As we begin to enter the next phase of COVID-19, the ABM continues to speak regularly with government and other business support organisations to help the UK business community get back on its feet.
I have had the pleasure of speaking on a number of calls with the Minister for Small Business and Enterprise over the last few weeks and this week have written to him to request support from the government to promote professional business mentoring and create a more collaborative approach to business support. Both of these asks are important in getting businesses the support it needs over the coming months.
As lockdown restrictions start to ease and businesses embark on the next step to recovering from the last few weeks, support from professional business mentors is ever more important. It is vital however that support comes from mentors who have significant business experience. As professional business mentors we all know that this is sadly not always the case, with a number of us having seen first-hand the damage unprofessional business mentoring can do to businesses looking for help.
It was encouraging to see the government commit to business mentoring in its November 2019 Business Productivity Review. Their recommendation to work with trade bodies, such as ours to ensure small businesses have access to business mentors from the UK’s leading and inspiring businesses to help them improve their productivity and grow, I believe will go some way in making sure businesses get the support they need. Yet there is still so much more that could be done, and we have called on the government to promote business mentoring that is professional and of a high standard. The government’s support in promoting this work is essential if we are to ensure that businesses only use mentors that are professional and abide by high standards at all times.
In terms of promoting professional business mentoring, we are also in dialogue with MentorsMe, SFEDI, UK Finance, UK Business Angel Association and Angels Den, all of whom have mentoring on their radar. We are keen to work with them to help shape their work to ensure that high standards are promoted.
We also continue to reach out to other business support organisations in the hope that we can come together to create a much improved and coordinated business support landscape – I often hear from businesses and other business support organisations concerns around the fragmentation of the business support landscape. Having spoken to many organisations and business owners, it is apparent there is an overwhelming need for one business support portal supported by government. We would like to see a group created within government with support from business organisations, including the ABM, to facilitate and oversee this to ensure a much more co-ordinated approach to business support right across the UK as businesses look to get back on their feet.
I hope our work with government and other organisations in a joined up and collaborative approach right across the UK ensures that business support and in particular mentoring and coaching, which is considered a vital business support service by 80% of UK SMEs, is professional and to a high standard, thus supporting micro, small and medium sized businesses as they bounce back from this crisis we find ourselves in.