The year of the SME

With a new year ahead of us, Vodafone UK’s Head of Small and Medium Business Andrew Stevens makes the point that 2023 must be a year for government and big business to become true ambassadors for small and medium businesses.

year of the sme

With a new year ahead of us, Vodafone UK’s Head of Small and Medium Business Andrew Stevens makes the point that 2023 must be a year for government and big business to become true ambassadors for small and medium businesses.

New year’s resolutions are often daunting, and it’s not unusual for small business owners to feel unsure about how to go about achieving their goals in the year ahead, especially within an increasingly digital-first landscape. 

Whilst some entrepreneurs may aim to make 2023 the year they broaden their customer base – learning digital advertising can often feel like an arduous process. Others may harbour ambitions to improve their company culture – but not have a clue where to start when most of their team work remotely.  

Our SMEs Like Me report identified that SMEs are currently facing a ‘guidance gap’ – with most being unaware of the support  that’s available to help them upskill their digital capabilities.  

This doesn’t have to be the case and I would urge big business and the Government to become ambassadors for SMEs to ensure they have the right support to boost their growth. With that in mind, I have identified three areas to help SMEs access digital growth resources in 2023 to help them reach new levels.  

Learn From the best

At the beginning of your business journey, you may think the challenges you face are unique. However, it’s important to remember that many others have walked your path and are willing to share expertise and guidance. 

For instance, at Vodafone, we collaborate with leading technology partners including Meta, Samsung and Cisco to share expert advice with SMEs through our V-Hub website and business.connected initiative. Both offer access to free resources and digital business courses, which can help you master everything from starting an online business, finding new customers online or improving your digital security.

We also work with small business support network Enterprise Nation to provide free to attend workshop events throughout the year to help bring the SME community together. 

By identifying the challenges, you are likely going to face in the year ahead and seeking tailored advice from experienced business leaders, you can help mitigate the chances of making your own mistakes and keep your business on the right track.  

Trust your tools

Technology is a catalyst for growth. However, I often find that some business leaders are not fully aware of how technology can be used to enhance their own business – particularly those running fast-paced SMEs. Whilst the global pandemic encouraged a rapid acceleration in digital transformation, this unfortunately wasn’t the strategy for all SMEs as almost one in five (18%) still describe themselves as ‘tech laggards’, with no real understanding of what sort of technology they should be using or how to implement in the business. 

At Vodafone, we go beyond just providing tech equipment but also help SMEs to become more confident with technology so that they can reap the required benefits. For us, fit for the future businesses are those that are open to and harness the power of new technology to help solve their challenges. 

Whatever the size, sector or shape of your business, it’s important to remember that there are tools available to help make the process of running your business far more smoother.    

Don’t do it alone 

Although running an SME can often mean being your own boss, bringing greater flexibility and empowerment, it can also mean more stress. Recent research by Vodafone found that 10% of SMEs admit that running their own business has led to increased financial worry and for some (13%) an inability to switch off. All these factors can contribute negatively to both your mental and physical health. 

It is important to remember that you don’t have to bear the brunt of stress in silence. Establishing a good supportive network with other small business owners can ensure you have someone to turn to for relative advice when needed. There is also a wealth of resources available on the V-Hub by Vodafone website and across the internet to help you resolve most challenges including managing debt, chasing customers for unpaid bills, or preventing cyber-attacks. 

To help provide small business with one less bill to worry about in 2023, Vodafone has also relaunched its 12 months free broadband for SMEs offer. Click here to find out more – the offer will soon be closing and ends 2nd February 2023.

Ambassadors are needed 

Success is rarely achieved alone and now more than ever there is more big business and Government could be doing to champion the contribution of small and medium businesses in our society – SMEs account for 99.9% of all businesses in the UK – and help to secure meaningful support and incentives to encourage their growth.  

In a year of expected economic hardship for the British economy overall, I would say there is no better time for both Government and big businesses to take on a united SME ambassadorship, arming them with the necessary support and guidance to help them successfully navigate whatever challenges 2023 may throw their way.  

Andrew Stevens
Andrew Stevens

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