I had only just started my role as Small Business Commissioner when I was approached by an electrical contractor I had known since running my own business some years before, writes Paul Uppal, Small Business Commissioner. I was dumbfounded when he told me he had, after many years, ended his business and taken up salaried employment due to ongoing problems with late payments.
This saddened me, and it became clear that the general public just aren’t aware of the many issues facing small businesses, especially how late payment or practices such as retrospective discounting can have a massive impact in determining the ongoing success of genuine small businesses.
I wonder how a typical employed person would feel if they received their pay cheque only to find it had been discounted by 5, 10 or even 20 per cent, just because their employer had paid them on time?
From my perspective, the top three issues for small businesses are as follows. First and foremost, we must tackle this pervasive culture that exists where late payments are acceptable. They are not.
It is estimated there are somewhere in the region of 50,000 business deaths each year, and this is something we must try to halt if we are truly committed to nurturing growth and innovation and making the UK a great place to do business.
Second, we need to encourage more mentoring for small businesses and those who are just setting out on the exciting journey of running their own enterprise. Many new businesses fail because they don’t know where to go for advice on how to build and grow a sound business.
My team aims to fill this gap by providing information and helpful tools to support and signpost small businesses in getting the help they need.
Having run my own business in construction and real estate for more than 20 years before taking on this role, I know just how daunting and lonely running your own business can be.
Third, I want to champion the interests of small businesses. I want to listen to their concerns and be a strong voice, raising issues on their behalf and being a focal point that helps bring all the voices together in the best interests of small businesses across the UK.
As the Small Business Commissioner, I’ve been set up to be independent of Government but it is not my way or my nature to run a remote faceless organisation.
It is important for me that we show a human face, and that we connect with people to understand where they are coming from so that I can help them fight their corner.
I will listen to small businesses and continually revisit the priorities I’ve highlighted above, so that I can raise the issues that are important to them.
With contacts across the various business sectors, large and small, as well as with trades and representative bodies, I aim to build positive and constructive relationships, and establish trust and credibility so that my team and I can focus on our key priorities to signpost, advise on and reduce late and unfair payment practices affecting small business and, more importantly, to help bring about a culture change.