Influential recent campaigns; ‘Fair Tax Town’ (see below) ; against dividend tax changes; against working tax credits cuts, against quarterly self-assessment (petition against plans to require small businesses to submit tax information to HM Revenue & Customs four times a year has received more than 109,000 signatures); against bullying suppliers (eg supermarkets, telecom, energy etc) and for #MicroBizMattersDay show that harnessing the #PowerOfPlenty is worth it. As a massive informal community of independent business owners we can help each other and positively affect our enterprise eco system to make business life fairer and better.
(n.b. if you just want to watch the videos rather than read the blog – just scroll down to the end)
In many other countries, like India, the news is even better. A few days ago massive investment was announced in #startupindia with PM Narendra Modi announcing 20 measures to support new businesses, including 3 year exemptions from employment and environmental law, fast and cheap patents and no income tax for first 3 years. As importantly he announced that help was available for free ‘hand holding’ from government funded enterprise support services not just on the 5 day week, but on evenings and week-ends too.
Education is as important as campaigns
There are campaigns everywhere against corporate and government rip offs. The most common are about corporate and government practices that kill off new businesses, such as unfair contract terms and payment of bills in an average of 68 days, hard sell loans and insurance products and suffocatingly, inappropriate regulations and taxation, However, campaigns are not the only ways we must harness the ‘Power of Plenty’ of one in six of the adult workforce running their own businesses.
We must also educate politicians, corporate senior executives, business membership organisations and all policy makers as to the differences between being an employee and running your own business. They must understand the realities of the know how, cost base and business environment necessary for self-employed people to make ends meet. Self-employment provides most of the new jobs in our economy, 71,000 in the last quarter, with record start ups each year. Most of the growth comes from 6% of these startups but we can't 'pick winners'. It is important that policy makers and all those that influence policy makers understand the new normal in enterprise.
BusinessZone blogging works
In 2015, my blog on Business Zone was the most popular with well over 20,000 readers. The blog was about "3 ways" in which the Government can create the conditions in the UK so that the 5.2 million micro (0-9 employees) enterprise owners can better survive and thrive. It’s here if you’d like to read it: 3 ways this government can help
This blog ended with an optimistic note that the universal outcry against #VATMOSS and support for the first #MicroBizMattersDay on Jan 8 2015, showed there was an increasing appetite for small and micro business owners (5.3 million in the UK alone) to say to local, regional and national government, the 1000 largest corporates and the business media that ‘enough is enough’. We don’t want funding, schemes or new legislation but we do want a fair chance to earn a reasonable living for ourselves, our families and our communities.
20 years of banging on about a fairer deal
With my best friend and business partner, Clare Francis, 2016 is the 30th Anniversary Year of our business and the 20th Anniversary Year of when we founded the Government recognised sector skills body for enterprise - SFEDI Group (includes the IOEE). Every year of those 20 years we have had government inquiries, often leading to regulations and codes, about late payment. Every year we have campaigned for #PayIn30Days where Government should not contract, fund or license any organisation that does not pay all its suppliers in 30 days - to no avail. Every year Government vows to ‘slash’ or ‘bonfire’ regulations and red tape and cut the cost of compliance. But, as business owners, we feel no positive effect from this pruning and every now and again we get a new sledgehammer blow from such as auto enrolment.
So are we downhearted? Definitely not, the surveys show we're a happy, optimistic bunch who want to remain proud business owners forever. Starting your own business out of necessity or opportunity has never been so popular - 600,000 in the last year.
Ups and downs
Of course, just like running your own business is all ups and downs so is trying to influence the Establishment. Trash out Tuesday (December 22nd 2015) was a particular low when over 30 Freedom of Information requests were answered. Government releases unintentionally explained why the biggest corporates, despite jobs meltdown, and their shareholders were becoming amazingly wealthy at a phenomenal rate with sharp practice - dodge or break the regulations then settle or accept a fine – the new normal. For example: “Seven City banks paid a combined £21m in corporation tax in 2014, according to research by Reuters on Tuesday. Between them the banks, together employing about 33,000 mainly City workers, generated UK profits of £3.6bn on revenues of £21bn in the UK.
