I was talking to one of my friends, who is a sole trader running an internet business recently and mentioned the course I am running, next week. At which she said that she and a few of her contacts would be probably be interested, but as a sole trader start up she didn’t have the budget.
Is big always beautiful?
This got me thinking about how marketing people are sometimes too focused on the growth big companies, forgetting that thousands of sole traders are also also drivers of the economy. They don’t have the CBI or Institute of Directors to represent and lobby for them. Even the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) are for businesses of up to 249 people, which seems quite large to me.
When it comes to professional support and development it is the same. I have been a proud member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing for 10 years and while there is a lot to learn from their events and online materials, nearly all the case studies are of well-known big organisations in finance, food retail or corporate consultancy. The case studies always focus on detailed research, large scale website redesigns and tailored apps, brand and design agencies and spends in millions across the globe. The bottom line always almost about market share or mass engagement. Of course, the CIM needs to meet a majority of their members needs, but small businesses rarely get represented.
While you can always learn and translate ideas, and I do, I feel it is a world away from the work I do, and I have done throughout my career in tourism, education, medical research and community engagement. Even most business books are by entrepreneurs who made their small business global, or researchers set in a similar mindset.
Sole traders overlooked
And yet 3.4 million sole traders make up the economy, according to FSB, making up 59% of the total business population.
In my experience, many sole traders and small start-ups are not all aiming to go global. They love what they do and want to make a difference, but in a way that is scalable to them. Many of them are also jack of all trades having to know their specialism that they are selling, but also has to be finance director, marketing manager, procurement manager and operations director all in one. In some ways they need to have the full set of business skills to survive, while big companies can afford specialists.
Getting the support they need
Part of the challenge is that sole traders they sometimes need advice and support and don’t know where to get it. Sometimes, there are good Chambers of Commerce, like Brighton & Hove who pride themselves on having bite-sized learning at affordable prices or there are council- supported business courses like Ride the Wave. I have personally benefited from courses like these and met a number of sole traders there. Banks have also seen the value and NatWest Accelerator and Barclays Eagle Labs are also supporting start ups and small businesses to grow to a sustainable level.
Saluting the sole trader
That said, I was reminded by my friend who runs a internet business, how tight finances can be. Even with my storytelling for business course, she felt it was beyond the reach of those sole traders starting out. So to salute the work they do, and enable them to take part, I have made a special offer of just £25 for my two-hour session.
Core to my business model is making a difference to clients so they can get to the next stage. Helping them communicate what they offer and reason why they do it is key. While helping them find the clients that want what they do and then ensuring their needs are met are core to any business. But most don’t have money for agencies, and branding workshops, they have to make every penny count, so that my way of supporting them.
By the way, I am still taking off £10 for not-for-profits and Brighton Chamber members making the course an affordable £44 which should not impact many training budgets too heavily.
Let’s learn and share knowledge and become better and stronger by learning together. What an inspiring thought for the coming year.