If we had stayed on this website any longer, this book would never have been written. Five stars all round for a brilliantly put together body of information. It feels a bit like the Hampton Court Maze, with one avenue leading to another and another…This is all the more laudable when you discover that the site is still under construction and, though some of the links could do with padding out, the bones of the site are there and there’s some flesh in evidence too.
The site is provided by the Small Business Service (www.sbs.org.uk), a government agency. SBS was established in April 2000, and works closely with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Small Business. The site details grants and services SBS can provide such as technology and development grants, and the SBS Small Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme, which guarantees loans from the banks and other financial institutions for small firms that have viable business proposals, but who have tried and failed to get a conventional loan because of a lack of security. The site is easy to follow with a simple index and links within the text, and has a useful section of small business statistics and, rather depressingly, survival rates.
BusinessLink is aimed at those starting a business, as well as those expanding one. Topics covered include starting your business, financing your business, people and places, running your business, technology and innovation, regulations and tax and business opportunities – all laid out in footprints across the screen, before you enter the site. Be prepared for a colossal amount of information (over 500 FAQs and 200 facts sheets and checklists. The Useful Contacts alone come to over 100).
Registration is not essential, and the information and links are there for all to see, but it means that your details are already in the system when you come to request information, and once registered you can keep information in the briefcase to refer back to later. Omit to register and the information is dumped from the briefcase when you log off.
The topics index is explained simply from the start, though the way it works is simple enough to understand, but it’s reassuring that Business Link does not assume you are an internet whizz. Once you have chosen a topic – say, starting up – a pull-down menu of options appears covering before starting up, planning and research, finding finance and so on. Within each features, links to further pages are highlighted in bold and at the end of each feature a list of FAQs on that topic appears, which can be viewed, emailed or assigned to your briefcase. The links within the features are distracting, and it’s tempting to go off at a tangent before you have finished reading the page. (That’s the maze effect for you).
On the right column of each page there is a choice of useful links on the topic you have selected, What’s new section, and Business Link Directory.
The beauty of the site is the readability and every subject is dealt with in an accessible way. The site never forgets that, though your business idea may be brilliant, you may not necessarily have a degree from the Harvard Business School.