Five of the banks – JP Morgan, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank, Nomura and Morgan Stanley – disclosed their main UK arms paid no corporation tax, according to Reuters. Goldman Sachs UK Ltd revealed UK tax of $26.6m on UK profits of $1.98bn. UBS also recorded low UK tax.”
As Will Self said: ‘The world economic order is collapsing and this time there seems no way out’ because ‘the heart of the economic system has gone rogue. Global banks now make profits to an extraordinary degree from doing business with each other’
The ex Managing Director of Deutche Bank is the current Business Secretary and, in my opinion, the last time we had an effective Small Business Minister, fighting our corner, was in the late 1990s, with Barbara Roche.
But it is just awesome that this year has started so encouragingly in terms of voluntary effort from business owners around the world to make a difference, especially using their business membership bodies and campaigning platforms such as change.org and 38degrees.
The Town that took on the taxman … and #MicroBizMattersDay
My two highlights of this encouraging start to 2016 , were, firstly, over one million business owners engaged in helping each other, with 5 hours trending on Twitter, for the second #MicroBizMattersDay. Secondly, I watched on BBC ‘The Town That Took On the Taxman’ and have seen the staggeringly good petition results since this programme was aired.
When Tina Boden and I launched the free, indie, informal, no sign up Enterprise Rockers movement in January 2012 we hoped, but, could not be sure that business owners and business membership organisations, might put aside their rivalries on certain occasions to unite to help each other. We have no doubts now and it doesn't matter at all which organisation or movement takes the lead. #MicroBizMattersDay is just an informal network of networks yet we are now targeting 10 million business owners around the world to give time to help each other on the third #MicroBizMattersDay, 13th January, 2017.
In particular we must say a big thank you to Federation of Small Businesses, The Forum of Private Business, Enterprise Nation, National Enterprise Network, IAB and IOEE for their fantastic promotion of the day to their members. There isn’t room here to thank all 30 entrepreneurs, including 5 of the top 40 most influential UK entrepreneurs, for giving their time to the day but you can catch up with all the videos on http://MicroBizMattersDay.rocks The point is that every single guest and business owner member of our production crew turned up voluntarily to help with telling the world #MicroBizMatters.
Why educating public servants counts?
We’ll never out-lobby corporates so we must educate public servants because there are some white hats among them.
There are many that say we are wasting our time trying to influence Government and it is true that the big 4 Accountancy Firms and the Banks along with their powerful lobbyists, such as the TaxPayers Alliance, will always get their way and be many steps ahead of us. But that doesn’t mean we can’t redress the current situation where micro business owners are earning 20% less than in 2008 because of rip off costs and practices from corporates, and hopefully, unwittingly, from Government too.
One way is to ensure policy makers understand the effect on 5.2 million micro (0-9 employees) business owners of their policies. At the moment their lack of understanding of micro business, 95% of all businesses, leads to us having to campaign after their proposed new policies has been announced.
We believe there are two videos that will take 90 minutes of their time that will increase their understanding. Please promote these widely on social media. They are:
The Town That Took On the Taxman
High street business owners in Crickhowell explain very clearly why a more even playing field is necessary for them to survive and thrive. Even though none would fit into the Government’s priority, of entrepreneurs with high growth aspirations, why these business owners are essential to our economy and communities comes over loud and clear. They’re all heroes and heroines and the passion, integrity and, even, wonderful differences in views between Steve and Irena are why we #rock in our business owner careers and as the most important sector in the world. Watch it here >>
Two home business owners say what it takes to succeed
70% of all businesses in the UK are one person businesses working from home. This unscheduled #MicroBizMattersDay interview with business owners Michelle Dorrell (nail salon owner who silenced Minister, Amber Rudd on BBC Question Time) and Julia Emelogu (IT business & gemstone, jewellery business) should be required viewing for every politician, civil servant, corporate employee and prospective home business owner. Watch it here >>
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.