The majority of this year I have been working with a wide spectrum of retailers who are trying to improve their respective businesses. They each have a vision of what their empire looks like in an ideal world. They have done their research, created business plans, produced cash flow forecasts, surveyed, tested, moved premises and in some cases sold premises to take the next step in the journey they see for themselves.

In most cases the support that they needed was someone to listen to the ideas, to guide them on their path and to help when they hit a dead end. The vast majority of this work has been undertaken here at Rubyson free of charge. Madness most would say, you should always charge for your time and services, shouldn’t you?

The Retail Sector is still struggling but is on the road to recovery. Unit spaces are being taken quickly and many have been filled with new enterprises, the issue that I am coming across time and again is lack of funding and support. If you have assets then you stand a chance and there are some good funders out there but what if you don’t? No one is prepared any more to take a chance on these businesses, the Banks are useless hamstrung by red tape, there are no grants available to the retail sector due to EU funding rules and crowd sourcing often requires a chunk of equity or a minimum spend.

Anyway back to crux of this piece. Time and money.

Having sat at a recent forum for business professionals it struck me that the vast majority of people in the room had no idea of small business they were all chasing the larger commercial firms who are perceived to have more money to spend, indeed one comment was

There is no money in it for us to get involved in small business

This got me thinking, so who helps the small guys? certainly not the myriad of consultants and advisers who dashed back to their desks and turned on the clocks like a parking meter. A change of strategy was required where start up and small business can get what they want for a fraction of the price or indeed nothing at all. So when do you get paid? when that business is successful and remembers those that have helped it along the way. In it for the long term.

The Big Issue seller on New Walk stands in all weathers, he does it on the whole with a smile on his face. Monday is when the new issue is available, it costs £2.50, that is less than a pint and is equal to a small glass of wine. The Big Issue helps people of all walks of life get back on track with their lives, there is no discrimination of who requires help the front cover always carries the philosophy

A hand up not a handout.

It is a personal preference whether you buy or not, whether you believe in the cause. But everyone has a story and at some point in their life needs a helping hand.

To me the two are linked, helping small business succeed is the same as a helping hand to someone who needs it.