The survey data is being analysed as this issue goes to press but the feedback to date is up on previous years with a 50%-plus response rate. The findings will, as usual, be circulated only to those members who participated in the survey.

"We want to know the type of services that independents currently use," says Joanna Hill, who is co-ordinating the survey with Mike Imms, both independent researchers.

"We have asked whether they would be interested in developing a list of suppliers, or having a trade show, and if so whether they would be prepared to share the name of people that currently use."

She envisages that the types of suppliers in demand will include those able to put together Powerpoint presentations, provide admin support, build web sites or maybe compile edited highlights from video recordings. "I need these people," she says. "And if I do, then others do, too. There are a lot of freelance people who do presentations who used to work in big companies and now work for themselves, so it is a matter of matchmaking."

Given the pressure that most independents are under, it makes sense for them to outsource certain jobs to those with the necessary skills and who understand the limited budgets of small businesses. Another idea is to compile a programme involving a trade fair, a lunch, and a seminar with independent-relevant topics such as creative problem solving or time management.