Why Is It So Hard To Grow Your UK Small Business?
by Jo Shaer, on July 16, 2012
It was interesting to read this post about what small business employers in the US think helps them to retain their staff . Apparently, it's the lack of office politics and the offer of holiday pay.
Rather different over there to here in the UK then where being an employee - even part-time - means that you are entitled to holiday pay and employers seem to be duty bound to provide it.
I'm at the difficult stage for a small business. We entered our second year with enough clients and future business on the books to believe that this could be successful.
However, I can't do it all on my own if I want to grow the business. I have to involve other people and that meant looking at how to do this. My idea was to tap into the huge resource that is stay at home mums who have good skills but don't want a full-time job.
If those mums then come to me on a regular basis to perform that work - or even just to learn the skills to perform that work - that effectively makes them employees. Even if they're only coming for one or two hours per week. Unless they set themselves up as sole traders or limited companies of their own.
If they are my employees, then I have to run a PAYE scheme and pay them pro rata holiday pay.
Which I am quite happy to do - but it seems very harsh at such an early stage when I can't actually afford to pay myself holiday pay.
I think that's what really makes me unhappy. No-one paid me to learn how to do all this stuff. I have had to put in countless hours poring over the internet, reading ebooks, listening to webinars and wading through the charlatans in order to grow sufficient knowledge to feel confident that I can do what I say.
And then, being ready to pay for PAYE and holidays and employer's liability insurance, I discover that some insurance companies will not cover me for theft from my property unless there is an obvious sign of a break in... because I now use my property for business purposes.
UK Small Businesses Need Help Not Hindrance
With banks and bigger corporations squeezing the country dry and receiving huge rewards even when they make a complete mess of things, it is small businesses like mine which will provide the backbone for regeneration - and yet we are penalised and crushed at every turn by rules and regulations which seem designed to make it more difficult to succeed.
That's before you get to bad debts from some people that you try to help and who then don't pay you. Or the banks who have now been found to have mis-sold financial products to a large number of UK small businesses. One business woman told the BBC the interest charges had led her to debts of £70,000.
And, of course, the now infamous Barclays rate fixing scandal.
All this coming hot on the heels of the PPI fiasco where many people were mis-sold protection insurance, particularly the self-employed who were actually precluded from ever claiming - but that didn't stop them being sold this product.
I see news that George Osborn has announced £140bn to help small businesses to grow. But, whilst it would be nice to have some cash to try to address the staffing issues, I don't actually need money from the Government. I work on the basis that I plough what profit I make back into my business and expand in a way that I can control rather than throwing money at it by the bucketload without actually thinking it through on a month by month basis. That way lies financial disaster in my humble opinion. As with any household budget, if you spend more than you earn even by a farthing, then you are in trouble.
People have talked about my 'Business Plan' and I see other budding entrepreneurs putting together reports with future numbers based on guesswork. It doesn't take a genius to work out that some businesses are going to end up in debt if that's the nature of their plan. In an industry which is constantly growing and changing, my Business Plan is rather a fluid document that changes every quarter based on market demand and our assessment of the mercurial behaviour of Google and Facebook.
Do I want the added pressure of investors breathing down my neck demanding a return on their money?
I have a dream... but not a definite time frame in which to achieve it. Now some might see that as defeatist, but to me it's being a realist at a time of economic uncertainty.
What UK Small Business Owners Need
What I need is some help in the form of easy to understand, affordable business insurance and exemptions on restrictive employment practices whilst I get started. In our attempts to protect the workforce, we have swung too far the other way and are sucking the lifeblood of entrepreneurial spirit out of our country.
When I'm a bigger company, unlike the banks, I am quite happy to pay towards the public purse in taxation in return for the privilege of being able to run my business in Britain with British employees but I need some leeway from onerous taxes, charges and rules in order to reach that stage.
As a friend on Twitter remarked when I posted about the George Osborn initiative, businesses don't need loans they can't pay, they need more customers.
But I guess that's actually where I come into my own.
A Lollipop Lady is a great deal cheaper than a bank loan.
To find out how Lollipop Local can help your business to get more customers, give us a call on 01702 476517