The young entrepreneur appears to be all the rage nowadays, and whilst we have no reservations in championing the cause of our aspirational under-30s, it is probably worth taking a step back and realising that start-up potential is still just as strong among the older generation. It is encouraging then that this is a step Lord Young has taken with his second report to the Prime Minister on the importance of small firms to our economic future.
In the report entitled ‘Growing Your Business’, which shifts the focus onto micro businesses (those with 10 or less employees) that make up 95% of all UK businesses, the PM’s adviser on small business and enterprise recommends removing the current age cap for the government’s Start-Up Loan scheme, which currently sits at 30, following an extension from 19-24 earlier this year. The scheme, overseen by the Start-Up Loans company chaired by serial entrepreneur James Caan, aims to get business ideas off the ground with a loan of around £4,500, in addition to mentoring support. With 3,768 loans valuing in the region of £16m issued since its launch last autumn, the programme is seen to have exceeded expectations by upwards of 50% in its first year, with many new business now taking on their own employees.
Whilst we at Elite Business tend to have a slightly different idea of what constitutes success compared to the powers that be, that doesn’t stop us from getting behind any measures which have positive intentions. To that end, we can’t help but welcome further proposals from Lord Young, designed to bolster our SMEs’ chances of growth, and allowing them to compete on the global stage. So, here is what else the venerable lord has recommended in his second report for David Cameron:
- A £30m Growth Voucher programme to encourage more small firms to get specialist help on: expanding their workforce; marketing a business; financial management and growing online
- Abolition of pre-qualification questionnaires (PQQ) on contracts under €200k across the public sector, and setting ‘single market’ principles which suppliers can expect when doing business with the public sector. By simplifying and standardising the bidding, payment and advertising of contracts, and removing the complexity, cost and inconsistency when trying to sell to more than one local authority or public sector body, Young believes this would help SMEs further access the £230 billion per year that is spent on goods and services across the whole public sector
- Establishing a new national ‘Supporting Small Business Charter’ and accompanying award scheme to incentivise business schools to help SMEs grow. This will include advising small firms and increasing the flow of highly qualified students and graduates into SMEs. Business schools could also become a key part of the referral process and provision of Start-Up Loans and Growth Vouchers
- Enabling the private sector to provide advice to SMEs on the government’s website GOV.UK and releasing the online SME advice that the government holds after the closure of the Business Link website to third party providers for them to rebuild and improve
- Better marketing of government schemes to support new and developing businesses by ensuring they are properly resourced and targeted at the small firms that need them most
“Growing our smallest businesses would transform our economy – they are the vital 95%,” commented Young. “If just half of the UK’s micro businesses took on an additional member of staff, unemployment would be reduced to almost zero. We need to raise the aspirations and confidence of these businesses and give them the tools to grow.”
It is now for the government to take his recommendations forward, and naturally we await their arrival, and impact, with equal degrees of anticipation and scepticism. That’s just what we do.