I’m well into my second week as interim Small Business Commissioner and I’ve already discovered three things of note.
Firstly, my team in Birmingham are brilliant. They’re passionate about supporting small businesses, dedicated to achieving positive outcomes and are eager to do more and build on their achievements. For the record, they’ve collected £6.7m for small businesses to date.
Secondly, there is a huge appetite for the culture change we need. Having met with several business organisations in my first few days, I can see a genuine desire for collaborative working. We want to push out the message that it’s okay for small businesses to ask for help, and it’s right for small businesses to complain when they’re being exploited by their large customers. I’ve worked with large businesses over the past few months and it’s apparent that improving the way they treat their supply chain is a key priority.
Thirdly, we need to move the debate beyond the transactional nature of invoices being paid late. Of course, late payment damages small businesses and the wider economy but it can also have a huge emotional impact on the business owners. An invoice paid late can result in the mortgage not being paid or employees waiting for their wages, and the link between late payment and mental health is real and worrying.
I’m thrilled by the opportunity this role gives to me to help make a difference and I’m excited by what I know we’re going to achieve in the coming months. I’m going to be rigorous in calling out bad practice and will work tirelessly to support the SBC team in their activity.