In the current uncertain times, it’s more important than ever that small business owners come together to make their voice heard, writes Martin McTague, FSB Chairman, Policy and Advocacy.
I thought I was going to rip up trees single-handedly. Not literally, but that was the kind of bullish feeling I had when I set up my business. Starting out on your own is a risk, it’s hard work, it’s daunting – but it’s exciting and fulfilling, and can make you feel invincible. You’re going to conquer the world, without anyone else’s help.
A few years later and a few bumps down the road, I was well aware that I wasn’t exactly a superhero. I’d started feeling powerless. There were external factors impacting my business that I had no control over, and I had no idea how to do anything about them.
If I’d been the CEO of some massive corporation, I’d have hired sharply dressed, well-connected lobbyists to make my interests heard in the corridors of power. But how could I, as a small business owner on Teesside, get anything like that kind of access?
That’s when I got dragged along to an FSB branch meeting in Darlington. I was roped into various volunteer roles within about the first five minutes, and was the vice-chair before I knew it. But this wasn’t some cosy club with job titles. It was the start of me seeing the importance of small business owners supporting each other for the collective good.
Fast-forward to our current era of change and uncertainty; it’s more important than ever for small business owners to stand together, be assertive and make sure our voice is heard loudly and clearly.
There are 5.6 million small businesses in the UK today. That’s 99 per cent of all businesses, accounting for 60 per cent of private sector employment. They are run by the innovators, strivers and risk-takers who power the country’s economy. They are at the heart of communities across the UK. Individually, we are small businesses. Together, we have a big voice.
While Brexit has dominated the agenda during the past couple of years, plenty of domestic issues have also risked hindering small businesses. Through members standing together in solidarity, FSB won a reduction in business rates worth almost
£1 billion, forced a U-turn on proposals to raise national insurance for the self-employed, achieved top-level action to tackle late payments, and prevented a wholesale expansion of the VAT system, to name just a few examples.
And it’s not just at Westminster and the devolved administrations. FSB engages across the political spectrum at all levels.
We’re listened to because there’s strength in numbers. We can say with authority to decision-makers: ‘This is what our members tell us… and there are a lot of them!’
I know that when you’re running a business your time is at a premium, and not everyone can volunteer for FSB – but you can still make your voice heard. ‘Big Voice’ is FSB’s survey programme, which shapes our policies and what we say to decision-makers. Any member can sign up, and the results give us huge insight and clout.
In tricky times, it’s easy to decide to hunker down and focus solely on your business. But the reality is that it is as important as ever for small business owners to stand together – in the interests of us all.
You can sign up to FSB’s ‘Big Voice’ survey programme and make your voice heard at