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How SMEs can pay for vital skills training

New research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has underlined the importance of training for SMEs. But education doesn’t come cheap. Alternative finance can help small businesses meet the costs.

One of the big takeaways from the FSB report, Learning the Ropes, is that small businesses are lacking the cyber-security skills to properly defend themselves. Obviously investment in training is the answer, but courses come with hefty price tags, and the cost has to be a main reason why owners and employees aren’t up to speed.

Of course, pressure on finances can explain other shortfalls in engagement, such as the alarming number of small business owners who have yet to tackle the issue of GDPR compliance, or those that are still dragging their heels with regard to the pension auto-enrolment scheme.

It’s fair to say that many small businesses are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Investment in training may put too much strain on capital, impacting ground-floor operations, but failing to do so leaves businesses vulnerable to attacks and fines. According to the FSB, the UK is hit annually by seven million cyber-crimes at a cost of over £5.2 billion.

So, what can small business owners do to ensure that they both get the training they need and protect their cashflow? This is where alternative finance comes in.

The popularity of the sector has skyrocketed over the last decade as traditional lender caution has led small businesses to look elsewhere for funding. As a result, the likes of peer-to-peer lending, invoice finance and crowdfunding have become established SME finance services.

According to new data from the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, the UK online alternative finance market was worth £4.6 billion in 2016, up 43% compared with the previous year. The largest product in this area is peer-to-peer business lending, worth £1.23 billion, an increase of 36%, while the invoice finance market totalled £452 million.

Here is how a small business in Sussex used peer-to-peer lending to finance the purchase of new equipment.

It’s clear that training is essential if small businesses are going to thrive in the current climate. However, getting the knowledge requires investment, and given the pressures on SMEs, it’s also clear that alternative finance has a key role to play in helping owners foot the bill.

To find out more about A&T Business Associates services, contact Tony on 01903 602211 or tony@atbusinessassociates.co.uk.

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