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Resources for small businesses: 2
Monday, 19th December 2011
In addition to the UK government funded web portals, mentioned in part 1, there are a number of other information resources dedicated to smaller businesses. Some of these are delivered though business support organisations and private consultants, while others are directly accessible to businesses.
A good example of a company that offers both is BHP Information Solutions. It provides content to small and medium enterprise (SME) intermediaries such as accountants, law firms and consultancies in the form of briefings, guides and actions lists for passing onto their clients. It also provides information direct to businesses via their series of "donuts".
For people thinking of starting a business and wishing to check out a possible trading name, or small businesses that are considering incorporating or registering a trademark, there’s a wealth of information available on the National Business Register website. Of course, for registering as a limited company, a business can go direct to Companies House.
Knowing more about the market you’re in is a must for any business but market sector reports can be expensive for small organisations. There’s a wide variety of sources for buying market sector reports based on secondary, desk based research from aggregators such as Research and Markets to specialists such as Mintel (for fast moving consumer goods markets) and Datamonitor, to Key Note which is more affordable and very popular with public libraries and universities.
Access to company financial data can be purchased on an ad hoc basis or by annual subscription, if a business has a need to access company financial data regularly. There are several well established players in this market including Dun and Branstreet, Experian and Equifax but a much cheaper, and very accessible alternative, is Bureau van Dijk’s Fame and Mint products.
For statistical data, there’s the Office for National Statistics and NomisWeb. This is free government collected information but to access the latter’s datasets on the Annual Business Enquiry, an authorisation from the ONS is required along with the payment of a small fee.
For local business intelligence, down to county level, there are a number of resources available. For example, in the south west of England, the South West Observatory is joint venture of a number of local research organisations including universities and government bodies paid for by public funds. These resources can be invaluable for very localised information that’s otherwise impossible to obtain and is a good indication of the state of local economies.
In short, there are a number of very useful, low cost, or in many cases, free sources of information available to small businesses which really can help level the playing field between a cash strapped small organisation and a much richer larger one.
By Dale Moore
Dale Moore is employed as an information manager and English language teacher at a private language school in the South West of England. He has a masters degree in information management from the University of Sheffield and over 12 years experience as an information practitioner.
He has worked for a number of organisations of all sizes from the BBC in London to government funded regional entities providing business support to small companies.
Dale can be reached at email@example.com
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