As the Office of the Small Business Commissioner marks its two-year anniversary, I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on our achievements over the last 12 months.
My team have been pivotal to the success of the office and we have worked hard throughout 2019 to raise organisational awareness amongst small businesses about our free service and how we can help those experiencing late payment issues. This time last year we had recouped just over £2 million in unpaid invoices for small businesses and in 2019 we have increased this figure to £6.5 million.
In my role I have spoken to many small businesses throughout the UK and so frequently I hear about the hurdles they have to overcome to get paid, with an increased number having to walk away without any payment at all. I feel saddened to hear these stories and through these interactions I understand the toughness, tiredness and sometimes failure running your own business can bring. This makes me more determined to ensure that small businesses know the SBC are here to help them in their time of despair and desperation.
My team and I have developed a profound understanding of the late payment landscape and by now we’ve heard every excuse in the book for not being paid on time! My Caseworkers have learnt how to work with large businesses and effectively recoup money owed by following each complaint from the beginning to end, providing a single point of contact. We have carried out official investigations and published reports exposing poor payment practices exercised by Jordans & Ryvita, Holland & Barrett, G4S, BUPA Insurance Services Ltd, Sambro International Ltd and Zurich Insurance PLC
The SBC are often criticised for lacking resource however, this cannot deter from the success we have achieved or from us doing our job – we are small enough to care and big enough to make an impact!
Overall 2019 has been a great year for the SBC and I am proud of our achievements. We have overcome some challenges along the way, but this has made us a stronger team. My mission in 2020 is to let small businesses know they have a voice in us. We plan to travel throughout the UK to meet and help educate small businesses about preventative measures they can take to ensure they don’t fall victim to late payment and work with large businesses to improve their payment practices whilst reporting on unethical behaviour where we see it. I would like to thank our partnership organisation, BEIS and stakeholders for their continued support and we remain committed to work together to tackle late payment in the UK.