The best state-funded business advice sites

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Government cutbacks has lead to the closure of the regional network of Business Link support for small firms. You may think there is little state support left that can help you, but a range of free online guides, tools and videos are still available

The Business Link website and regional network has been replaced by the GOV.UK website and the national Business Link Helpline. The website contains advice sections for businesses and the self-employed as well as advice on  employing people. If you are looking to start a business for the very first time, a new start-up or an existing business who wishes to improve and grow their operations, the service provided by the Helpline is there to support you. Business Link Helpline Tel: 0845 600 9006 (9.00am - 6.00pm Monday to Friday).

In addition to this online resource, you can still find government resources out there that provide you with a variety of support. Here are the five best state-funded websites for…

1.  Small-business HR advice

Acas (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) offers guidance only on HR issues ― such as equality, workplace disputes and redundancy procedures. Small firms can use the free pre-claim conciliation (PCC) service to help prevent workplace disputes from going to an employment tribunal. Employers can also access free, confidential advice on the Acas helpline by calling 08457 474747.

2.  Startup support

Start Up Britain

While not taxpayer-funded, this social enterprise website has been supported from the outset by the Prime Minister David Cameron. Widely criticised when it was launched, site provides links to existing start-up resources, alongside some corporate offers for small firms. It has been bolstered by the addition of new services including a calendar of start-ups events nationwide, to which you can add your own event or just find useful exhibitions and conferences.

Or try this…

National Enterprise NetworkThe National Enterprise Network. This membership organisation can direct you to one of 100 local enterprise agencies offering a wealth of free start-up support, including seminars and online content as well as telephone and face-to-face business support. Use the finder tool to contact your nearest agency.

3.  International trade

UK Trade & Investment

If you’re planning to import or export, this site is an essential stop. Containing guidance on trading in any sector with any country you care to mention, the website also offers access to market research and e-alerts informing you about new opportunities in your sector. Contact your local UKTI office for more information on their services ― which include face-to-face advice, contacts in international markets and support funding for overseas market research and trade visits.

Or try this…

Enterprise Europe Network. This site brings together 600 business support organisations from across 49 European countries. If you are looking for EU finance, want advice on developing your business in European markets or need to source or licence new technology, the EEN will help match you with a suitable business partner.

4.  Tax and finance

HM Revenue & Customs

Comprehensive, if not always very user-friendly, this gigantic site contains online tools, guides and FAQs that explain your tax obligations. While the complicated numbers are best left to your accountant, the site is useful for checklists that highlight tax rates and allowances and calculators to help you work out your self-assessment payment for instance. A range of free telephone helplines are also available on topics including income tax, VAT and self-assessment.

Or try this…

J4B. Not a state service, but the site is the main UK grants database for government and European funding for small businesses. Register for free to see if you are eligible for funding to develop products, buy equipment or promote your firm. Search for suitable grants, loans, tax relief, venture capital and awards.

5.  Business mentors

Mentorsme

The Government hopes that the Mentorsme website will replace the face-to-face support that was previously available through Business Link, by providing small firms with access to 40,000 voluntary and paid-for mentors nationwide. The site is essentially a search engine for business mentoring services, allowing users to find the right mentor for their firm in all stages of development, as well as by location.

Or try this…

Horsesmouth. This not-for-profit social network offers free one-to-one online mentoring. Users can search the database of more than 15,000 members for business owners with first-hand experience of the issues they need help with ― from management issues to raising finance. You are then asked to publish your conversations to build a bank of knowledge for other users.

In addition to the websites above, you can also check our Donut websites. In collaboration with our partners, we offer comprehensive advice to business owners on topics ranging from marketing and IT to tax and law.

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