EOW Reflections: Regeneration

Regeneration is a word I’ve heard a lot this week. I’ll be in Stevenage in March to hear about their plans and what I want to know is what it means for the small and micro businesses.

We may have been in a technical recession in the second half of last year 900,000 companies were started in 2023, up 12% on 2022. Entrepreneurs won’t be deterred and they will lead any regeneration in Stevenage and elsewhere.  We need to give them the right help and support at the right times for the stage their business is at. We need to harness this record-breaking entrepreneurial enthusiasm and nurture and encourage it to give it the best possible chance of morphing into the productivity and growth the Government wants to see, that our public services will benefit from, and that the economy needs. We need that entrepreneurial spirit to spill over into the local communities and lift everyone up.

Micro and small businesses are the engine room of the UK and they are also the answer to tackling inequality, creating a fairer society and levelling up. We’re the backbone of the economy and society. We give it our all. We’re flexible, agile, and willing to take the risks. We deserve respect and we can make all the difference. If people working to regenerate take a ‘small first’ approach and support the micro and small and the rest will bloom.

A small first approach means putting the infrastructure in place to nurture small and businesses, giving them the support they need to thrive. That can’t be done without giving them a voice. The Government took a big step in that direction this week with the Small Business Minister’s new ‘small business council’. The majority of the people at the table are small business owners rather than just representative bodies.

Small businesses know what’s needed. They want amongst other things, help on upskilling and finding the right talent, improving access to funding, dealing with poor payment practices of customers(my own particular burden to bear), better digital capacity, help to meet net-zero objectives and navigate the energy markets. In terms of AI, many firms are already using it and want support to take advantage of the opportunities it presents.

Small businesses around the UK want a voice in government. Having the right policies in place to enhance productivity wouldn’t just help smaller companies but could boost the entire UK economy.

We know not all businesses succeed. Government figures show that a fifth of businesses fail in their first year and three fifths go bust within their first three years. But we can give them the best chance of applying their entrepreneurial spirit and being all they can be, for the good of themselves and their families, employees, society, communities and the economy. But if we don’t hear from them about what they really need we’re setting them up to fail.

I hope regeneration means all of the above and more. A ‘small first’ approach may sound counterintuitive, but I believe from what I know of resilient, determined entrepreneurs it’s the right approach and will lead to regeneration that’s good for everyone.