1st July 2021. The first day of the next four years of my life. My first day as the Small Business Commissioner.
I’m excited, nervous and thrilled to have been given the opportunity to take on this terrific role. I thank Philip King most sincerely for being a great interim Commissioner and a terrific friend and inspiration to me, sharing his experience and vast knowledge with me since I was told the brilliant news of my appointment in March.
I’ve been passionate about small businesses for most of my life. My parents ran a farm together, my grandfather and uncle ran a building firm, my great aunt ran a small local grocery business with lots of delicious sweets. As soon as I was old enough I worked during the school holidays in what then seemed to me to be a very big business. It was the highly respected department store in our local town which I realise now, with its 2 dozen or so employees, was also a small business.
Rural businesses, family firms, sole traders and self-employed people who worked for a few weeks and moved on again. I was used to them all. And each one had a story. Sadly not all were stories with happy endings. Debt and bankruptcy weren’t unknown to me. Closures and job losses were usual occurrences. So too though were better financed, strong and growing businesses with new and bigger premises, more advanced technology and equipment, and the capacity to win contracts, innovate and create jobs. I love them all and welcome this opportunity to stand up for them, explain their value to the UK economy and our recovery, and above all fight for them to get paid quicker for jobs well done.
The supply chains depend on prompt payments so each link in the chain can keep on producing their vital goods and services and the firms contracting with them have goods to sell. The economy depends on small businesses to take risks, innovate and create jobs which they can’t do without being paid promptly. The big firms needs the smaller ones all along the supply chain to innovate, provide skills and experience and boost their bottom line.
I’ve met the team members of the SBC office on screen as a group. They are as passionate about small businesses as I am and have been working on every aspect of late payments including working with big businesses to support the smaller firms. Today is the day I meet them individually and hear about their experience, their ambitions and the huge amount of work they feel we need to get done in the next four years.
And I also want to talk to you. You can help with raising awareness of our work; with tools and technology that might help small firms to negotiate better payments terms and submit more accurate invoices; and with creating a prompt payment culture in the UK. We really are all in this together.