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When moving information online diminishes change: advisory services to SMEs

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Improving the performance of private sector small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in a cost effective manner is a major concern for government. Governments have saved costs by moving information online rather than through more expensive face-to-face exchanges between advisers and clients. Building on previous work that distinguished between types of advice, this article evaluates whether these changes to delivery mechanisms affect the type of advice received. Using a multinomial logit model of 1334 cases of business advice to small firms collected in England, the study found that advice to improve capabilities was taken by smaller firms who were less likely to have limited liability or undertake business planning. SMEs sought word-of-mouth referrals before taking internal, capability-enhancing advice. This is also the case when that advice was part of a wider package of assistance involving both internal and external aspects. Only when firms took advice that used extant capabilities did they rely on the Internet. Therefore, when the Internet is privileged over face-to-face advice the changes made by each recipient of advice are likely to diminish causing less impact from advice within the economy. It implies that fewer firms will adopt the sorts of management practices that would improve their productivity.
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Keywords: Business Link; SME policy; advice; advisory services; management practices; online

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Warwick Business School, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK 2: Aston Business School, University of Aston, Birmingham, UK

Publication date: March 4, 2014

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