New research from Direct Line for Business reveals more than half (55 per cent) of SMEs have hired an IT or web expert to assist with their business, making these professionals the second most popular external adviser to be hired by small businesses.
IT and web experts are second only to accountants (66 per cent) in need of external help by SMEs. Lawyers (52 per cent), designers (43 per cent) and HR experts (42 per cent) make up the top five. The least common professionals employed are project managers (38 per cent) and management consultants (39 per cent).
However, many organisations may be waiting too long before calling in experts to help their business. A quarter (24 per cent) of all SMEs have left it until they hit a crisis before hiring a professional adviser to help them, either because they were already experiencing issues (11 per cent), were in the midst of a crisis that could not be remedied internally (nine per cent) or because the business was actually losing money (seven per cent).
Business owners should work out what they can realistically do themselves and what they need expert help with and budget accordingly
Over a fifth (22 per cent) of SMEs have not hired any professional adviser to help their business, whether that be a lawyer, accountant or IT expert. The main reason for not hiring advisers is cost, cited by two fifths (40 per cent) of SMEs, although for others it is because they learnt how to do that particular skill themselves (36 per cent) or because they believed they had enough skills and knowledge to not require any external guidance (35 per cent).
Of those who have brought in external help, just a quarter (25 per cent) did so before commencing trading. The average time taken to seek advice for a SME is one year and six months, although it varies depending on type of adviser. SMEs wait around one year, eight months to hire a management consultant but just one year five months to hire a lawyer, accountant or IT expert.
Fines for non-compliance with regulation or law could be substantially higher than the cost of an adviser
Karneet Chowdhury, Business Manager Office and Professionals, Direct Line for Business, said: “SMEs are often expected to be a ‘jack of all trades’ but it’s very difficult for a small or micro business to have enough knowledge and experience of law, accountancy, IT and/or HR to be able to manage these aspects of their business themselves.
While cost control is vital for SMEs, sometimes the DIY approach may be a false economy and in fact cause more problems. Business owners should work out what they can realistically do themselves and what they need expert help with and budget accordingly. Fines for non-compliance with regulation or law could be substantially higher than the cost of an adviser.”