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  1. Published on: 09/08/2017 08:01 AMReported by: rogerblaxall
    Using finance for growth can give your business real traction. Whether used for increasing turnover, buying new equipment or developing your workforce, taking advantage of the range of funding is a long-established way to accelerate growth.

    But itís not without its pitfalls - and here West Lancashire business owner Andy MacGregor shares some personal insights for successfully financing your business.

    'Growing a business most often requires finance. But with the wide range of regional funding options available, choosing the right type of finance can be a complicated and daunting process.

    Over the years my businesses have benefited from a range of public and private sector financing schemes, but to fully understand factors such as eligibility, repayment and penalties, Iíve always sought advice from those in a position to offer an informed and independent view.

    The first thing I would always advise businesses is to make sure you have a good accountant - and to stick close to them. Financing for growth is all about a strong business case, and perhaps the best source for independent advice is your accountant or financial advisor.

    A good place to begin the process of arranging finance is through Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs). These are companies supported by central Government and typically set up as partnerships between the private sector and local authorities. In our area, Boost Business Lancashire is the regionís Business Growth Hub, and provides a broad range of advice and information about available funding. The service offers specialist mentoring to help business owners understand what type of financing will suit their business.

    The organisationís Access to Finance service was set up to help Lancashire businesses raise finance to fund their growth. Whatever type of investment youíre considering, specialist advisors will provide one-to-one support in helping develop business plans, financial forecasts, investment readiness and applications for funding.

    Growth Vouchers are another way to start the ball rolling, with access to a financial support programme that will provide funding for purchasing private sector expertise. Vouchers are awarded on a matched fund basis, generally in the region of £2500 for a £5000 project, and can be used by businesses to help with development projects such as prototyping, intellectual property issues, marketing and software. The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund provides finance from several sources, including the Government and the European Regional Development Fund, that can be accessed through LEPs such as Business Boost Lancashire. Investments funds aimed at SMEs are in place to boost growth in the North of England and include microfinance up to £100k, debt finance to £750k and equity finance up to £2m. Rosebud Business Finance is aimed at high-growth sectors such as advanced manufacturing, aerospace, finance and creative and digital. The scheme offers a range of financing, which includes Micro finance providing funding from £10,000 to £49,000 for SMEs, and Rosebud Business Finance which provides funding from £50,000 to £1m for larger businesses.

    Although not financing, another business development route to consider is tax relief. If your business meets certain criteria, it may also qualify for tax relief for the development work you undertake.

    For example, in recent years, one of my companies, telephone answering service Face for Business, has invested in developing bespoke client portal software. As part of the development process we were eligible to claim Research and Development Tax Credits.

    Although not necessarily the easiest system to understand, put simply it means UK businesses can obtain up to a 33% rebate on their R&D expenditure. While it also means that certain other funding sources are unavailable, the rebate has helped us reduce expenditure on the new software, while still getting the complete solution we require.

    While itís still worth exploring traditional financing option such as the business bank loans, or more modern methods such as crowdfunding, my advice to SMEs would be to spend time looking into government-backed finance options. Thereís a wide range of free guidance out there, and some fantastic opportunities to help you grow.

    To help West Lancashire businesses find the right advice weíve put together a webpage of links and information on local resources for business mentoring, financing, training, recruitment and networking. Visit the page here http://ffb.co.uk/west-lancashire-bus...lopment-advice'

    *Andy MacGregor has been working with SMEs in the telecoms and service managed office sector for over 25 years. After a career at BT Business, he established Branded Telecoms Ltd in 2003. The Burscough company now employs a 25-strong team that comprises specialists in broadband, mobile, security, data, convergence and telephony. In 2012 he established telephone answering service Face for Business and employs 30+ staff to provide call answering and messaging services for a wide range of businesses. Andy also owns Martland Mill in the town and provides 25 serviced offices from the premises. He recently acquired another mill property in Wigan, which will become a serviced office complex.

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