BT launches drive to support UK SMEs

Small Business Support Scheme will help country’s 5.8 million small businesses boost connectivity, cashflow and confidence following coronavirus pandemic

BT has launched what it says is an unprecedented package of support for the UK’s small businesses as they navigate a post-Covid and post-Brexit world.

BT’s Small Business Support Scheme will introduce a range of measures to help small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) boost their connectivity, cashflow and confidence – key concerns that have been identified in recent surveys of the membership of Small Business Britain, which acts to represent the interests the community.

The fundamental aims of the scheme are to get firms better positioned for recovery and growth following the coronavirus outbreak and as they prepare for a post-Brexit future. BT noted survey results that showed 70% of UK small businesses expect another lockdown this year, and 53% are not confident about the future of their business.

The action plan also includes a commitment to pay BT’s 4,500 small business suppliers promptly and within 30 days of being invoiced, to help 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.

As regards connectivity, BT will subsidise the cost of an Ethernet line ultrafast business connection by £2,500 per customer. This extends the benefits of the government’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme, which closed in May, to provide further financial respite to firms such as graphic design agencies and production houses that need speeds of up to 10Gbps to send and receive rich media files.

BT is also introducing a bursary scheme to give 1,000 UK tech startups and entrepreneurs a financial head-start. From October 2020, eligible companies can apply for a bursary to benefit from free fibre broadband and mobile bundles.

Bundles available include BT Halo, a converged offering for homes and businesses which, since its launch earlier in 2020, now represents over 30% of the BT consumer broadband base.

BT is now launching a converged fibre broadband, mobile and digital phone line bundle for micro-businesses, which represent 91% of all UK businesses. By combining three powerful connections in one package, BT claims Halo will help businesses stay better connected inside and outside the workplace, so they never miss an important call or a sale.

Read more about UK SMEs and connectivity

Also under the scheme, BT is preparing to launch a new digital payments system to help small businesses move to cashless transactions. This is a trend that the company says is accelerating because of the pandemic, with a quarter of small businesses increasing their use of contactless payments over the past few months.

To further assist small businesses, BT will have on call a team of 40 store-based, local business consultants to help small business customers access the wide range of support available. These specialist experts will provide personal advice about the technology options for an individual business, together with digital skills support for employees.

Philip Jansen, chief executive of the BT Group, 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 startup, micro-business or a larger firm.

“Small businesses are the beating heart of our economy, high streets and communities. They employ the majority of private sector workers in the UK, so their success is key to securing the country’s economic recovery. Small businesses deserve the support of each and every one of us to help them thrive into the future.”

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