On 9 July 2015, Enterprise Rockers founder and business owner Tony Robinson OBE will hosting a free workshop on micro-business success at Aldermore’s new business centre in Leeds.
Ahead of the event, Robinson takes the time to discuss research he has led into the importance of shared work-spaces like the one Aldermore is opening in July, and why they are so vital for small business success.
Shared work-spaces matter
“I founded an organisation called the SFEDI group in 1996, which is government-recognised, to improve the support, learning and skills available to pre-start, start-ups and small business owners,” he begins.
“We’ve done huge amounts of research into how micro-business owners and small business owners best learn and what they need. Being able to meet and learn from other business owners was tremendously important. If they get together in hubs, like the one Aldermore has just developed, then it’s not only a great place to overcome loneliness, since over 50 per cent of all businesses work from home, but it’s also really important in keeping your skills and know-how up-to-date, and your confidence.”
Robinson cites managing cash-flow, winning and keeping customers and technology as the areas where entrepreneurs have the most to learn from one another, also citing a secondary benefit of using small business hubs.
“There is other research to show that there are significant health benefits in people being able to get out of solitary confinement, let’s say a home office or an office on your own, into areas like shared workspaces and hubs. They’re fantastic places and it’s tremendously important.”
Support, don’t interfere
While in the early days of SFEDI’s research the focus was on government providing these facilities, more recently Robinson has been campaigning for larger businesses to get involved.
“For the last six years what we’ve been doing is persuading the private sector to provide the support and learning to micro-business owners. Microsoft is probably the biggest name in providing a big hub in London but there are many others around the UK.”
He explains that private companies can often have a better understanding of the specific challenges of running a business, but that it’s important for them to realise conditions can be very different for individual small firms.
“Micro-businesses are all very different so it’s quite dangerous for large businesses, as some have done, to assume that they know better,” he states, advising, “Don’t try to intervene, just provide the environment to allow the enterprises to grow in their own way. That’s what Aldermore is doing; I think it’s great.”
Why host a hub?
Robinson feels it isn’t just the small businesses that stand to gain from this partnership, recommending:
“The more we get to know each other and work together collaboratively in the private sector, the more the country’s economy, jobs and employment will grow together. It may only seem like a small thing providing workspaces and fast internet and everything like that, but it’s really just the start of a relationship.”
He also underlines that large businesses can benefit from contact with micro-firms.
“Both parties learn from each other, that’s the great thing. If Aldermore staff are interacting with micro-business owners day-to-day, then they’ll be able to provide better services to micro-businesses in the future so it’s a fantastic win-win for everybody. By providing the facilities so that they can help them succeed in their business, that will build the trust between the micro-business owner and the large business.”
Where can micro-businesses find facilities?
Finally, Robinson offers a word of advice for any small businesses interested in discovering shared work spaces within their local area.
“If you Google ‘hubs’, that’s the name that most shared workspaces go by in the UK. The other thing is that libraries and enterprise agencies are available in nearly every town in England and they are both geared up to provide help for people starting out in business or new to business. They’re the other place to go to see if there’s any help or support and they’ll signpost you to the hubs in your area as well.”
Read about Aldermore’s soon-to-open shared work space in Leeds and sign up for The Bank’s first small business workshop to hear more from Tony Robinson OBE.