Membership of Small Business Focus is just £50 a year.
All you have to do is fill in the membership form....
We're a proactive, not-for-profit organisation where membership is open to all organisations having less than 100 staff within the BANES area.
The B&NES ENTREPRENEURS’ CLUB, set up by Small Business Focus, aims to provide support to all micro and small businesses within the region, whether they are well-established, in the start-up phase or still at the “Big Idea” stage.
Free weekly meetings focus on the resources, skills and knowledge needed to run a small business efficiently, effectively and successfully. Each meeting also includes networking opportunities, plus free refreshments. The meetings take place on Tuesdays, from 6.30 pm until 8.30 pm at different inspirational venues.
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You can please some of the people all of the time
You can please all of the people some of the time
But you can’t please everybody all the time!
(Apologies to Abraham Lincoln)
Who, in their right mind, would want to be a city planner in Bath & North East Somerset? The continuous consultation meetings with strategic partners on planning, transport, parking, growth often struggle to produce an end product of clarity and, more importantly decisive action. In many cases, the result is a total impasse. Let us consider some basic facts.
On the whole, one will generally put personal choices and beliefs first, with consideration to other members of the community coming second. Within that, our community is made up from a diverse mix of residents, businesses, service providers and supporting bodies and each of them has their own needs.
So, to strike a balance is a constant and often thankless challenge for all of those that contribute to the process. Constants are housing, medical and pastoral care, followed by access to shopping, transport and leisure facilities to match our circumstances and pockets.
Children need good state schools preferably within walking distance (and there is no proof at all that “bigger is better”) and, later, colleges and universities to guarantee a skilled workforce.
Safe, punctual and affordable public transport and the provision of accommodation and facility that supports alternative transport to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion are also of paramount importance.
The long-standing debate surrounding to building of a By-Pass has been brought back to the table and we do feel that there are significant, undeniable justifications for going ahead. The questions of aesthetics and preservation of the environment must, of course, be carefully considered, but if we view Bath as a company (Bath plc if you will), then the business plan would almost certainly have budget and timeline approval for this scheme.
Bath has extremely strong residents’ associations keen, sometimes at the cost of progress running hand-in-hand with preservation, to protect the beauty and the heritage of the city. Some reports and surveys have suggested that personal roadside parking spaces are a principle consideration, but I’m not so sure that is not a council ploy to increase the parking revenues.
To put the record straight, broader views do exist amongst members of these associations and there is no denying that we must achieve a workable level of compromise between the practical and the picturesque. The residents and the businesses must work together to achieve common aims.
By encouraging students and graduates to remain in this area, our colleges and universities are playing their role to ensure a diversification of jobs and the broadening of our economy base. There is some unrest on this matter, given the recent Government decision to abandon tough restrictions on the development of new student housing BUT, on the whole, they deserve our whole-hearted support.
The presence of a student population, without doubt adds to the social fabric and economy of Bath, while also providing a sounding board / research group / consumer base, call it what you will, for new ideas, products and processes that many large brands companies and organisations dream of capturing.
On another note, B&NES Council has invested huge amounts into the promotion of the city and the surrounding areas as a haven for new business start-ups, inward investors, tourists and shoppers. To enhance the city, business groups have contributed street-cleaning machines, bollards, flowers and fountains, not to mention pigs and lions. The BID, if successful, will levy further taxes on businesses to fund further improvements to the business district. (For more information on the BID, contact Sarah Hewett of The Pole Company.) But these activities are just the icing on the cake.
It would seem that the majority of the general public, when asked, are sadly just not interested in issues without immediate personal impact - the “niggling” inconvenience must first become a nagging pain. That is human nature and not something to be criticised or vilified – simply a factor in the process of agreeing the best way forward, to achieve the best results in the present and to protect growth and success in the long-term. So let’s become involved, make those compromises or at least give them a reasonable and balanced hearing and move forward to make Bath & North East Somerset an even better place to live!
