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Kent event helps firms become Forces friendly

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The entrepreneurial and workplace talent of Britain’s military veterans isn’t being fully realised, according to a report from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) which calls for a better connection between service leavers and the small business community. 

The report, ‘A Force For Business,’ recommends an enhanced support package for those transitioning out of the armed forces, including a greater focus on the option of self-employment and the key skills needed to succeed in enterprise.

FSB’s research finds that more than one-in-ten (12%) of Britain’s small businesses have employed a service leaver in the last three years, with manufacturing the most common sector (20%) followed by Wholesale, Retail and Repair (15%) and Professional, Scientific and Technical (11%). Among those employing veterans, the benefits they have found include resolving skills shortages (35%), improving team performance (27%) and providing fresh perspectives and creative ideas (26%).

FSB’s research suggests there are around 340,000 (6%) small businesses owned by service leavers, and the vast majority (78%) have grown to take on employees. 50% have between one and 10 employees; while 7% have in excess of 50 employees. 22% are sole-traders. 

FSB Kent Area Leader Deborah Turner, said: “Setting up and running your own business needs courage, determination and a strong work ethic. Service leavers have these skills in spades, which is why self-employment is a route well worth considering by those coming towards the end of their time in the Armed Forces. 

“For those looking for work, small businesses can often be better than bigger ones at spotting and nurturing talent, rather than discard a service leaver’s job application because as the skills are not from a traditional academic route. But there is room for greater support and advice to service leavers on the options of self-employment or work within an existing smaller business.”

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Keynote speaker Tom Tugendhat MP attended an event at the Royal Wells Hotel, Tunbridge Wells on 21 June 2019 to highlight how the Armed Forces could help small businesses. Tom said: “I was delighted to support FSB and X-Forces Enterprise’s event in Tunbridge Wells. I know from personal experience the transition from military life to civilian life can be tricky. Any support we can give our service leavers – in particular when they continue to contribute to society and the economy through business and self-employment – is a good thing.”

Lt. Col. Ren Kapur CEO of X-Forces Enterprise and FSB’s Armed Forces Champion, said: “Military service; the education, knowledge and experiences it gives an individual is a wonderful foundation on which they can build their own career in self-employment or business ownership. The FSB and XFE event last Friday showed exactly that – I met some wonderful service leaves who are now successfully managing life in business. I hope this report and our concerted actions will help more small business become forces friendly and fill recruitment gaps.”  

Former Naval Reservist and co-founder of Scott Communications, Debbie Scott, said: “I’m proud to have completed step one of the journey in supporting the Armed Forces as a business owner. My business partner, Tony Scott, and I are pleased to have signed the Armed Forces Covenant especially as we both have a strong attachment to the military. We urge other businesses to familiarise themselves with ways in which they can access the relatively untapped talent pool of people leaving the military, as well as reservists, and I’m pleased that representatives from the Ministry of Defence and Barclays were both on hand at the event to provide advice and make the business connections real.”