Michelle Ovens campaigns for the UK’s 5.5 million SBs in the ‘Small Business’ publication
She notes that small businesses are responding to this time of change and uncertainty with Brexit by keeping faith in the community values that make them the backbone of the UK economy.
She asks: “Perhaps we have been looking at small businesses through the wrong lens? Perhaps there is more to success than traditional measures of productivity, and more to business than the EU?”
The UK’s GDP per hour worked is around £50m less than the EU’s two major powerhouses, France and Germany – so what is it about UK workers and business that means we don’t measure up when the UK seems to be a thriving, digitised, successful economy?
The UK comprises a huge variety of business models and structures, with 99% defined as “small”, over 60% of private sector employment being via these businesses and some £2 trillion of revenues generated – clearly, they have a huge impact – nevertheless. they are forever being told their impact could be bigger if only they improved their productivity levels.
But when one asks small business owners what is important to them, productivity is not a factor – even profit is not considered as important as creating a living for others – it is a far cry from the ‘greed is good’ days of the 1980s.
Small businesses are putting people and communities first – they are looking to create ‘Good Work’, to foster supportive environments and meaningful working lives for their staff and wider stakeholders – there’s a shift to more flexibility in work, more giving back to the community, and a continued focus on the role of the business in the wider society and economy.
This is not all out of altruism – towns such as Grimsby in Lincolnshire, Holywell in Flintshire, and Frome in Somerset are being rebuilt around thriving small businesses – reducing local employment, increasing house prices, and even increasing local school standards.
The heroes of this small business revolution care less that both they and their employees make less money than their German counterparts, and more that the people in their community have jobs in the first place, and an improved quality of life:
- Almost three-quarters of small businesses have or would consider keeping on a member of staff even if they did not economically need them anymore
- There is a recognition of the importance of that job to that person, of that person to the wider community, and of the impact of losing employment
- This speaks to better mental health, better social mobility and can even impact physical health outcomes.
What would be seen as bad for productivity is almost priceless to the person who keeps their job even when times are tough – hence, staff are appreciating the benefits of working for a small business on a much broader set of criteria than just paying the minimum wage, especially covering the longevity and stability of the work they provide.
Small businesses are thus creating better communities, appreciating their employees as people rather than merely a means to profit, and their communities are appreciating them in return.
Michelle concludes: “It’s now time that the wider world of stakeholders – particularly big business, local and national government, and charities – start to realise the critical and valuable role these businesses play, and reward them for it; not hold them to a set of metrics that simply do not apply”