Starting up a business can seem like a very lonely process. Budding entrepreneurs often feel like they are battling against the world in order to get their venture off the ground. If suppliers are not asking you for money, you are asking for it yourself as you try and convince your bank manager that you deserve a generous loan.
No wonder many entrepreneurs say that the support of their family and friends is vital in those early days. But there are organisations out there with the sole aim of fighting the corner of small businesses. They make it clear that they are on your side, taking on the government, the banks and the taxman to secure a better deal for entrepreneurs.
However, acronyms like CBI, IoD, BCC and FSB often draw blank stares from new business owners, with many unsure of what these organisations do and, more importantly, how this relates to them.
Here we look at what each of the main business lobby groups offer small businesses, and how you can benefit by getting involved.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI)
Perhaps the most widely known business lobby group in the UK, the CBI claims to have the largest number of business members of any British organisation – over 240,000. The organisation’s director-general, Digby Jones, regularly addresses political and trade union conferences – an example of the CBI’s clout, according to its lobbyists.
“The government takes the CBI seriously and turns to it for the voice of business,” says Richard Dodd, CBI spokesman. “The organisation gives businesses a seat at the top table, giving small firms an influence over the government in a way they wouldn’t be able to achieve by themselves.
“Policy comes directly from members, we survey them on what they want and then reflect their concerns.
“We also let them know what’s going on – mainly in terms of government policy and the state of the economy.”
The CBI has offices in 12 regions across the UK, as well as a presence in the USA and Brussels. Member businesses are offered a programme of events in their region; free entry to the CBI business listings guide; regular copies of Business Voice, the CBI’s monthly magazine; ten free practical business guides a year and regular bulletins on relevant issues.
The organisation also organises regular business events across the country, allowing entrepreneurs to meet, network and share ideas.
However, as the CBI is solely a lobbying organisation, it doesn’t provide much in terms of servicing the day-to-day needs of businesses. Also, the CBI represents businesses, not individual entrepreneurs. Although the lobby group has an SME Council and claims it represents businesses of all sizes, the strongest voices are those of it’s largest member firms, who pay five-figure sums to help influence policy.
The cost: Fees for joining the CBI vary according to the size of the business. For the smallest members, with fewer than five employees, the organisation charges £650 a year for firms in the service sector and £500 a year for industrial companies.
For more information, go to: www.cbi.org.uk