Stay informed with our handy news bulletins, which include special announcements regarding the Breakthrough programme's Masterclasses, trade missions and Breakthrough Live events. 

Federation of Small Businesses optimistic about 2015

January 2015
If the FSB is correct in its predictions, 2015 is going to be a successful and productive year for small businesses. Chairman John Allan believes that SMEs are finally beginning to achieve recognition and support as they continue to play a significant role in the UK’s economic uplift. 
With small business exports on the rise, and growth across all sectors, it seems that confidence is high and there is much to look forward to. This is backed up by the fact that the number of small businesses has reached five million for the first time, so more people are being encouraged to set out on their own and launch a business. 
However, despite the general mood of optimism and the predictions of growth and employment opportunities, there are also hurdles to overcome. Many small businesses are still experiencing the potentially devastating impact of late payments, and SME owners are looking to political parties to offer greater support through finance accessibility, apprenticeships, and sustainable growth. With the election looming, SME owners will be closely scrutinising the manifestos of all political parties. 

8,000 companies supported by Regional Growth Fund

January 2015
The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills has released figures for the total number of companies that have so far been supported by the Regional Growth Fund (RGF). The RGF was established in 2010 to support the growth of local businesses across England in order to promote regional growth and create jobs.
The Deputy Prime Minister has confirmed the breakdown of all the projects and programmes that are currently underway in regions across England – these include 94 in the North East, 73 in the North West, 28 in the South East and London, and 61 in the West Midlands. The Fund has supported businesses across all sectors and has been specifically targeting SMEs that have the greatest local potential. 

Social media a necessity for savvy SMEs

January 2015
New research by the Universities of Surrey and Greenwich Business Schools reveals that SMEs should focus more on social networking to drive their businesses forwards. 
Over 1,000 business leaders were surveyed and, despite almost 90% of respondents actively engaging with social media, over one-third didn’t believe in its effectiveness. This is despite the fact that many SMEs rely on these channels for marketing and customer awareness of their brands. 
Respondents claimed that face-to-face networking is their preferred method of engagement, with about two-thirds of SMEs attending between one and six hours of meetings each week. This obviously varies greatly between businesses that are locally focused, and those with a predominantly international presence – who will devote more time to social media activity. 
Many SMEs feel that social media is a necessity but that there is no substitute for face-to-face networking. There is a definite requirement to integrate social media into the bigger networking picture in order to maximise its potential.  

Are UK SMEs ready for shared parental leave legislation?

December 2014
As the UK gets to grips with its new parental leave legislation, SMEs will be cautiously waiting to see how the rules impact upon their businesses. 
The new ruling entitles parents to share the 50-week leave period, and there is a lot more flexibility, as employees are able to take leave in up to three separate blocks provided they give their employer eight weeks’ notice. 
The move has been welcomed in terms of giving parents greater options with regard to child rearing and returning to work. But many SMEs are worried about the implications of extended leave, particularly as fathers are now entitled to the same leave as mothers. 
On the flipside, any underlying reticence about employing women of childbearing age will be turned on its head, as employers will now need to be prepared for the possibility of male employees also taking extended leave following the birth of their baby. 

Small business owners taking time out to train staff

December 2014
SME owners are spending an average of 100 hours a year recruiting and training new staff and helping to develop the skills of existing staff, according to a report from Everline. However, the time spent varies greatly between younger and older business owners, with those aged 16-34 dedicating more hours to staff training. SME owners in this age bracket spend an average of 26 hours per month on these tasks, while those in the over-55 age bracket spend around seven hours. 
With almost one-quarter of SMEs surveyed having current vacancies, it’s perhaps a shrewd move to dedicate time to recruiting the right staff. However, the time spent on recruiting and training costs young business owners £7,540 in lost output, according to the report.