Economy

Vodafone launches support hubs as SMEs struggle to ‘stay afloat’

Vodafone has set up two resources, V-Hub and business.connected, after its survey ‘SMEs Like Me’ found that UK small and medium enterprises are struggling more than previously thought

Vodafone has launched two new resources to support SMEs after a new report commissioned by the group highlighted how SMEs are struggling to “stay afloat”.

The resources include V-Hub, which offers free expert guidance, and business.connected, which is in partnership with Enterprise Nation, Cisco and Samsung, and is helping 150,000 SMEs to “adopt technology, boost digital skills and stay safe online”.

It comes as Vodafone launched ‘SMEs Like Me’, a new report that examines the challenges facing SMEs in the UK, whilst identifying ways to support the sector. The report revealed that the main priority for a quarter of British SMEs is to stay afloat this year, with the figure rising to 32% for businesses with less than nine employees. 

The report also found a “worrying guidance gap” beginning to emerge, with 59% of SMEs unsure of where to go for help and support, and only 11% having sought support from large companies or business mentors.

In addition, it found that 71% of sole traders reported not seeking out the help they were entitled to as “they didn’t identify as a SME” and therefore didn’t believe the support was available to them.

Meanwhile, many large organisations reportedly continued to treat SMEs as a “homogeneous” group, according to the report, which the report has debunked, stating that it is in fact “the opposite with SMEs instead being vibrant, diverse, and complex”. 

The research was conducted by consumer insights firm GWI, and has compiled the responses of over a thousand small business owners and employees. 

Kat Pither, founder of yoga mat manufacturer, Yogi Bare, said: “It’s the DNA of my business and community that is absolutely what Yogi Bare is about. We’ve built something from scratch and it’s evolving all the time. It’s also important to remember that SMEs are a community, too, so we really need to talk openly about the challenges we face. 

“There is no shame in admitting to the bumps on your journey. In my case, I needed to take a step back and look at my business objectively rather than emotionally.” 

She added: “Like many SMEs, I didn’t always take the support available to me because I was so ‘in the moment’ grafting and grinding and trying to save the business but I have a responsibility to be honest about the realities of running a business so people don’t feel alone and shut down and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Andrew Stevens, head of SME Vodafone UK, added: “In 2022 we simply have to do a better job of defining and understanding SMEs. We’ve learned that 71% of self-employed people don’t describe themselves as a small business, which means they may not believe that they have access to the same support systems as other business owners who run larger companies. This reinforces the need for better, clearer, more accessible advice and guidance.”

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