Federations and associations
The chance to network, share ideas and meet new people
As a small business person, perhaps starting out on your own, you may at times find yourself hungry for input, looking for peers to bounce ideas around with and an organisation to provide you with information resources that you may not have the time to gather yourself.
The small business person's life can be a lonely one, particularly if you're accustomed to the group dynamic that exists within a larger organisation. That's where networking and utilising industry bodies comes in.
Taking some time to network with your peers and make use of the resources provided by the large number of UK trade federations and associations can greatly enhance your business and assist you in staying vital in your inevitably changing industry.
As a body looking after the interests of small business as a whole, the FSB is a non-profit organisation that exists to offer small businesses in the UK a voice.
With almost 200,000 members and approximately 3,000 new members joining each month, the FSB has the clout to negotiate at the same level as a major corporation, not to mention to vigorously lobby for small business issues.
Achievements that you may already be familiar with include the introduction of enhanced capital allowances and flexible working hours, the reduction or removal of Corporation Tax for small limited companies, VAT reform in the form of a flat rate scheme for small businesses and an end to automatic fines for incorrect filing of VAT returns, to name but a few.
Aside from its lobbying activities, the FSB offers its members free telephonic advice on legal, financial, tax and employment issues as well as negotiated discounts on services such as business and health insurance and telephone calls. The federation also offers factoring and independent financial services, along with other discounts relevant to small business.
Members receive a free magazine devoted to business issues to help stay abreast of the latest changes to legislation and are invited to breakfast and evening functions, providing opportunities to meet and network with other small businesses within the same community.
Aside from bodies like the FSB that look after small business issues in general, there are a large number of associations operating in the UK that focus on specific trades and the issues relevant to them. Here is a handful, to give you an idea of what's out there.
The IBA provides professional support for individual business advisers, counsellors, mentors and trainers who specialise in helping small to medium businesses. They address issues like accounting and financial management, credit control and debt collection, sales promotion and advertising campaigns, taxation, recruitment, health laws, and more.
The IBA works to formulate standards of professional conduct and to provide its members with training and development courses. The institute offers networking opportunities through local branches as well as regional and national meetings.
They also offer regional seminars, workshops and training days, a Business Advisor magazine and monthly newsletter, along with an informative website and opportunities to influence business support policies and programmes.
The ISM is a professional body for musicians, offering support and contact with like-minded colleagues via 46 regional centres.
Aside from offering a community with links to educational agencies, agreements with the BBC and contacts within government departments, the ISM provides its members with a range of services, including 24 hour legal and tax advice, counselling, legal representation and public liability insurance.
The society also offers individual career and financial planning advice, and access to discounted musical instrument, motor, household, health and travel insurance, and more.
The NFB represents the needs of building companies and offers services to medium size contractors and small builders, as well as representing its members' interests by lobbying UK and European governments.
The NFB offers members top level advice from construction industry specialists on legal, employment, tax, health and safety, environmental, technical, training and government funding issues.
The federation conducts seminars and provides opportunities for members to network, as well as using the collective buying power of its members to negotiate favourable offers.
The BA represents over 95% of the booksellers in the UK and Ireland and provides its members with a range of services, from Government and EU representation to commercial offerings such as reduced rates on certain services.
The Association offers its members advice in areas such as price marking legislation and provides networking opportunities via conferences, meetings and events. They also work closely with the British Retail Consortium on matters relating to retail, particularly changes to business and consumer legislation, e-commerce and retail crime.
CIM is the officially appointed body that sets the standard for sales and marketing professional development in the UK. Members are able to call upon information resources and support services to assist in developing their skills.
The Institute offers its members regional networking opportunities by providing regular events and online discussions that allow peers to get together to discuss issues and share ideas.
Members are provided with access to CIM's specialist marketing information and research services, as well as Europe's largest marketing library and a comprehensive website offering fresh ideas and best practice examples, as well as a section dedicated specifically to small business.