Over the next 12 months, let alone the next 120 months we will have a significant period for many people and for our nation as a whole. Irrespective of the political nonsense and chaos that is bound to be part of this period, it is vital that we can look beyond this and work to improve matters for many people with or without the assistance of our limited political structures and parties. Amongst a range of needs and issues that should get addressed, our nation needs to find meaningful ways to improve the prospects for micro and small businesses given how much of an impact that they have in employing people and creating economic growth.
One starting point arises from alongside the conflict created as part of the New Years Honour list with one very unpopular MP (Iain Duncan Smith) gaining a knighthood and the retired speaker of the Commons (John Bercow) being the first one in 230 years not to be honoured. Personally I oppose both of these decisions. However one of the other people who received a very high profile recognition is someone I had never heard of before, but she has been made a Dame. Her name is Teresa Colomba Graham and the text alongside her name was the description “For services to small businesses”. I looked into the Internet and along with the text below which the Government posted as they do for all high profile awards, I spotted that she is the Chair of Salix Finance which is described as Solving Energy Efficiency Finance in the Public Sector. The Salix website includes a biography which explains that she gained an OBE in 1997 for services to Better Regulation and the small firms sector and a CBE in 2007 for public service.
Also according to Salix “Teresa graduated from Newcastle University in 1977. She joined the Newcastle upon Tyne office of a Big 5 firm as a student accountant and transferred to the firms Department of Privatisation Services in London in 1989. From December 1986 to August 1987, she was seconded to the UK Governments Enterprise and Deregulation Advisory Panel for a two year term. Teresa joined Baker Tilly in 1989 and during her time there she headed up their Business Services Department. She holds a number of non-executive directorships in SMEs as well as in one of the largest private companies in the UK. She also has a variety of mentoring and advisory roles in other growth businesses.”
The challenge for the Government in trying to understand SME’s is that the sector is very diverse and is made up of Medium, Small and Micro businesses (not just Small and Medium Enterprises). The gap between Medium businesses with turnovers of £10m-£50m and employment of 50-250 people, and the Micro enterprises with up to £2m turnover and up to 9 employees is Small. The reality however is that Small often gets referred to as a name to cover the whole group and over the next few months and even years we need to help the Government grasp the difference between the Medium businesses and top end of the Small businesses and the bottom end of the Small businesses and Micro Enterprises which are much more dynamic
It is very evident that the Government prefers to engage with bigger ones because there are only small numbers and each is significant in terms of what they do in terms of turnover and employment. Also they are much more inclined to invest in Political Party funding. However if our nation is to benefit from businesses the much larger numbers that individually have modest turnovers and small employment contracts are what really impacts our nations economy. Of course they are not interested in spending too much time engaging with external bodies but in many cases they are very efficient and together are much more capable of expanding our economy.
It may well be that Teresa has more experience of the larger small and medium sized businesses than she does of the small and micro enterprises, few of which have such a formal setting such as non-executive directorships. However given that she is now a Dame, perhaps we can persuade her to engage with some small and micro enterprise support networks such as Enterprise Nation according to Anon! These include the Federation of Small Businesses, the small, local Chambers of Commerce and groups set up by people like Tony Robinson in Scarborough, Jaz and Alma Greer in Derby, Janet Doran in Harrogate and Tina Francis in Birmingham. Indeed it doesn’t take very long to find the sort of people who understand Micro Enterprises. Let us hope that Teresa Graham will use her higher profile to drill down a bit deeper.
The Text from the Government regarding Teresa Graham: “Since being awarded her CBE, Teresa Graham, has sustained an impressive record of public service, giving her time and expertise to make the UK a better place to start and to grow a business. She has led several well-received independent reviews on behalf of successive governments, including in 2014 review of pre-packaged administrations, in 2016 a review of the Enterprise Finance Guarantee, and making extremely impactful contributions to others, including Sir John Kingman’s 2018 review of the Financial Reporting Council. She chairs the Small and Medium Sized Enterprises Advisory Committee of UK Finance, representing the top 300 UK funding institutions. As the Chair of the Administrative Burdens Advisory Board she has ensured that diverse business voices are heard and has held HMRC to account over the impact of tax changes on small businesses. Her energy and sheer doggedness has been instrumental in the abolition of a PAYE requirement which adversely affected one million smaller employers and has led to a revised approach to Making Tax Digital. She is the joint founder and chair of Lexi Cinema, a community social enterprise which donates its profits to the Sustainability Institute to support educational youth programmes in South Africa.”