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Join a business support organisation and get connected

Joining any kind of membership or business support organistion, especially in the current economic climate, can seem like a low priority when you’re hard at work winning customers and one where it is difficult to see a viable, quantifiable return. Many organisations have strict membership criteria and may be expensive to join so it may seem like an unnecessary cost for you and your business. However, business support organisations offer many benefits to their members and can offer expert support your business needs to grow.

All groups create networking opportunities from business breakfasts to conferences, to provide businesses with the chance to meet each other and influential business leaders. Fellow members who understand your business problems and frustrations can also provide invaluable advice, support and occasional help.

Some groups also supply specific advice such as legal, tax and insurance expertise to their members, and some have discounted membership services. A number of organisations also lobby for their members interest on a national and sometimes international scale.

We’ve selected a few of the most important and well known, but there will be many more you can tap into locally and regionally.

The Federation of Small businesses
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is a campaigning pressure group who promote the interests of the self-employed and owners of small firms. It is the largest group of its kind in the UK, with 200,000 members across 33 regions and 194 branches. The FSB offers many benefits including free legal advice, insurance protection and business banking. The cost of joining the FSB depends on a number of variable factors.

The Institute of Directors
The IoD is Europe's largest membership organisation for business leaders. They support 43,000 members through 44 regional branches across the UK. Benefits of joining include access to 10 city premises across the UK and Europe, professional development and year-round networking events and integrated regional support. To become a member you have to be director who has an annual minimum turnover or budget of £250,000 who has held the post for a minimum of three years and been in business for a minimum of seven years; or held the post for a minimum of one year, been in business for a minimum of five years and has attended the Institute's course ‘The Role of the Company Director and the Board.’

The Confederation of British Industry
The CBI is a lobbying organisation with 240,000 companies as members. It describes itself as the “voice of British businesses in the UK and the world.”For its members it provides a calendar of networking opportunities with access to senior international figures from business and government. For information on joining there’s a membership number 020 7395 8290 or take a look at their website.

More advice?
The Forum of Private Business (FPB) and the British Chambers of Commerce are also great places to find out about support groups, and offer support themselves. There are specialist groups like women-only support groups or groups for Asian business people. The Prince's Trust offers support for the younger businessperson.

For more information on support organisations or to find out what’s happening get googling. You can also find some helpful advice and networking events on your government sponsored business portal:

England Business Link
Wales Business wales
Scotland Business Scotland
Northern Ireland Northern Ireland Business Information

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