George Osborne's 2013 Budget included details of a new scheme providing £30m of funding to allow entrepreneurs to access business support services.
The 'Growth Vouchers' programme aims to "address a gap in the market for providing external business advice such as making a successful loan application to a bank or taking on an employee". To test the approach, "a new marketplace for external business advice" will be created.
The vouchers would provide up to 50% of the cost of 1st time advice in the following areas:
finance and business planning, cash flow and credit management, applications for finance;
sales and marketing;
exploiting the internet to increase their efficiency and ability to trade online;
leadership and management skills; and
advice on being an employer for the first time.
In a statement, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: "We recognise that expert advice on key business processes and issues can significantly improve business performance. Small firms who take advice grow.
"But the current marketplace is failing as firms are often reluctant to pay for a service they haven't tried.
"Growth vouchers will address this by supporting the creation of a new tested and trusted marketplace so that SMEs can see the value in seeking professional external advice.
"Work will now be carried out to assess how the growth vouchers can be issued to SMEs/suppliers and different methods will be tested before being rolled out."
According to research provided by the government, those firms that seek advice are twice as likely to grow; but only half of all firms seek advice; about half a million small businesses have never taken any advice.