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Business Advice

Calling all SMEs...

More help is on the way as Govt's one-stop centres aim to reach out to 20,000 smaller firms each year
The Straits Times - March 29, 2012
By: Jonathan Kwok
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Calling all SMEs... --PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

THE Government wants to expand the reach of its Enterprise Development Centres (EDCs), which dispense free business advice to smaller companies.

The target is for these centres to help a total of 20,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) every year, Mr Teo Ser Luck, Minister of State for Trade and Industry, said at a conference yesterday.

That will be a significant increase from the 14,200 firms that received productivity and business advice last year.

'The Government is committed to supporting SMEs in your upgrading efforts,' Mr Teo told the 250 participants, which included many SME bosses.

'Spring Singapore will intensify its outreach to SMEs to help you understand how you could tap on government assistance programmes to raise productivity.'

There are five EDCs, located at the premises of various trade associations and chambers.

They are staffed by business advisers to diagnose the problems of companies and provide advice in areas like financial and human resource management, branding and overseas expansion.

They also lead SMEs, start-ups and aspiring entrepreneurs to relevant government assistance programmes.

Since the EDCs were set up in 2005, they have assisted about 62,000 firms on business and productivity issues.

The increased outreach being planned will include conducting more clinic sessions to tell companies how to tap into the Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) Scheme, which allows them to file tax claims for productivity expenditures.

The EDCs conduct the sessions together with the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore.

Mr Teo announced another series of the PIC clinics, to run from May to October, which are expected to benefit about 500 SMEs.

Other than approaching the EDCs, companies can also access the website by EnterpriseOne - an initiative including public and private sector participants and managed by Spring Singapore.

The site provides businesses with government information and e-services. It received six million page views from more than 560,000 unique visitors last year.

All this may seem like a thicket of programmes and centres, but the basic goal is to help companies to increase their productivity even as the country grows to depend less on low-cost foreign labour.

The conference yesterday was organised jointly by the five EDCs and featured presentations from experts on cash flow management, marketing and overseas expansion.

Some SMEs also shared their experiences with the conference.

Mr Eric Ong, business head of enterprise banking at OCBC Bank, said companies have to keep the 'right amount of cash at the right time'.

They need to focus on maintaining optimal stock levels and to always keep proper financial statements.

The founder of Soho Sales Coaching, Mr Tom Abbott, discussed the many ways that firms can use to reach their customers, including social media, cold calling, referral programmes and 'live' events and seminars.

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