Wickes has launched a website offering business advice aimed at plumbers and small contractors.

The company said that while technically competent, many tradesmen lack practical business and management skills. This has led to high failure rates among start-up businesses.

New website www.wickestradebuilder.co.uk covers areas such as invoicing, finance, tax, employment, debt recovery and advertising, as well as ways of tackling the skills shortages currently afflicting the industry. It was developed with the government's online advice service Business Link.

Rob Murray, director of Wickes, said: "It's imperative tradesmen understand how to protect and grow their businesses effectively, but our research has shown that many don't where to find this advice easily. Here they can get what they need to know in just a couple of clicks."

Ray Lambe, director of Business Link, said many start-ups don't know where to begin when they set out to build a business, while those already operating are being held back from expanding due to a lack of understanding of how to organise their work.

"It goes right from getting new business through to then managing their cash flow when they are trading," he said.

A survey carried out by Wickes Tradebuilder earlier this month found that many organisations in the construction sector are failing due to inadequate knowledge about areas such as finance, purchasing, managing employees and production.