Where do small businesses go for advice and inspiration? What websites are most helpful when it comes to solving problems? There are so many sources of helpful guidance out there to deal with just about any situation that might crop up, but which should be on your list? Here are some of the top websites recommended by entrepreneurs to help navigate the maze.
A great place to seek advice on all the nuts and bolts of launching and running a small business. Find guidance on everything from taking on the first employee, to setting up as a limited company or how to navigate your way around SEO. Areas including tax, pensions and employment law are covered alongside work-life balance and running an ethical business.
Starting and running a small business is a process that is littered with questions and doubts, some of them inevitably out of the founder’s comfort zone. Legal matters are one that startups can find especially tricky to navigate. Sallie Boyce, founder of the Startup Academy, says Lawbite has helped her out of some tricky situations. “Sometimes in business, you just want a straightforward explanation of a legal process. A real person you can ask a quick law related question,” she says. “Lawbite is brilliant because you can get a 15 minute free consultation with one of their lawyers – and sometimes that’s all you need,” explains Boyce.
Whether small businesses want tailored energy saving advice from a qualified engineer, or access to more general help and support with energy savings, they are always looking for ways to cut their energy bills and boost their energy efficiency. E.ON’s website can signpost small firms to a range of energy saving services and helpful advice, from organising a business energy site audit, to looking at how energy is being used and where savings and improvements can be made. There are also practical tips on how to engage everyone in the company with energy efficient best practice in the workplace. Following this comprehensive advice can help make a significant impact on your bottom line.
Once you have launched your business, the key to success is to engage with existing customers and reach new clients. One way to do this is to send out a regular newsletter, with updates about the business, special offers or other elements of the business that can engage customers.
“As a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) you have to take every opportunity to get in front of as many potential customers as possible. With marketing budgets, which are likely a fraction of that of larger companies’, different tactics need to be employed,” explains Ellis Covington, social media manager at Nexbridge Communications. “This is where Mailchimp can excel. By utilising its intuitive interface it’s easy to create affordable email campaigns that look highly professional.”
You don’t need to be a marketing or tech genius to work out how to put your newsletter together. There are service and price levels to suit all business sizes, from startup to established business.
For those looking to set up international business partnerships UKTI is an essential tool. In addition to advice and information on a particular sector or market, the government department organises trade missions and access to trade shows. With local representatives in countries all over the world they will be able to help whatever the target market. There are different programmes available to help all levels of businesses as well as information about grants and financial aid.
As a small business it is not always easy to stay on top of the admin side of things. They may fade in comparison with the need to grow the business, but they are just as important. Kelsey Traher, the COO of health technology start-up Network Locum, has been using HR platform Charlie for several months.
“I’ve got a huge technology crush on these guys. It’s a completely free platform for me to manage everything to do with HR. You can keep passport scans, signed contracts, payroll details, manage holiday days and sick days for the team,” she says. In addition to the basic personnel aspects the site can also take care of auto-enrolling everyone in the company into a pension scheme when the enrolment date comes around. “This takes the pain away from me entirely – since that’s how they make their money (from the pension companies), all the other day-to-day benefits of the platform are completely free.”
As a growth strategy, many start-ups will look to export as a natural development. Exporting is GREAT is a Government initiative, aimed at inspiring and supporting 100,000 additional UK exporters to sell their goods and services overseas by 2020. It was launched in 2015 and will run for five years.
The website holds over 1,000 export opportunities (worth around £300m over time) and is organised by sector and market, which are easily accessible. Around 1,000 more opportunities will be uploaded each month and the site will develop in response to user feedback, showcasing more opportunities and content relevant to first-time exporters.
The free-to-use project management platform is a favourite with many entrepreneurs. Hedley Smith, the chief technology officer of property site Settled, calls it “The ultimate task management tool and to-do list manager.” It’s simple to use: create a board and drag and drop cards listing the tasks. It can adapt workflow, teams and tasks as you go along. Michael Hammond, the founder of Property TV, is a fan: “Having one system for everyone to feed updates into is vitally important for us,” he says. “While some of us have a good understanding of apps and tech, others don’t so the system we selected had to be clear and easy to use – Trello certainly is and everyone in the team uses it effectively.”
The online tutorial and education site is packed with more than 4,000 courses in disciplines ranging from web development to business and photography. Owen O’Neill, who founded the higher education comparison site University Compare in 2010 while he was at university, learnt to perfect his own website through the platform. “Once my site was live, I began looking into analytics, understanding my users, and joined this online education website, which is dedicated to educating users in digital, social marketing, and business management. From there onwards, every problem I faced, I went to Lynda to learn about the problem so I could fix it myself,” he says.