24th April, 2015 No Comments
With only days to go before we witness the most unpredictable General Election in living memory, small business owners may see party leaders popping up in every corner of the country scrapping for the last vote wondering why they should watch it all unfold when the polls open. Yes, the top level party proposals will have a knock on effect from top to bottom of the economy, but businesses don’t get a vote. So why is it worth watching?
The national headlines may be taken up by a new quote each day from a FTSE chief executive or major party donor chipping a new quote into the chaos, but delve a little deeper and you will find significant policy changes that will impact the lifeblood of our economy: small business.
What surprises many people about the make up our economy is just how reliant national growth is on the health of small firms. Last year small businesses accounted for 48% of private sector employment – which is a startling 12 million people. So when we talk about employment or wages we shouldn’t be thinking about solely about the ‘big hitters’, but equally about the traders within a few miles radius of where you are sitting.
So, we know small business has underrated clout. But what does the General Election mean for this often overlooked crowd?
Don’t worry I’m not going to suggest scrolling through hundreds of pages of party policy before bed tonight. Here is a quick taster on some of the proposals by each party to help small businesses in the next five years:
Conservatives – Triple the number of start-up loans to businesses to 75,000, launch ‘Help to Grow’ to create £1bn in loans, and raise the target for SMEs’ share of central government procurement.
Labour – Strengthen rules on late payment, cut and then freeze business rates, and ban exploitative zero-hours contracts.
Liberal Democrats – Protecting the science budget to drive innovation, help businesses create a million more jobs by promoting apprenticeships, and continue to reform business tax to make sure it stays competitive and give priority for any cuts to SMEs.
Green Party – reduce employers’ National Insurance in the longer run to 8%, increase access to finance by investing £2bn in a network of community banks, and allowing local authorities to favour local procurement to help their local economy.
UKIP – make it easier for small and medium-sized businesses to tender for public sector contracts, introduce a scheme whereby small businesses provide evidence of repeated late payments to HM Revenue and Customs, and repeal EU regulations and directives that stifle business growth.
So there you have it. It might not be every policy from every manifesto, but it should if you are a small business owner it should give you a reason to watch the drama unfold on the 7th of May and it might be enough to assure you that the pre election talk isn’t all centred on big business. Now it’s just the small matter of the result…
Written by Andy Grey, Policy Assistant, Business West
15th April, 2015 No Comments
All parties talk about the ‘benefits bill’ but fail (or refuse) to segment what the state pays and to who. Undoubtedly there are savings to be made from what is an enormous budget but it is important that we understand the underlying rationale for payments to each group of benefits recipients. I want to look at one specific area and I confess that it is a particular passion of mine.
In life there are a number of people who have been dealt a really poor hand at birth – those with severe learning and physical disabilities. As a compassionate and civilised society it is incumbent upon us to look after those who are unable to look after themselves without support. The current benefits system is unwieldy and not designed for individuals whose ‘condition’ will not change throughout their life.
The rate of employment for those with severe disabilities is risible and reflects badly on society for what little value we place on these individuals. The disappointing thing is that a solution is easy to achieve and would cost very little (if anything) to implement. Both government and business has a role to play. My suggestions on how to address what is a shameful way to treat individuals is:
– Where individuals have a severe learning or physical disability that will not change throughout their life, then as a society we should pay them a fixed amount of benefit which is assessed and only revisited every 5 years to determine if they should receive greater support due to deterioration. This sum may vary according to individual need but it should be set as a minimum at an amount equivalent to the average national salary.
– Once in receipt then there should be NO penalty if that individual finds some form of work – we should encourage them to earn extra funds.
– If a business creates a position for such an individual in receipt of these benefits then they are exempt from employers national insurance that would normally be paid.
Whilst it would cost a small amount of money to implement the impact would be enormous. A society that actively values those who face the largest challenges, a sense of worth in those individuals and a system that enables them to use their unique challenges without being penalised by the “system”. In turn firms should be encouraged to create positions specifically for this group which meet an individuals personal requirements.
I can hear the cries of outrage from some people already re the cost and ‘burden’ on business but let me tell you a story of the benefits that can be had …….
At Nwes we have recently recruited an individual with severe learning disabilities. This is a part time post but it is paid a full and proper wage. The individual would love to work more hours but the benefits system would penalise him for doing so – a real disincentive to work. At Nwes it is an extra ‘cost’ to the business but the pride seen in our staff members, because we are helping someone who needs a gentle hand up in life, has far outweighed the few extra pounds that we pay out. In turn the change in the individual has been a joy to behold and indeed his support worker says that the confidence that he has achieved working in his first ‘proper’ job has transformed his life.
If every business played their part and created extra roles for the most vulnerable and government withdrew the penalty for work then society would be improved and it would say much about us and our civilised approach to what is the right thing to do.
Cost = minimal, value = uncountable
Written by Kevin Horne, CEO, Nwes
14th April, 2015 No Comments
“Motivation is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it.” Dwight D. Eisenhower
As a business owner or leader your staff is one of your biggest costs and potentially is one of your best assets if you create an engaged culture amongst your employees and sub-contractors to such an extent that they do things beyond what is expected of them.
Poor internal communication in a business organisation leads to a lack of company direction and understanding of core messages.
Effective communication needs the buy in of all members in the organisation, from staff, and office managers to boardroom executives.
Do your team really understand the core values?
Do you communicate with each other effectively?
How valued do you think your people feel?
What are your key drivers?
How effectively do you work as a team?
Perhaps it’s time to take time out and take stock of where you are and most importantly where you are going.
This will mean investment of time, but as people are your most valuable resource it could be money well spent.
It may be that your staff feel a little jaded and lethargic, if so it’s time for a spot of invigoration! Take the lead and energise and refocus your team. Take positive steps to move people (including you) out of their comfort zone. The new financial year is an excellent opportunity to provide a clear steer on your business goals and the standards and behaviours you expect.
Spending time analysing both the positives and the tensions in your team can be enlightening and productive. Make sure that everyone is on board and listen to their views and ideas.
Give individuals in your organisation the opportunity to reflect upon and discuss your business and ambitions.
This approach to internal communication and employee engagement gives you a much better result compared to conventional top down strategies. It ensures a clear understanding of your vision, values and mission and spreads a high level of commitment to your brand and across your workforce. Make sure that you are committed to giving support to anyone who needs it, whether that means formal training, coaching or perhaps a bit of confidence building.
By engaging staff with vision and values they can apply them in their day-to-day work, it is a fact that organisations that have a strong communications function outperform those that don’t.
A highly engaged team or employee will consistently deliver beyond expectations and will have a sense of belonging or a strong bond with the company or a brand. This creates a ripple effect that results in a great atmosphere in the organisation and real buy in from your staff, giving you competitive advantage and bottom-line benefits.
In the words of Virgil, “they can because they think they can.”
Written by Carole White, Chief Executive
TEDCO Business Support Ltd