Note: This post first featured on “The Art of…” blog, under my name: David Atkinson http://davidsartof.blogspot.com/
So, Gordon Brown is “…poised to appoint a string of Britain’s most senior business figures to a new advisory committee to guide policy-making and to strengthen Labour’s relationship with the business world.” (June 28, 200)
Question! While the heads of theUK’s largest public companies are clearly well positioned to advise Gordon Brown on his policies and to point out areas where government action is hinderingBritain’s competitiveness, is their perspective the only valuable one!
What about the smaller business?
In theUK, the SME sector is of great importance. The Department of Trade and Industry’s own information notes that we (the SME businesses of the UK-unite) account for around 60% of our GDP and around 58% of all employment. The larger firms (those employing over 250 people) – from whose leadership Gordon’s proposed committee is drawn – account for just 0.2% of the 4.3 million companies in theUK. We smaller firms (employing less than 50 people) account for around 99% of all firms. I would venture to suggest, here, that our (SME) views of the world of UK business and the requirements to improve our competitiveness are subtly different to the Amstrads, the Marks & Spencers, the Tesco’s and the Vodafones et al.
In my own sector of interest, the actions of the larger firms are destroying the competitive landscape for the SME. The disproportionate power wielded by the larger organizations, particularly in being able to negotiate better supplier rates, is corrosive to the survival prospects of the smaller firm, who now has to consider whether or not to become a potential acquisition target in a race for consolidation. Yet the larger organisations are frequently cited as the worst offenders in terms of maintaining service levels. Local suppliers serving local communities – a distributed model – often wins hands down in maintaining quality of service. There is clearly a balance to be struck. I neither advocate a world in which we only ever envisage a cottage industry mentality, nor do I advocate that the SME sector is merely relegated to a role as an incubator, developing yet more seedlings for the voracious appetite of the corporate machine.
There is a perennial cry concerning the competitiveness of theUKeconomy. If we, the SME sector are as important as the corporate sector, yet we are neither to be swallowed up nor allowed to dominate policy, then we should surely be part of Gordon’s consideration. Should we not?
But I have no answer here (yet)! I am, after all, an SME business owner, struggling with the day-to-day issues of the survival of an SME business in a highly competitive environment. What time is there, for any of SME owner to contribute to the debate that so effects us?