YOU MAY HAVE NOTICED that the backbone of the economy - the SMEs - are finding it tough, so who's going to help them?

Access to finance is proving tricky, while markets stumble along with disposable income proving sparse.

This comment piece from Menzies' Julie Adams makes fascinating reading, urging accountancy firms well below the top tier to invest in stronger international connections as SMEs look across borders for growth opportunities.

There is a theme behind the three apparently random sentences I've written above. The humble accountant, if you look closely enough, is propping it all up.

It would be great if the government would recognise the important part advisors will play in helping business get back on its feet, besides only 'communicating' with them in the context of tax.

But that's unlikely. And, of course, it's fair to say that the firms are big enough and ugly enough to look after themselves.

So SME advisors have three key areas to think about. Firstly, clients' access to finance. As the BBA/BDRC survey has found, just 15% of SMEs applied for, or renewed, their banking facility - albeit with a relatively high success rate.

Banks aren't going to throw good money after bad, so advisors need to make sure their clients present the clearest and accurate picture possible, or even consider financing alternatives. Maybe encourage SMEs to stick their head above the parapet?

Cash management is key, but then I don't really have to mention that to you.

Thirdly, as Julie Adams pointed out, smaller firms must better organise themselves to help SME clients take advantage of overseas market opportunities.

Cash management, access to finance, inroads to other markets. These are the key to SMEs' prosperity, and in turn the economy as a whole.

Will advisors satisfy themselves with propping up business, or helping it to flourish?

| | | Settlement ********* | ********* *********