BT today announced an unprecedented package of support to help the 598,000 small businesses in the East of England get better positioned for recovery and growth following the coronavirus outbreak and as they prepare for a post-Brexit future.
Today’s launch of BT’s Small Business Support Scheme sees the company introduce a range of new measures to help small business boost their connectivity, cash flow and confidence – key concerns which have been identified by Small Business Britain’s recent surveys of its membership.
BT’s action plan includes a commitment to pay its 4,500 small business suppliers promptly and within 30 days of being invoiced, to helping firms fund the cost of ultrafast business connections, as well as access to free resources such as business mentoring, digital skills, marketing tools and mental health support.
Jon Pollock, BT director for corporate and public sector in the East of England, said: “With small businesses accounting for more than 99 per cent of all businesses in the East of England**, they are the beating heart of our economy, high streets and communities. They deserve the support of each and every one of us to help them thrive into the future.”
James Palmer, Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, said: “The past few months have been amongst the most challenging in living memory for our SMEs and I think this is a fantastic scheme from BT to help local businesses navigate through the difficult times ahead to ensure they are able to thrive in the future.
“Helping to relieve the pressures of cash flow, improving digital skills and subsidising the cost of upgrading to ultrafast broadband could make a big difference. The need for digital transformation has never been more urgent and I encourage SMEs to take advantage of the help on offer.”
Richard Tunnicliffe, CBI regional director for the East of England, said: “BT’s commitment to supporting small businesses through these tough times will be incredibly valuable.
“The CBI has championed digital connectivity and skills as indispensable to all sectors of the economy and in every part of the UK, and this initiative focussed on support to smaller firms is particularly welcome.”
BT’s Small Business Support Scheme comprises the following measures:
• Funding ultrafast business connections: BT is helping small businesses fund the cost of an ultrafast business connection (known as an Ethernet line), by subsidising the total cost by up to £2,500 per customer. This extends the benefits of the Government’s popular Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme, which closed in May, to provide further financial respite to firms like graphic design agencies and production houses who need Gigabit speeds of up to 10Gbps to send and receive rich media files.
• Launching bursaries for UK tech start-ups: BT is introducing a new bursary scheme to give 1,000 UK tech start-ups and entrepreneurs a financial head start. From October, eligible companies can apply for a bursary to benefit from free fibre broadband and mobile bundles. Further details will be announced in due course.
• Introducing BT Halo for Business: BT has launched the UK’s only converged fibre broadband, mobile and digital phone line bundle for micro-businesses, which represent 91 per cent of all businesses in the UK. By combining three powerful connections in one package, Halo helps businesses stay better connected inside and outside of the workplace, so that they never miss an important call or a sale.
• Helping small businesses to go cashless: BT is preparing to launch a new digital payments solution, to help small businesses move to cashless transactions. This is a trend which is accelerating as a result of the pandemic, with 25 per cent of small businesses increasing their use of contactless payments over the past few months. Further details will be announced in due course.
• Prompt payment for BT’s small business suppliers: With 58 per cent of small businesses citing cashflow as their number one concern, BT is committing to pay its 4,500 small business suppliers within 30 days of being invoiced. This sees BT halving the 60-day terms stipulated by the Government’s Prompt Payment Code.
• Financial flexibility for the hardest hit: BT has been assisting small businesses in financial distress during the peak of the pandemic by helping them find a flexible option for paying their bill. This will continue over the coming months, with BT creating a dedicated team to support customers who are struggling with aspects of their bill as a result of the pandemic.
• Helping small businesses access the full power of digital and social media advertising: With 63 per cent of small businesses wanting more support around marketing and sales, BT is looking to help small firms across the UK to better promote their goods and services online. More details will be revealed in due course.
• Supporting small businesses through mentoring: BT is introducing a new mentoring scheme for small businesses, to provide them with free access to its expertise across strategy, marketing, sales, and more. BT will support businesses via Digital Boost, a free non-profit platform uniting digital experts with leaders of small businesses and charities. Further details will be announced over the coming weeks.
• Helping small businesses acquire new digital skills: BT’s ambition is to reach 1m small business owners and their employees with digital skills by 2025, with 46 per cent expecting to increase their use of digital tools following the pandemic. BT has already helped tens of thousands of small businesses with digital skills training through its Skills for Tomorrow programme and has released new learning content on crucial topics, including how to prevent cyber-attacks and using social media to reach new customers.
• Wellbeing support: BT is acutely aware that it’s an extremely worrying and uncertain time for small businesses, so we will be providing customers with access to expertise around maintaining their wellbeing by boosting their mental and physical health. This will be delivered through a free online toolkit and webinar series specifically designed for small businesses.
Commenting on the details of the new support package, Mr Pollock said: “At BT, we can use our technology, scale and expertise to help small businesses kick-start recovery and growth by boosting their connectivity, cashflow and confidence. So, we’ve listened to the needs of small businesses and are stepping up to deliver a support scheme which should have something for everyone – whether you’re a sole trader, tech-start up, micro business or a larger firm.”