Opportunities and challenges in the downturn just like in the 1970s, says business group

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The present economic downturn can be a catalyst for growth and better business support, according to the Chief Executive of the Forum of Private Business, Phil Orford, who was speaking at the Forum’s business support event in Manchester yesterday.

Wherever you feel you need support as a business owner but don’t have that management structure in place we’re there to be an extension to your team

The present economic downturn can be a catalyst for growth and better business support, according to the Chief Executive of the Forum of Private Business, Phil Orford, who was speaking at the Forum’s business support event in Manchester yesterday.

Mr Orford compared the climate faced by the UK’s small businesses to the industrial turmoil of the late1970s and early 1980s, an era that saw great economic and social decline but also the birth of modern business support organisations, including the Forum.

He argued that the need for new, relevant business support is just as strong today as it was a generation ago.

“The Forum of Private Business was formed in the late 1970s, primarily to be a lobbying organisation for regional businesses,” Mr Orford told a crowd of about 100 delegates, including many business owners from across the region. “Why the Northwest? This is where the industrial revolution started and people in the Northwest are known as being innovators.

“The industrial decline of the 70s and 80s is seen as stimulating the growth of business support. We don’t think that the business support services of today can be prescribed as standard – every business owner’s needs are different and it’s important that we cater for all of them.

“Wherever you feel you need support as a business owner but don’t have that management structure in place we’re there to be an extension to your team.”

Emphasising the link with the past, Mr Orford mentioned Bill Humphrey, the wartime pilot and entrepreneur who set up the enterprise agency and, in the 1978, the Community of St Helen’s Trust to help the Merseyside town cope with redundancies at glass maker Pilkington, the largest local employer at the time. Mr Humphrey died recently aged 86.

At the event, which was held at the City of Manchester Stadium, the not-for-profit business support and lobby group launched its new range of tailored support solutions. They have been designed to meet the specific needs of small firms, providing real business solutions to help them grow in a post-recession economic environment.

The solutions are: ‘Finance Director’, ‘Legal Director’, ‘HR Director’, ‘Health and Safety Director’, ‘Development Director’, ‘Purchasing Director’, ‘Communications Director’ and ‘Managing Director’.

Mr Orford, who also presented the findings of research into the needs of small businesses carried out by the Forum during the past year, said that the coming 18 months are likely to be “very difficult”.

He spoke about changes to business finance, customer expectations, relationships with suppliers and changes to employment demographics.

Mr Orford said: “Businesses will need to adapt and evolve and there will be a need for greater collaboration going forward. If I look at my own kids now – both, for some reason, are studying business – the way they will need support in five years time will be totally different.

“We’ve repositioned ourselves to be more relevant to the changing needs of businesses. We are a not-for-profit organisation – every penny and pound we make is reinvested back into supporting our members.

“Bill Humphrey wanted to put something back and I believe the Forum has the same ethos.”

As part of its new structure, the Forum of Private Business is offering a free introductory membership for firms.

Mr Orford was followed by Kavita Oberoi, one of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs and a star of TV’s The Secret Millionaire.

Having started her IT and business healthcare consultancy in 2001, Mrs Oberoi was able to tell delegates some of the secrets of her success.

“I think a lot of what I’m doing – and my drive – is about proving that you can do a number of things. I was told I couldn’t do medicine because – at 26 – I would be far too old when I finished for anyone to want to marry me,” she said.

“I’ve made mistakes – If I’d have known about the Forum and development agencies I would certainly have taken advantage of them, but I didn’t. It was all a learning curve, you learn from your mistakes and life teaches you a lot.”

“For me, if you want something the first thing is dreaming it, visualising it – then it’s done.”

Mrs Oberoi, who was inspired to start her business after being passed over for promotion, said it is important to find a balance between collaboration and competitiveness.

“At one point, businesses wouldn’t work with others because they were competitors. These days you have to work together. It’s important to support each other – whatever you put out will always come back.

“However, success in life isn’t just based on your ability to change but your ability to change faster than your competitors.”

Also speaking at the even was Tim Sheward, Director of Enterprise at the North West Development Agency. In addition, there was a workshop on accessing finance held by Gaynor Dykes, Manager of Business Link Northwest’s Access to Finance Initiative, and another on equality at work run by Les Venus of the UK Council for Access and Equality (UKCAE).

The event closed with a question and answer session featuring a panel including Mrs Oberoi, Mr Sheward, Managing Partner at Yorkshire Bank Trevor Forrester and John Doyle, Trade Adviser to UK Trade and Investment (UKTI).

ENDS

Notes to editors

At the event, the Chief Executive of the Forum of Private Business, Phil Orford, outlined several ‘tips for supporting growth beyond the recession’. They are:

  •     Up-skill yourself in management and financial information
  •     Don’t over-trade
  •     Be meticulous with document accuracy
  •     Make chasing money your number one priority
  •     Make knocking on doors your number two priority
  •     Don’t be afraid to seek help and advice
  •     Focus on positive actions

Formed in 1977, the Forum of Private Business is evolving following a year of intensive research about the real needs of small businesses.

As an invaluable extension to its members’ teams the not-for-profit organisation has developed a range of tailored business solutions to support, protect and reassure small firms throughout the lifecycle of their businesses.

These are: ‘Finance Director’, ‘Legal Director’, ‘HR Director’, ‘Health and Safety Director’, ‘Development Director’, ‘Purchasing Director’, ‘Communications Director’ and ‘Managing Director’.

For more information call 0845 612 6266 or click http://www.fpb.org/membership.

For full list of services under each solution and/or membership package, visit http://www.fpb.org/membership or call 0845 612 6266.

Broadcast media – the FPB has ISDN capability and can provide comment, in quality audio, at short notice.

The FPB can also provide journalists with localised and sector-specific case studies.

About the Forum of Private Business

A not-for-profit organisation, the Forum of Private Business provides a personal, friendly and highly tailored service to its members – with the primary purpose of helping them run their businesses more profitably.

Representing thousands of small businesses across the UK – including retail, service providers and manufacturing companies – the FPB is recognised by the Government as one of the six main business support and lobby groups. It uses this position to influence decision-makers in the UK and Brussels on the issues that matter to small businesses. Visit http://www.fpb.org.

The FPB helps owners and managers of small and medium-sized businesses to comply with regulations via its dedicated member helpline, 24-hour legal advice line, and Health & Safety Guide, Employment Guide and Credit Control Guide.

In addition, the FPB’s http://www.smallbusinesschannel.co.uk was launched in June 2009, providing a wealth of free video advice and information on a range of topics to business owners and managers.

The FPB is a proud supporter of the Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG): http://www.fpb.org/charity
Media contacts

Phil McCabe
Media and PR Manager
Tel:    01565 626019
ISDN:     01565 654673
Mobile:    07775 756312

Chris Gorman
Media and PR Assistant
Tel:    01565 626016
ISDN:    01565 654673
Mobile/out of hours:    07775 756300

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