Small businesses currently account for approximately 99% of all businesses in the UK, with the bulk of the private workforce being employed by them. The Covid-19 pandemic took a massive toll on the number of business owners and SMEs able to sustain themselves, and the government has made it clear that they want to help small businesses get back on their feet and grow beyond pre-pandemic figures.
It’s in the best interest of the government to help SMEs financially and assist them in the growth – they employ more than 16.3 million people and, as the Chancellor said himself, “are the backbone of our economy, creating jobs and prosperity across the UK.”
Digitisation is a key part of growth, but it’s estimated that only 20% of SMEs adopt new technologies, despite it upping productivity by approximately 18%. The government Help to Grow scheme aims to fill this gap and help small to medium-sized UK businesses grow beyond their means, but what exactly is it?
What is the Help to Grow: Digital scheme budget 2022?
In essence, the Help to Grow: Digital scheme budget 2022 was put in place by the government to fuel business and economic growth in the UK. The world is increasingly becoming reliant on digital technologies which are forcing businesses of all types to diversify and change the way they think.
Unfortunately, knowing which digital technologies to invest in and adopt can be tricky, with more than 50% of businesses being unsuccessful in their endeavours due to a lack of understanding and personalised guidance. This is compounded by the fact that adopting new technologies isn’t cheap, with one in three businesses steering clear due to the cost.
Rishi Sunak said: “This platform brings together, for the first time, guidance on how to choose and use digital software to grow your business – designed with input from industry leaders and independent experts.
“And because we know that costs are a significant barrier to businesses investing in digital software, discounts worth up to £5,000 to help you buy the right productivity software for your business are now available.”
To summarise, the point of the government Help to Grow scheme is to make new technology and software more accessible to small businesses at the same time as helping them grow by providing expert advice and guidance, all with a view of helping SMEs grow and to help bolster the economy – something which is vital post-pandemic.
Who it’s for
The scheme is only applicable to small and medium sizes businesses, meaning those with between five and 249 employees. Eligible businesses must be either registered on Companies House or the Financial Conduct Authority’s Mutuals Register. On top of this, all qualifying businesses will need to be actively trading for 12 months minimum before application, and they must be incorporated. Finally, it must be the first time a business is looking to purchase the software.
This means businesses who have bought software or attempted new digital technologies before aren’t eligible, nor are businesses that ceased trading at any point in the last year, or that haven’t been operating for a full year yet.
What’s on offer
Under the new scheme, eligible businesses will be entitled to up to £5,000 off the price of CRM and accounting software. The government has approved a number of technology suppliers and has said it is looking to expand the scheme to include ecommerce software and a longer list of approved suppliers. At present, the software that qualifies for a discount under the scheme includes:
· Accounting software: Sage, Crunch, and Intuit
· CRM software: Deskpro, Zymplify, Gold-Vision CRM, Capsule CRM, and Livepoint
To help businesses find the right software solution for them, the government has enlisted the help of experts to help SMEs make the right decision. A collection of business and tech experts have been brought on board, as well as leading businesses that have seen direct growth from digitisation.
Growing a business is no mean feat and there are lots of facets to it, but the government has made it clear that they are confident digital technologies are a core aspect of growth and development.
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The government hopes that through the new Help to Grow: Digital scheme, more SMEs will have ready advice on how they grow and face fewer barriers when it comes to implementing new practices, with a knock-on effect of increased prosperity and more efficiency and knowledge among small and medium-sized business owners.
How will it help?
Digitisation is increasingly becoming directly linked with business growth. The government wants to help SMEs take advantage of this. Rishi Sunak said: “As part of our Plan for Jobs, we’ve launched Help to Grow: Digital, to help businesses use the latest digital technology to cut costs, save time, reach new customers and be more competitive.
“Whether you want to build customer relationships to increase sales, manage your accounts and finances digitally, digital software can help you do that.”
It sounds tempting, but many SMEs remain wary of technology because they know how they’ve been operating their businesses has worked so far, and as the age-old saying goes, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. Whilst this is an understandable stance, it’s undeniable the impact that digital technology can have on businesses.
Some of the key figures from NatWest’s Springboard to Recovery survey show SMEs that adopt two or more technologies see a 25% boost in productivity. They also show that 43% of small and medium-sized businesses feel more confident in setting in place a cohesive business strategy that will work.
By providing guidance and lowering the chances of the wrong technologies being adopted, and by footing the bill for 50% of new software costs, the government hopes more SMEs will realise their potential through digital adoption and continue to grow to help the economy flourish.
Away from the benefits provided to the government and the wider economical landscape in the UK, it’s hoped that businesses will be able to see improvements and desirable outcomes at a local level, be it through better productivity, increased morale, helping staff develop their knowledge and increase their training, or simply making it more efficient to run their business.
It’s hoped that the accounting software will help businesses track what they’re spending and get a stronger handle on their finances, all whilst streamlining the accounting process. The use of a digital system will reduce time spent manually doing accounting (if this is the way businesses are currently doing it), therefore freeing up more time away from admin tasks and reducing the margin for human error.
The CRM software, it is hoped, will have a similar impact. Not only will it help businesses store data more efficiently and securely, but its goal is to also help businesses expand their client base. Through a CRM system, businesses can also collect more data about their customers to better understand their patterns and how what they need. The hope is that this data can then be used to meet new customers and expand customer bases, further helping businesses to grow and reach new heights.
How to apply
Applying for the government Help to Grow scheme can be done online. The first step is to look through the software on offer and read more about the features. The government has enlisted the help of experts to put together comprehensive guides and information packs about each of the software options, including pricing information. Users can also compare specific products to help them make a more informed buying decision.
Once the software has been chosen, businesses must apply under the Help to Grow: Digital scheme budget 2022 criteria. They will need to provide the registered number for their business as provided by either Companies House or the FCA Mutuals Public Register. The person applying must fill out information pertaining to their name, job role, and a contact email address, and information must also be provided on the number of employees who work for the businesses.
Fraud checks are then carried out and provided the application is approved, a link will be sent to the email provided in the previous step. This link will contain the discount, but it must be used within 30 days of being sent out, otherwise, it will expire.
The aim is to expand the Help to Grow: Digital scheme over the coming three years to include more software options for businesses to adopt as part of their digital strategy. The government hopes SMEs will be able to grow and develop under the plan.
Mike Cherry, the national chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “We're encouraging as many eligible small firms to apply and make the most of this new scheme. Small businesses are often keen to embrace new technologies, but we know that one in four lack confidence in their own basic digital skills
“t's crucial that practical changes like this scheme are put in place to help small firms adopt digital technologies, making improvements to their own business and driving growth.”
Applications are now open for the scheme.
How Accountancy Cloud can help SMEs
Here at the Accountancy Cloud, we routinely work with small businesses to assist them with keeping on top of their finances through services such as bookkeeping, taxes, and our customised accounting software and dashboards. This is a great option for businesses that have already started on the path to adopting new digital technologies. Get in touch with us to learn more about how we can help you.
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