Standing Up for Start Ups: The Policies Which Would Help Small Business Flourish
Battling for the title of ‘the party for small business’ has become a recurring political theme; however, it is unfortunately often a battle with more posturing than progress. Headline grabbing policies are thrown around in the run up to elections, then watered down for implementation. Bright ideas from the current government provide a perfect example: disappointing data shows that neither The Funding for Lending Scheme nor the Business Bank have really helped small businesses.
As party conference season draws to a close, we’ve heard all the usual rhetoric about boosting business. Ed Miliband’s hopes for frozen business rates and energy bills would be welcomed by small business owners, but they are currently a far-off fantasy, and do not address the most important matters. Energy rates don’t get to the heart of the matter for someone who is juggling jobs whilst trying to raise the money to buy a piece of kit for their company, or the mother who unsure whether anyone would want to buy the unique products she painstakingly makes. Policy can still lead the way for small businesses though, by embracing new developments in the world of entrepreneurship. What is abundantly clear is how urgently we need to change the conception of business.
Tax cuts, business rates and energy prices are of real benefit only to large businesses. 95% of businesses in the UK are SMEs, yet time and time again politicians pander to the dominant 5% in their policies. If the economy has any hope of recovery, we must change this attitude and understand what needs to be done to help the growth of sustainable new business.
Through crowdfunding, I meet countless entrepreneurs who are trying to turn their part-time ventures into businesses, then their fledgling businesses into successful, sustainable enterprises. The odds are undoubtedly stacked against them in our current economic environment. The government party that truly wishes to get behind small businesses will need to address the following issues, and fast:
$1· Make more money accessible to new businesses and pre-revenue businesses – these are the future of our economy
$1· Build enterprise and business into the education system to give young people an entrepreneurial mindset as well as employable skills
$1· Acknowledge the changing face of British business - business models have changed dramatically in the last 20 years. In particular, assets are more likely to be intangible. Support, funding and rates must reflect this emphasis on the idea and the entrepreneur, rather than overheads and offices.
Finally, and most importantly, policy must embrace the flourishing network of alternative finance. This spirit of collaborative entrepreneurship is one of the great innovations borne about by the recession. It also allows time to spent where it matters – on innovation, customer service, and product innovation. The majority of people don’t know how to write up a business plan, but they can tell you about their ideas. Crowdfunding encourages people to spend their time turning their idea into a reality rather than remaining daunted by pages of bank documentation. With crowdfunding opening up new avenues to the realisation of successful ventures for all, for the first time it is truly possible to create a nation of entrepreneurs.