Our win at The Small Awards has created a flurry of invitations to be on Q&A Panels, Roundtables and lots of events that celebrate Small Businesses! These invitations are very welcome, because, if you didn't know, we both work from home. Last year we decided that we would try and get out a bit more and show who the (two) people are behind our brand 😀
So when I was invited to attend a Roundtable at The House of Commons, I jumped at the chance. Firstly, it's an opportunity to get out of my sweaty gym kit, secondly, I love going to Westminster and always get a buzz when I exit the tube and see all the tourists and finally it's a great opportunity to meet fellow business owners.
The Roundable was discussed 'Social Enterprise & Small Business-How Can We Support The Development of Small Business Under A Labour Government?' and was hosted by Bill Esterson MP, Shadow Small Business Minister. Now, let's get it clear right away that this is not me revealing my political persuasion! I am passionate about supporting small businesses so would support *most* parties in developing a strategy for helping small businesses! I have no loyalty 😂
The Roundtable was at Portcullis House and I had to arrive early to allow plenty of time to clear security. You can't take photos from inside but the large reception area was a modern light huge space with loads of people rushing around and having meetings at the small tables. It was a little bit exciting.
We were called through and met one of Bill's aides and were escorted through narrow windy corridors (it was all a bit James Bond- in my mind anyway 😝) to the Parliamentary Labour Party Offices.
Labour are hoping to create a Small Business Development Agency so we discussed challenges facing the growth of Small Businesses. Beforehand, I had posted in lots of Small Biz Facebook Groups, so that I had lots of feedback to pass back to the Roundtable.
These were the challenges that the Small Businesses told me they faced:
1) High Rates and Rents. We need to have relief on these especially in teh first few years of business.
2) Please can everyone stop saying that "the highstreet is dying"? Can we instead say "the high street is changing". We need to be positive about shops on the high street and encourage people to visit their local high streets.
3) Cashflow 😬 See number 4) below
4) Being paid on time! Why do so many people (and large businesses) think it's OK to have massive time delays on making payment and then still not paying on time? Small businesses often survive day to day and by paying late you are risking the longevity of this business. Emma and I pride ourselves on paying invoices the day they arrive, most of the time not even waiting for the 30 days date.
5) Why do big Government institutions like the NHS not recognise small suppliers? I didn't realise but apparently the NHS has a target to use Small Business Suppliers but is was off the target and the figure is actually dropping rather than increasing.
6) Childcare! For parents with under 3's childcare is limited and it's very difficult to work on a small business. Also the summer holidays can be crippling for family businesnes who have small children.
7) Brexit. The uncertainty makes it impossible for Small Businesses to develop or implement a strategy. Customers are apprehensive about what Brexit will mean so thinking twice about non essential purchases
8) Defending against copycats. Small Businesses pay thousands to protect their Intellectual Property but can't afford to take others to court when their rights have been infringed. What can the government do to help?
9) Government Growth Hubs are inconsistent, there is a lack of start up funding, and it's postcode lottery as to how much funding you get.
10) Where to go for help?? I am constantly asking this question! There ARE resources and help available but there is a disconnect between these agencies and the small businesses they are trying to reach. So any new scheme must have an excellent marketing startegy so small businesses know how to access them.
I am sure there are many more challenges than this though.....What challenges does your Small Business face?
I will keep you posted if there are any more developments!