The new prime minister, Boris Johnson, has a lot on his hands. But whatever happens in these unsettled times, he must take note of what SMBs – the backbone of the British economy – need to thrive.
As a first step, the Conservative leader must reassess the situation around business rates and reduce them as a matter of urgency. When Valitor asked its network what the new PM could do to help them, this was their answer – and key figures in the industry agree.
The former managing director of John Lewis, Andy Street, described the current business rate system as “detrimental” to SMBs. And while Boris Johnson’s main challenge is to deliver on Brexit, it’s important to remember that in times of economic instability, SMBs are the worst hit, according to London School of Economics researchers. So, action needs to be taken sooner rather than later to temper any negative impact.
It’s also crucial that Johnson prioritises communicating clearly with SMBs. With all the uncertainty about Brexit’s impact on them, the prime minister needs to help protect those affected. Support is essential during this hugely important period of transition. Critically, they have to be kept in the loop about changes to legislation – particularly trade and employment laws, and how the government may be able to help them. Small changes can easily go unnoticed or be misunderstood by SMBs and employees, who are working around the clock.
Johnson and his cabinet must also tackle the issue of late payments, enforcing stricter rules on large businesses. Some have taken advantage of SMBs, paying them late for services or supplies, which can be crippling. Such a move would prove that the new government cares about UK businesses of all sizes, including the 16.3 million people in the UK who are employed by SMBs.
Finally, the government must recognise the role SMBs have in society and show respect for the hard work that owners and employees do on a daily basis. While SMBs may be small in size, they’re not small in stature – in fact, they account for 99.9% of the private-sector economy. With this in mind, Johnson needs to acknowledge that SMBs are the backbone of the British economy, and that they cannot be forgotten while he settles into Downing Street.