Why Change Our View of Small Business in Britain?

[From Emily – founder & small business owner]

For those of you who have met me, you may be in no doubt about my thoughts on our approach to small business in the UK. I tend to get enthusiastic, sometimes I even step onto a soap box & I certainly have a tendency to ‘go on’ a little.

From the off, I want to be clear about who am talking about here. I am talking about the 96% of British business that is micro (0-9 employees) and independent. Some 60% of those businesses don’t employ. These micro businesses are all around us. [Government Business Statistics December 2018]

And yet – much of the media, TV and content we see out there frames small business as something a little different.

Firstly, it is often the SME sector that is being discussed or profiled. This is defined as a business with 10 employees or more (quite big!) and, in the private sector, only makes up 5% of British business. These businesses are the target of most business funding, highlighting and investment.

Secondly, the context within which we hear about small business can be defined by it’s trajectory – either on a mission to get very big (nothing wrong with this at all – think Dragon’s Den) or failing at an alarming rate (think the evening news & Brexit).

Finally, and frustratingly, we tend to categorise small business into specific pigeon holes that divides the sector. For example, professional service businesses may gather under one type of networking umbrella or organisation & meet for breakfast. Creative makers or artisans may chat online & be mutually supportive while perhaps being perceived as ‘lifestyle’ in size or seriousness. Women entrepreneurs may gather together and find support & connection.¬†Please know that none of this activity is bad in itself but the result can mean that as a nation, we either don’t see the bigger picture (96% of British business is about these people) or we downgrade the important role they play in our society, economy & communities.

My own experience of being a small business owner for nearly 18 years and working with owners for as long, has helped me understand that this categorising approach to small, micro¬†business results in us losing focus on the real value that micro business brings to us all. It is worth noting here that I use the phrase ‘small business’ here because ‘micro business’ is a term barely recognised by search engines.

My own story and the stories I hear every day has helped me understand that there is barely a small business owner that doesn’t have a profound tale to tell about why they started working for themselves. The range is huge – from tragedy turned to hope, illness turned to new direction, redundancy turned to innovation, families becoming balanced, artisan skills turned to productivity and more. These stories provide the enrichment in our lives, economies and communities that we need, crave and search for.

Small business owners like these are entirely cross sector, producing goods & services that make all our lives better. They provide vibrant communities, enhanced local economies, food on the table, paid bills, balance, good mental health, exceptional service, short supply chains, less waste, better relationships, warmer welcomes, dedicated experiences, care for the environment, innovation, transforming campaigns, relational business, better listening, more circular transactions and the list goes on.

Imagine if we spotlighted the magic of the ALL of this small, micro business sector for the value it provides to us all? Imagine if we framed this value to include economy, community, life experience, mental health, the planet & our future?

The Simply Great Britain membership community is new and growing and is made up of stand out small business owners who are celebrated, supported & connected. Together we want to show Britain the vibrancy, hope and love that is all around us.

If you would like to know more or talk to me about this mission of ours, please get in touch.