With small businesses experiencing significant revenue decline this year, Helen Milner OBE, CEO of the social change charity Good Things Foundation, outlines why it is vital to equip small business owners with the digital skills to drive their business forward.
Whether it’s for a morning coffee, a haircut or home improvement work, many of us rely on the UK’s small businesses on a daily basis. These businesses are the backbone of our communities and they play a vital role in our towns and villages across the country.
Now, small businesses are facing one of the most challenging times in recent history. Almost half of small businesses have suffered a significant loss of earnings as a result of Covid-19, according to new polling of over 500 small businesses and sole traders as part of the Make It Click programme, a charitable digital skills initiative delivered by the Good Things Foundation.
Adapting to changing times
The pandemic has forced many of us to be creative and adjust the way we live and work. Small businesses are no exception; adapting to survive is vital. Many businesses are finding ways to diversify their offer and reach new and existing customers by introducing new features such as click-and-collect, takeaway services and deliveries.
Upskilling small businesses
The pandemic has accelerated digitisation and digital skills have become more important than ever, a lifeline for small businesses as they adapt to this ‘new normal’.
Some business owners are prevented from driving their business forward post lockdown because of a lack of basic digital skills: small businesses don’t always have an IT team or a workforce with social media and online expertise.
The Make It Click programme is focused on helping small businesses achieve their goals and secure their futures. That’s why we have developed a new resource hub to help fill the digital skills gap felt by many small businesses.
Many owners understand the importance of digital skills. Our research found that 73 per cent of small business owners agree that online/IT skills are essential for their business to thrive.
Keeping up to date with advances in technology and social media is important for any business. As our research shows:
- over 65% of business owners recognise the need to continually update their online/IT skills
- just over half of small businesses questioned have plans to learn how to set-up social media business accounts to help them market their business more effectively
- 49% of businesses also have plans to set-up a website for their business for the first time to offer new features such as online ordering.
It is encouraging that some of these businesses are already putting these plans into action. However, as the FSB’s report ‘Learning the Ropes: Skills and training in small businesses’ highlights, a quarter (26%) of small business owners lack confidence in their basic digital skills. In many cases it is not just having the confidence in existing skills, a third of small business owners do not know where to go to get the skills they need to help their business survive post lockdown.
The Make It Click small business hub is designed to help small businesses increase digital know-how and confidence in an easy and convenient way. It includes a wealth of free online learning resources to help business owners, including beginner courses on word processing, social media marketing and creating a budget.
With the right skills in place, small businesses will be in a much stronger position to face these challenging times and remain a much-valued part of our communities. Our lives and our towns will look and feel very different in the future if we don’t support the country’s small businesses today.
Small businesses can access Make It Click’s free skills hub for small businesses by visiting www.makeitclick.com/business on a smartphone, tablet or computer.
Good Things Foundation has been funded by Google.org - the philanthropic arm of the tech company - to deliver the Make It Click programme, which launched nationwide this year.