It’s not every day you get invited to visit Number 10 to talk ‘small business’ with senior advisors to the Prime Minister.
So this week I was delighted to be selected by the team at Enterprise Nation who arranged the opportunity for 20 small business owners to get round a table (and a very prestigious and aged mahogany one at that) to discuss the real world challenges faced, day to day by small businesses.
Emma Jones, MBE and Founder of Enterprise Nation and Co-Founder of Start Up Britain is genuinely passionate about supporting small business and assisting those with the ambition of setting up on their own, to try it and more importantly, to assist with resources, information, education and support to succeed. The Made Simple Group has been working with Enterprise Nation, supporting their Start Up Guide and providing a Start Up Tracker for Start Up Britain – and the team at Made Simple – has a very similar ethos. It’s certainly a partnership of shared values.
So, I went to Downing Street wearing two hats:
1) My Made Simple hat – to share insights and understanding that we have gleaned from our start up and small business customers.
2) As a real world business owner – as well as being part of the Made Simple team, for the past 10 years I have run my own business, Carvill Creative.
Once through security, the 20 or so of us, were shown through to one of the state dining rooms – this was to be our meeting room. We were introduced to our hosts; Daniel Korski, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on small business and enterprise and Matthew Hancock, Business Minister to the Prime Minister.
The remit was to explore elements such as;
• What life is like as a small business
• What support the Government could be providing
• Things that the Government should be reducing
• Opportunities and challenges for business growth
What is a Small Business?
The best part of the day was meeting other ‘small businesses’ – what became very evident from the diversity in the room –and indeed mirrors our own research at Made Simple – is that nailing down the definition of a ‘small business’ is tricky.
There were those that were just starting out – one man bands daring to take on their idea. Others who were working and then pursuing their company idea in their spare time, others that were employing a handful of people and had been established for a number of years, some that had been trading for a couple of years and had a couple of team – others who had large employee bases and large turnovers. Some employed accountants and others weren’t yet at that stage, and so were reliant on managing employment and funding issues alone. Some employed accountants and even had their own finance team – others weren’t yet at that stage, so were reliant on managing employment and funding issues alone. Completely polarised – very different businesses in terms of shape and turnover – however, all falling under the one title – ‘small business’ and all legislated in exactly the same way.
Regardless of the differences, many of the issues raised were very similar.
• Accessing Advice – businesses not knowing where to go to get the right information. No clarity – not simple. HRMC, Government site.
• Too much legislation – particularly with employing people. Requests were made for the Government to consider a more casual approach to testing employment for small businesses.
• Funding – Access to funding, understanding the equity crowd funding model, where grants are housed, what are small businesses eligible for, and how do we go about learning about new schemes without having to spend hours trawling the net. Again, the same conclusion arose – no central place to easily access useful advice. As busy business owners, it’s critical you don’t have to spend hours finding something out. You want the information to be simple and speedy to access and digest.
Modern Business Models
Another key area discussed was business growth and development. It was interesting to see that the model of being a ‘central core’ – and then bringing on other businesses with specific expertise to support the business – was prevalent.
The freelance, partnership, and bring in the right talent when we need it model – was certainly an area favoured by those businesses wanting to remain agile, yet still needing to be able to provide a broad set of solutions to clients.
It was a surprisingly constructive session. Both Daniel and Matthew spent their time, not spouting forth what the Government was doing for small businesses, but instead, listening intently and questioning and exploring key sentiments.
They advised that there are small business initiatives being put into place – and that over the coming months we should start to see some initiatives specifically targeted to small businesses.
After all – there are a record number of companies being formed, we see the trend increasing year on year at Companies Made Simple.
There is also a growing challenge with youth employment and so all those bright and talented graduates that could once upon a time have easily secured a role, are potentially having to think about approaching the business world from a different perspective – either as freelancers or starting out alone.
Things are certainly changing, needs and business models are adapting – therefore, here’s to the Government continually listening and aligning solutions with the majority of businesses in the UK – and that’s the ‘small business’ sector.
This post was brought to you by Michelle Carvill at Companies Made Simple – The Simplest Company Formation Service
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