With start-ups and micro-businesses kickstarting a small business led recovery, we’re stepping up our support for the UK’s smallest firms
Despite the phenomenally tough and uncertain times that small businesses have been through, we’ve also seen a growing sense of optimism amongst this critical section of the UK workforce over the course of the pandemic. Our latest research has found that three quarters of the UK’s small firms are feeling confident in the success of their business as lockdown restrictions lift. For some, the pandemic has been an opportunity to turn their hand at something new, with many people taking the plunge to set up their own business from their kitchen table. The pandemic has proved that with the power of technology, commerce really can be conducted from anywhere, anytime.
There is already evidence that start-ups and micro-businesses will play a crucial role in underpinning the post-Covid economic revival. For example, over the past year we’ve seen the rise of digital shopkeepers and freelancers, with around 800,000 new UK businesses created during lockdown ‘ a year-on-year rise of 40 per cent. At BT, we firmly believe in a small business led recovery, and it’s clear that micro-companies will the driving force behind this. We’ll also continue to focus on supporting larger small and medium sized businesses, for example we know that solutions such as cloud communication and collaboration tools are key to support the shift in enabling employees to work more flexibly.
Today, 95 per cent ‘ or around 5.7 million ‘ of the UK’s private sector companies are SoHo (Single/Small office, Home office) businesses with under 10 employees. Recognising that home-based and fledgling firms will be the powerhouse of the economic recovery, we recently announced our intention to put greater focus on this part of the market through the creation of a new ‘SoHo’ unit with our Enterprise division. This new unit is will develop a new a suite of digital products and services designed specifically for micro-businesses, while delivering value for money and a premium customer experience. These new services could include stronger cyber security measures, free digital skills training and new digital advertising tools, for example.
As part of our commitment to support the UK’s smallest firms we’ve also launched the UK’s first ‘unbreakable’ Wi-Fi for micro-businesses. We understand that a reliable connection is an essential ingredient for running a successful small business, yet today, around 30 per cent of small firms experience Wi-Fi blackspots within their business premises. We’re fixing that by delivering guaranteed Wi-Fi coverage and connectivity across the workplace, full fibre speeds of up to 900Mbps and free tech expert support ‘ helping the UK’s smallest firms to rebuild and get set for growth.
A sustainable approach to recovery
Our commitment to supporting the UK’s smallest firms doesn’t stop there. In my previous column, I spoke about the range of support on offer via our Small Business Support Scheme, and we’re continuing to look for ways we can help to support small firms. For example, all business, both large and small, need to take stock of the fact that increasingly, taking action on climate change will be at the heart of a more positive, sustainable recovery.
A recent survey by BT and Small Business Britain has found that three quarters (77%) of small businesses don’t know how to measure carbon emissions, with 73% of small firms keen for more training and education to understand what changes they could make to their business more sustainable. That’s why we’re supporting small businesses through a series of webinars delivered through our BT Skills for Tomorrow programme on key topics such as how small businesses can measure their carbon footprint.
It’s clear that a successful recovery will require collective action between the entire business community. Micro businesses will be the powerhouse behind this with their innovative offerings, with larger businesses providing the necessary support for small firms to thrive.
Small businesses can find out more about the free training on offer from BT by visiting: https://www.bt.com/skillsfortomorrow/events
1 Figures from Companies House:
2 The research polled over 1,000 firms in Small Business Britain’s UK community during May