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New Report Uncovers ‘Supplier Nightmare’ Faced by Small Business Owners

Wednesday 7 October 2009

New Report Uncovers ‘Supplier Nightmare’ Faced by Small Business Owners

• Majority of owner-managers spend over a week a year managing suppliers • More than a third juggle four providers in IT& telecoms sector alone • Lack of Knowledge in IT & Telecoms a key issue for the owner manager

A new report from Opal, the local provider of communication technologies for small and growing businesses, has exposed the logistical nightmare and countless ‘dead hours’ that small business owners face when managing multiple telecoms, IT and communication (ITC) providers.

The report, commissioned by Opal this year, investigated the working habits of more than 300 small business owners* [across the UK] and their approach to managing their ICT.

Over half of businesses questioned (51%) have more than four suppliers, and a phenomenal 91,637 SMEs in the UK** - juggle with more than seven separate suppliers annually.

With the majority of owner-managers questioned taking sole responsibility for managing their businesses ICT, the report also uncovered the ‘dead time’ they faced on a daily basis, made worse by not knowing who to trust and their own lack of knowledge.

A fifth of respondents admitted dealing with ICT issues regularly takes them away from their core business responsibilities while 13% spend on average two-hours a week managing their suppliers, equating to around 12 days a year***. Even the majority (42%) who spend just 1 hour a week managing their suppliers face seven days a year dealing solely with ICT issues.

Lack of knowledge also emerged as a key issue for the owner-manager; 10% of those questioned said that they didn’t know what they were doing and regularly made mistakes when it came to ICT management, while 7% admitted they find it complicated and frustrating.

Chris Collinson, Director of Small Business at Opal, said: “Small business owners, particularly owner-managers, are often required to wear many different hats which takes them away from their core business role – ranging from HR to finance, operations to marketing, telecoms to IT. We want them to be able to do what they do best – run their business.

“We regularly hear stories from small business owners who tell us that managing IT and telecoms providers take up a huge amount of their time. They are faced with countless phone calls and meetings with vendors and frequently have to ‘learn on the job’ - often ending up making mistakes and causing themselves even more technical problems.

“Wrestling with multiple suppliers, providing everything from broadband, to mobiles and desk phones to laptops and wireless connectivity – only serves to further exacerbate matters. At best, it involves a myriad of phone calls, checks, meetings and research to resolve and detect technical faults and to ensure you’re making the most of your setup.

“However, employing a single supplier for all your ICT needs can simplify the process. While you may still encounter technical problems, a phenomenal amount of time can be saved, with one point of call for all client issues. From a technology point of view, convergence of ICT also means that there are huge cost saving benefits too as a single broadband line can support numerous applications, such as broadband, data and mobile.”

Opal, part of the TalkTalk Group, is a single supplier for the small business, covering broadband, voice and mobile. Working with more 100,000 business and public sector customers nationwide, it provides consultancy services and cost-effective network-based solutions, with no need for prior technical knowledge.

More information about the options available to businesses are available from Opal direct. Visit www.Opal.co.uk for more details.

Notes to editors * The ICT research obtained 337 owner managers’ responses to a series of qualitative and quantitative questions. The breakdown of business size of those who responded to the research was as follows:

Employee Band of Business Total Sample % of Sample A. 1-4 employees 204 61% B. 5-9 employees 86 26% C. 10-19 employees 32 9% D. 20-49 employees 15 4% Total 337

**Figure based on 1,527,286 SMEs in the UK. Of the 51%; 10% use six suppliers and 6% use more than seven separate suppliers annually.

***Based on an average working day of 8 hours

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