By Claire West

As Government settles in and spending cuts are realised, businesses should seize opportunities for growth, says Bibby Financial Services

The phrase 'cash is king' has never been more important to small and medium-sized businesses across the UK. While the economy is officially out of recession, UK firms aren't out of the woods yet and there are many challenges that lie ahead for business owners and managers.

However, those businesses which have survived the economic downturn should now look at opportunities in emerging markets in order to take advantage of the new business landscape.

Bibby Financial Services' UK chief executive Edward Rimmer says: "Now is the right time for businesses in the UK, no matter what size they are, to seize new opportunities presented to them, while taking on board the vast amount of changes to trading environments which have taken place since the start of the year.

"We are all aware of the public sector cuts, and in some cases contracts have already been halted, so it is important for firms to reassess their client and supplier bases to ensure their cash flow is strong and robust enough to weather the next predicted dip in the economy when the cuts take effect."

Edward also believes trading internationally is a key opportunity for UK businesses, saying: "A recent report by the Bank of England showed that exports continued to pick up in July as businesses use the weakness of the pound to cut prices and improve their market share. UK trade with the Far East, the Middle East and Russia is particularly on the up, and these markets can provide an ideal platform for UK businesses looking to develop additional revenue streams.

"Take up of the Enterprise Finance Guarantee (EFG) scheme has been somewhat limited, with latest figures for the second quarter of 2010 showing the total amount lent through the scheme declining by 20 per cent £149m, partially due to a lack of awareness of the scheme among the business community. We would urge the Government to do more to promote the benefits of this and other funding options like invoice finance, which can provide firms with much needed funding. New businesses operating outside of the South East of England can benefit from a tax break on National Insurance contributions for their first year of trading, which could assist up to 400,000 small businesses across the UK.

"These may be seen as short-term solutions by some, but businesses need to think about how these measures can help them today and couple this thinking with long-term financial planning to be able to face any more economic challenges that may come their way.

"The Government recently launched a green paper on the issue of access to finance for small businesses and we would urge the Government to consult the finance industry, and in particular the invoice finance sector, at the right level in order to obtain the insight needed to make recommendations which will benefit firms.

"As a funding stream we are able to provide a flexible source of finance which allows businesses to access cash tied up in invoices which is needed to support day-to-day activity and growth. The inclusion of invoice finance in the green paper proposals is vital as we as an industry can certainly give businesses access to funding needed to aid a recovery as firms look to take advantage of domestic and overseas opportunities.

"At a time when the UK economy has officially emerged from the recession, businesses should be looking to grow and move into new markets, not struggling to chase payments and improve liquidity."