A big week for small businesses

Here, Rich Preece reflects on the past week, hailing a positive Autumn Statement and a Small Business Saturday that represented small companies well across the UK.  


Here, Rich Preece reflects on the past week, hailing a positive Autumn Statement and a Small Business Saturday that represented small companies well across the UK.  

Last week was a great week to be a small business. Osborne’s Autumn Statement included a raft of supportive measures designed to help SMEs prosper. Then followed Small Business Saturday, which put the spotlight on local independent shops and businesses like never before. There’s a real buzz about being an entrepreneur in the UK right now – it feels like we’re operating in an economy that is geared towards helping SMEs thrive.

So, what was particularly encouraging about the Autumn Statement? The headline grabber was the doubling of small business rates relief for another year, giving high-street shops, pubs and cafes a £1,500 discount. These are the types of local businesses that were championed in this year’s Small Business Saturday, and providing them with this relief will release cash to plough back into investment.

Another issue addressed was the struggle small businesses have endured in securing financing from the banks since the financial crash. Clearly, we welcome anything that makes more cash available for SMEs so it was great to see the introduction of £500 million of new bank lending, an extension of the Funding for Lending scheme, and a pledge of £400 million to extend Enterprise Capital Funds – government-backed venture capital funds investing in small businesses. 

There was more granular activity too – support of young people via apprenticeships will encourage vocational routes into the workplace. And the sustained freeze in fuel duty and increase in spending on infrastructure which will help the thousands of small businesses that are reliant on our road network, such as rural businesses and those in the North of England.

Buoyed by these announcements, SMEs across the UK took to the second annual Small Business Saturday with gusto. Small companies across the country held promotional events and offered discounts to open their doors to as many shoppers as possible, with traders in Portsmouth reporting that takings were up by around a third for this time of year.

In a similar vein to last year’s event, where £460 million was spent on the day and #SmallBizSatUK was one of the top three terms trending on Twitter, this year’s campaign has already gone a huge way to supporting, inspiring and promoting local businesses more than ever before. We’ll truly know if the movement has succeeded if local businesses can continue to entice consumers away from the melee of the big chains’ offers beyond this weekend’s activities.

The groundswell of support for small businesses has never been greater than in the last seven days. The challenge now will be to ensure that these initiatives continue to have a lasting monetary benefit. Access to cash and reduced rates means little if you don’t have the insight into your finances that enable to you to track it properly. Getting paid on time, monitoring cash flow and balancing profit and loss often – understandably – can take a back seat when you’re trying to selling more product or win more customers. But it’s integral to successfully starting, running and growing a business.

There are countless positive stories of local businesses across the country that got their start through blood, sweat and tears. There are innovative ideas that fill gaps in markets. And there are also once in a generation ideas that totally change the face of business.

This year’s Autumn Statement and movements such as Small Business Saturday should work to engender even more optimism in the hearts of our local communities. Anyone looking to start, run or grow their small business must see this as an opportunity to be a success story within, according to George Osborne, ‘the most entrepreneurial economy in Europe’.

Rich Preece is VP and UK country manager at Intuit.

Further reading on the Autumn Statement

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