863879757389907/

Lastly, this small group of just 341 members is public and is squarely aimed at anyone who is self-employed or freelance. Members share tips and news on how to survive as a self-employed person during the crisis. Interestingly, the group contains a number of journalists who seem more than willing to help raise awareness of the issues that members are facing.

With the web and social media being almost infinite in size and breadth, there are clearly more than five groups to join. Search them out and ask around — there’s plenty of help out there, you just need to find it.