With reference to the ‘Who will stand up for entrepreneurs?’ and ‘We can put Britain back on its feet’ articles published in The Sunday Times (October 17 and October 24 2010 respectively), I would like add comment, particularly with reference to the establishment and growth of the Entrepreneurs Union and other small business and entrepreneur support groups.
As the Chairman of SMALL BUSINESS FOCUS, which exists to support local business, start-ups and entrepreneurs, in the region of Bath and North East Somerset, we wholeheartedly welcome any support activity or organisation which shares our aims and objectives.
However, one must consider the real process that must be undertaken in researching, sourcing and ultimately, selecting which support a business should secure, particularly given the growing number of bodies and groups that populate this area of business support.
It is difficult enough for a fledging business to decide on basic operational tools and systems, without having to contemplate the pros and cons of these groups and where they may complement each other – in some cases having to also consider the investment of a membership fee and the value that it may deliver.
Add to this the significant change in Government initiated business support, brought about as part of the recent spending review, such as Regional Development Agencies (RDA) being withdrawn and the awarding of Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) contracts in their place and the route to support becomes even more difficult to navigate.
This, in itself, should not represent a significant loss of support BUT it does offer a political and power-grabbing opportunity as the LEP ‘cake’ is pitched for with ‘slices’ duly offered on a basis that would perhaps benefit from a certain amount of scrutiny.
This is where, arguably, some form of framework, established at government level and cascading down through to the businesses would have a direct influence on the efficiency of the whole business support process.
If one compares it to overseas aid being shipped to an area of significant need, only to see wastage through poor delivery infrastructure and questionable management the picture takes on more clarity.
On a local level, here in bath and North East Somerset, we are attempting to bring about some of the structure and conduit that is required to allow the effort and investment of the council, the newly contracted LEP and various local support groups to arrive at the destination.
On such example is the Entrepreneurs Union, with whom we are discussing such an affiliation, as a key member, Mr.Emmanual-Jones, who founded The Black Famer business, is based within our region and provides a clear example of what may be achieved, both to existing and future entrepreneurs and small businesses.
More than two years ago, we put forward a plan to support businesses across four groups within the West of England: Self-employment through redundancy, women returning to work, military re-settlements and, finally students / graduates form an important proportion of businesses in our region and have very different requirements throughout the formative stages of their businesses.
Unlike Mr. Alambritis of the Federation of Small Businesses, we make a clear distinction between local business, start-ups and entrepreneurs within the business community and identify with their specific needs and requirements.
We firmly believe that there is a marked difference between the financial and operational support required by a start-up that may still be a state of incubation, an existing small business that may need to rationalise operations in light of the Government’s Spending Review and an entrepreneur who has everything up and running but needs to apply pressure to the local authority.
Indeed, the opening line of ‘We can put Britain back on its feet’ (The Sunday Times October 24 2010)counters the statement of Mr. Alambritis and confirms our view that there IS a marked difference in the needs of these two core groups of the small business community.
The feature concludes with the summary titles ‘Too Much Clamour’ which supports our view that a level of clarity and structure is required and agree with the comment made by Louise Third of Integra Communications that a collective voice offers greater impact and gravitas.
Phil Orford of The Forum of Private Business and John Anderson of the Entrepreneurial Exchange also share a much healthier view of business support requirements in my view, as does Luke Johnson of the Institute of Entrepreneurs, who all appear to advocate a more scientific and sector specific approach.
Interestingly, taking a summary view of the media commentary surrounding the Spending Review shows that it may be left to individual small businesses to evaluate the effects in detail for themselves.
For example, 490,000 public sector redundancies may offer an opportunity to some, but will result in a total loss of customer base for others, particularly as the suggestion is that procurement will become even more centralised and, therefore, at higher volumes than before.
One hopes that clear advice will be forthcoming on how all of this may affect our members and others like them as the fact remains that the broad ‘small business’ sector does represent a significant proportion of jobs, production, tax and opportunities for the workforce and entrepreneurs of the future.