Most of the big banks in the UK have stated publicly, and realistically, that it may take at least a decade for them to be trusted again. Certainly, most of the hundreds of thousands of micro (0-9 employees) enterprise owners that informally network to our Enterprise Rockers’ free, self-help community would agree.
However it is not just the Banks; the 4 or 5 largest corporates that are the sector leaders in, such as, energy, telecom, financial services and supermarkets are also distrusted by micro enterprise owners. National, regional and local government, of any political persuasion, are distrusted too.
Most trade, professional and business membership organisations that are ‘inside the tent’ with Government and these major Corporates are consistently ignored by the self-employed.
For all the above the cost of engaging with micro business owners continues to rise and take up, of what they offer to micro business owners, continues to decline.
Does the ‘credibility gap’ matter?
The co-founders of Enterprise Rockers CIC, and most of our Head Roadies, believe it matters a great deal. To survive and thrive in our businesses we need Government and Sector leading corporates to better understand our needs as customers and suppliers.
We need a more level playing field too on the cost of doing business (over 95% of all Government funding goes to 5% of larger businesses). Fairer competition will benefit all businesses in the UK. Micro-enterprises do more for our communities than big business and are important customers to big business.
It is not good for the UK that as the number of self- employed increases each year their average earnings decrease - to below the living wage. It is not good that 4.3 million self-employed find the cost of doing business is increasing disproportionate to income – e.g. cost of energy, childcare, transport, telecom, rates, legislation compliance etc.
As 96% of all enterprises in the UK are micro and 1 in 7 of the UK workforce own and run their business then meeting these needs is important to the success of Government and corporates alike. Furthermore, Government and corporates have been in jobs meltdown for 15 years so all the new jobs are from the micro enterprise sector. Micro enterprise is now too important a sector to the UK economy and society to ignore.
Encouraging ‘enterprise friendly’ signs
This year there are three highly encouraging signs that a handful of Government agencies and corporates are recognising they should get serious about closing the credibility gap and becoming more micro-enterprise friendly.
- National media, including TV news programmes, have featured our content about the importance and contribution of micro enterprise to the economy, equality, jobs, skills and communities.
- Corporate and independent conference organisers are booking us to speak on the micro enterprise way forward, for example – the ‘Future of the High Street’ conference in a few weeks’ time.
- Lloyds Banking Group has published how they did in 2013 on their ‘Plan to help Britain prosper’ and what they will achieve in 2014.
Of these 3 encouraging, micro-enterprise friendly signs the Lloyds report may be the light at the end of the tunnel for micro enterprises. This is because it is about substance not spin and actions not words.
Cash-flow is the life blood - paying all suppliers within 30 days.
We hope Lloyds plan and metrics will set the example to Government and other large corporates. It’s not difficult to make some commitments to enterprise and measure the progress towards achieving them. Being as transparent as Lloyds is more difficult, but it is the only way trust and credibility will be built.
Where Lloyds lets itself down is by using the term ‘SMEs’ (99.9% of UK businesses) rather than measuring impact on large (250+ employees), medium (50 – 249), small 10-49) and micro (0-9). However, we congratulate Lloyds on recognising that the current 68 days; average time for businesses to get their bills paid, kills enterprise.
We have a campaign on unfair payment contract terms and have asked Government to stop public funding to corporates (e.g. from suppliers to providers (Serco, Capita, A4E, Atos) to supermarkets for apprenticeships) until these corporates agree to pay all their suppliers’ bills within 30 days. linkis.com/www.change.org/en-GB/K8EVM
So, you can imagine how encouraged we were to read that Lloyds Banking group under their ‘We’ll help businesses to start up and scale up and we will procure responsibly’ have achieved the following:
95% of supplier invoices were paid within 30 days in 2013 and the target for 2014 is 99%
It is a start and we are encouraged by it. We hope that many other Corporates and Government will work with us to ensure the 96% of all business in the UK - micro enterprises - can contribute ever more to the economy, jobs, innovation, skills and communities.
I'm Tony Robinson OBE, the Micro Business Champion, a business owner, professional speaker and the author of the popular satire 'Freedom from Bosses Forever' (Kindle, paperback and audio book). I'm the founder of the SFEDI Group and co-founder, with Tina Boden, of the Enterprise Rockers CIC which organises and presents the annual, global #MicroBizMattersDay.
2016 was the 30th Anniversary Year of our primary business - The Business Advisory Bureau Limited/Entrepreneurs UK and the 20th Anniversary Year of my founding the UK Government recognised Sector Skills Body for Enterprise and Business Support, the SFEDI Group (includes the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs), which I still co-own.
I was honoured to receive an OBE in 2001, and two Lifetime Achievement Awards for Enterprise Support - in 2012 from the IAB and 2013 from SYB magazine and have appeared in the Fresh Business Thinking and Smith and Williamson Power 100 of influencers on UK entrepreneurship in 2014 and 2016.