5 ways to grow with your local business community

Building a company outside of London could be the best decision budding entrepreneurs could make. These simple tips will help you boost your regional business.

While big business grabs the headlines, our small and medium-sized enterprises keep the UK’s highstreets, markets and online stores prosperous. We’re actually a local enterprise powerhouse. In fact, as many as 80 new companies an hour were set-up last year, driven by passionate entrepreneurs everywhere from Bristol to Birmingham and Edinburgh to Exeter.

Together, smaller enterprises count for some 92% of the UK’s 5.2 million businesses – and 60% of our top-performing high growth small businesses (HGSBs) are based outside of London and the South East. Take technology, for example, almost 70% of all UK digital investment went to the regions in 2016, swelling the tech workforce to more than 160,000 in the North alone.

And one of the easiest ways for small businesses to get ahead is to get involved in their local communities. Up and down the country, local businesses are tapping into the best of the resources, capital, expertise and enthusiasm of likeminded professionals and community leaders. Here are five ways you can follow suit and maximise your regional advantage.
 
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Networking

When it comes to bringing in new business, you’re only as strong as your network. It can feel lonely starting out on your own, and friendly faces may seem hard to come by – but constructive contacts are the difference between the best and the rest. Don’t be afraid to take the initiative and bring your colleagues, clients, or even your competitors together to learn and share opportunities? Local businesses always find the best solutions to local issues. Build it and they will come.
 
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Collaboration

Some of the UK’s most successful High Growth Small Businesses (HGSBs) have benefitted from collaboration with the UK’s world class universities. Cutting edge tech entrepreneurship isn’t confined to London’s silicone roundabout: Cambridge’s silicone fen and Brighton’s silicone beach are leading the way, cooperating to innovate with the academic community. There are plenty of opportunities to team up with other businesses out there, too. If you’re just starting out, find a mentor – and if you’re looking for fresh ideas and a chance to give back, consider becoming one.
 
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Funding

Small business support isn’t always easy to come by, but the bank isn’t the only option. Find your Regional Growth Fund: they’ve allocated more than £1.6 billion in loans and grants in the last six years, and they specialise in backing growing independent enterprises, uniting government money with local knowledge. Community grants for social enterprises are available too, backed by regional authorities, charities, and other businesses.
 
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Co-Working

Launching a business with a small team, or even on your own, means that you can afford to be flexible with where and how you operate. In small numbers, co-working with other local businesspeople could provide the advice and assistance you need to get things off the ground. And if you’re looking for more comprehensive training guidance, the number of accelerators, incubators, and catapults grows every week. You get the benefit of top-class facilities with some of the sharpest business brains around.
 
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Sustainable Growth

If your start-up is going from strength to strength, then you might need to begin building your operation faster than you thought. Within the last few years, HGSBs have been responsible for the creation of around a third of all new jobs, and helped drive 20% of the country’s economic growth – in many cases, by constructing a sustainable, reliable team and tapping into nearby talent. When your staff are local people, they understand local people and the opportunities that are available nearby. And best of all, when your business becomes more successful, it will help to make even more hires from the new talent attracted to the area. For the first time ever there’s a net migration of people away from London, as they go to other cities in the UK for new opportunities and a better standard of living. The digital hubs of Manchester, Cambridge and Brighton are all popular choices. Diversity from new residents of your area is also a strength here. Hiring staff from different cultures, with different perspectives, can show you fresh ways of doing things and build on your local knowledge.
 

Going Local

Following these five tips will give you an instant boost and set you on the path to becoming a regional powerhouse. But they will help you grow a more sustainable, profitable, and popular business. The more you invest in building local links, the more you’ll discover opportunities on your doorstep – so why not start now? Share this article with a small business owner you know, and unleashing your regional advantage today. Pretty soon you’ll be ready for anything.