Business Adviser

The Job and What's Involved

Business advisers are responsible for providing independent advice and guidance to small and medium-sized businesses. They can assist a new business to start up and they work with established businesses supporting them to develop, grow and become more competitive. They will usually have a portfolio of clients to account manage.

A business adviser's day-to-day responsibilities may include:

  • Looking at clients' businesses or business plans to gain a full understanding of their commercial activities and long-term potential.
  • Working alongside their clients, assisting them with drawing up a business plan and advising them on sources of funding and grants.
  • Helping clients to devise and implement a marketing strategy.
  • Assisting clients in identifying ways to improve productivity, reduce costs and streamline procedures.
  • Providing advice, and identifying and recommending specialist services and suppliers that can support the business venture.
  • Encouraging clients to network with relevant enterprise organisations.
  • Monitoring clients' ongoing development and business progress.
  • Running workshops and seminars.
  • Reporting on client activity.

Business advisers will have commercial experience across various business sectors but are likely to specialise in one or more of the following areas:

- Marketing and public relations (PR)
- Finance, accountancy and taxation
- IT systems and e-commerce
- Human resources (HR) and training
-> Management
- Law
- Research and development

A business adviser generally works between 37 and 40 hours a week, from 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday. Additional hours may be required to attend evening and weekend events.

Business advisers are usually office based. A driving licence may be useful as traveling is required to customer's premises, to meet suppliers and attend networking events. Smart-casual or business dress is normally expected.

Starting salaries are around £20,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are approximately 12,000 business advisers in the UK, of which 2,000 are members of the Institute of Business Consulting (IBC - formerly the Institute of Business Advisers). The numbers employed are likely to increase to accommodate the current entrepreneurial trend.

Professional Indemnity Insurance is essential - the Institute of Business Consulting can provide further details.

Opportunities are found throughout the UK, in rural and urban areas. Vacancies may be advertised on enterprise and business support organisations' websites and in trade publications such as the IBC's journal, Business Adviser. The local and national press may also advertise positions.

Education and Training

To become a Business Adviser you will need wide ranging experience and an established track record in business and commerce.

Experience can be gained from:

  • Running a small, medium or large business, as an owner or as a manager.
  • Providing business consultancy or working as a management consultant.
  • Gaining expertise in a key area of business, such as senior management, marketing or finance.

Business degree courses and diplomas are available that will provide a good grounding. Degree courses usually last three or four years full time or four or five years for sandwich courses. Check with individual universities or colleges for entry requirements.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Access courses are available for people with no formal qualifications who want to do a degree.

There are NVQ's/SVQ's available in Business Information at Level 3 and Business Advice at Level 4.

Some universities provide postgraduate courses, which may be useful for business advisers.

The Institute of Business Consulting (IBC) offers training courses and workshops, which cover:

- Marketing
- Business advice
- Counselling
- Mentoring

Further details are available on its website:

Training is on the job and includes in-house training courses and qualifications. Advisers working for a business support organisation will receive induction training, followed by Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

There has been a move towards regulating and accrediting business advisers by approved bodies such as the IBC, Technology Means Business and the Small Firms Enterprise Development Initiative (SFEDI). This is to distinguish professional business advisers from individuals who claim to be advisers yet do not have relevant industry knowledge.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) in Scotland also offers a quality assurance programme, which benchmarks a level of competence in the delivery of advice and information against national and European standards. The certificate received is recognised across the UK as a national basic standard of competence for staff and advisers working in business support.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A business adviser should:

  • Have good interpersonal and communication skills.
  • Have commercial experience in a small or medium sized business.
  • Have a good understanding of different business environments.
  • Have up-to-date knowledge of funding and grants available to start-up businesses.
  • Be able to provide advice on local and national business support services.
  • Have a logical and enquiring mind.
  • Be able to work to tight deadlines and manage several projects at one time.
  • Be aware of current business issues and geographical trends.
  • Be objective and enthusiastic.
  • Be able to use their initiative.
  • Have good IT skills.

Your Long Term Prospects

Business advisers are usually employed by a business support agency. From there they can be promoted to team manager or work their way up to senior management.

There are also self-employment opportunities available.

Get Further Information

Business Gateway (Scotland)
Tel: 0845 609 6611
Website: business and self-employed

Invest Northern Ireland, Bedford Square,
Bedford Street, Belfast BT2 7ES
Tel: 028 9023 9090

Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Cowan House,
Inverness Retail and Business Park, Inverness IV2 7GF
Tel: 01463 234171

Institute of Business Consulting (IBC), Chartered Management Institute, Management House, Cottingham Road, Corby, Northants NN17 1TT
Tel: 01536 207403

National Federation of Enterprise Agencies (NFEA),
12 Stephenson Court, Fraser Road, Priory Business Park, Bedford MK44 3WH
Tel: 01234 831623

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