Brentwood Borough Council and its partners offer a range of services to help businesses who might be struggling to cope with the credit crunch. Small business support and assistance The Council works closely with a range of partner organisations to provide tailored support for local businesses based on individual needs. There is a range of information for businesses to help them access support on our website’s Business Pages. This is being regularly updated to reflect any emerging programmes developed in response to the Credit Crunch. For further information please contact 01277 312693. Surviving the credit crunch For many businesses, the credit crunch is hitting hard. With higher interest rates and a reduction in the availability of funds it’s a struggle to secure bank loans. These problems could be combined with a potential slowdown in demand for goods and services and debtors who are unable to pay their bills, seriously disrupting cash flow and threatening expansion plans and even survival. According to the British Chambers of Commerce, 75% of small businesses are concerned about the economy but few have plans in place to protect their business. In fact, many businesses are actually risking their financial security. According to a survey from Business Link, over one third (36%) of businesses in the East of England have used credit cards to help finance the company in the past two years. The survey also revealed that 80% have relied on bank loans and overdrafts whilst 32% have turned to friends and family for financial assistance. For more information about Business Link services, or to speak to a business adviser, call 08457 17 16 15 or log on to www.businesslink.gov.uk/east. Specific information regarding the crunch is also available at www.crunchguide.com Crunch survival tips Mind your cash flow - Issue invoices promptly and chase up debtors; don’t buy more stock than you need; negotiate longer credit terms with suppliers, shorter ones for customers; fill up gaps in your forward order book; and keep in touch with your bank. Cut your costs - Look for savings in every part of your business. Do you turn equipment off at night? Is every business journey necessary? Are you taking full advantage of your tax allowances? Credit check new customers - Protect yourself by conducting rigorous credit checks on new customers and agreeing clear credit terms up front. Focus on retaining clients - Do all you can to keep your customers coming through your doors. Loyalty schemes, small discounts and regular communication are just three ways of letting your customers know you value them. Provide outstanding customer service - Consumers appreciate businesses that give them more for their money. Efficient service, fast delivery, flexible payment terms and so on can persuade people to spend with you rather than a competitor. Increase your marketing - When competing for a smaller pot of money, it becomes more important than ever to tell people why they should come to you. You don’t have to break the bank, but be sure to shout about your business. Concentrate on products and services that sell - Don’t put your efforts into trying to sell things that are untried or that few people will buy; stick to profitable favourites. Don’t be tempted to slash prices either – if demand for your offer is not price sensitive, you will be giving your profits away. Avoid borrowing - Bear in mind loans may be more difficult to obtain and more expensive in a slump. Alternatives include invoice financing, which releases up to 85% of cash tied up in unpaid invoices, but better still, save money by cutting costs. Streamline your operation - Consider moving to smaller premises or subletting your existing space. Sell off excess equipment and look at staffing – are your people concentrated in the right areas? Will flexible working be more cost efficient? Sell online - An online sales or marketing channel will expose you to a larger marketplace for minimal cost. Plan and resource online selling properly, including providing payment security, attracting visitors and meeting orders swiftly. National Non Domestic Rates (Business Rates) There are a number of business rate reliefs, which can be applied for: l Unoccupied Rate Relief for three or six months after a property has been occupied l Partly Occupied Property Relief for three or six months where a self contained area of a property is permanently unoccupied l Small Business Rate Relief, for those who occupy either (a) one property, or (b) one main property and additional properties with a rateable value less than £2200 The rateable value of the property mentioned in (a), or the aggregate rateable value of all properties mentioned in (b) must be under £15000. l Charity Relief l Non Profit Making Organisation relief, where the organisation is not established or conducted for profit l Discretionary Rate Relief for businesses with a rateable value less than £14000 in a rural settlement with a population less than 3000 l Hardship Relief, the local authority has discretion to give relief in special circumstances l You can appeal to the Valuation Office to reduce your rateable value. You do not need to use a third party to do it for you. Brentwood Borough Council can offer advice on paying your bill and on reductions that migh tbe available. Full details can be found on our website’s NNDR pages or call 01277 312892/3. Business Link voucher scheme to aid business survival in 2009 Business Link has launched a £500 voucher scheme to support East of England businesses through the economic downturn. Redeemable in exchange for consultancy services, this voucher complements the existing package of help available from Business Link that includes free confidential business health checks, one-to-one specialist advice and skills workshops. Businesses that have been trading for over 12 months are eligible for the voucher. Following an online or face-to-face ‘health check’ with a Business Link adviser, an action plan will be discussed and agreed with you detailing areas where additional support is required. Using Business Link’s supplier brokerage database, the adviser will suggest up to three suppliers who may be able to meet your needs in the areas identified. It is with these suppliers, who have been accepted to be part of the scheme, that you can redeem the voucher, up to a maximum of £500. Contact Business Link on 08457 17 16 15 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information. Useful numbers Business Debt Line Brentwood Chamber of A business helpline providing Commerce free, confidential and Represents the interests of independent advice on how to Brentwood businesses deal with debt problems 01277 214814 0800 197 6026 www.brentwoodchambers.co. www.bdl.org.uk uk Brentwood Town Centre Mid Essex Enterprise Agency Partnership (MEEA) Leads a number of key tasks Provides support and advice to intended to ensure Brentwood new and existing businesses Town Centre remains 01245 496712 economically viable, green, www.midessexenterprise clean, safe and attractive agency.co.uk 01277 312725 National Debt Line Free confidential and Business Link East independent advice on how to A free advice and support deal with debt problems service for businesses in the 0808 808 4000 East of England www.nationaldebtline.co.uk 0845 717 1615 www.businesslink.gov.uk/east Exdra - Essex Development & Citizens Advice Bureau Regeneration Agency An independent voluntary Stimulating innovation, organisation offers a free entrepreneurship and business confidential information, advice competitiveness and advocacy service 01245 702400 0844 477 0808 email@example.com www.adviceguide.org.uk Federation of Small Community Legal Advice Businesses Free, confidential and Protecting, promoting and independent legal advice furthering the interests of 0845 345 4345 self-employed & small www.communitylegaladvice. businesses org.uk 01253 336000 firstname.lastname@example.org Energy Saving Trust Advice Centre Train to Gain Provides free impartial advice Offers funding and support as on ways to save money on fuel you train your employees for bills and on grant schemes for business success insulation and heating works 0800 0155 545 0800 512012 www.traintogain.gov.uk Brentwood Borough Council Town Hall Ingrave Road Brentwood Essex CM15 8AY T: 01277 312500 for general enquiries or 08457 585 592 if you have difficulty hearing T: 01277 312892 NNDR enquiries E: email@example.com W: www.brentwood.gov.uk We can provide this document in other formats, such as large print, audio tape or a translation. For more information, please call 01277 312629.