Who am I?
I’m small, but agile and innovative.
I have talent, can do any job required, and am ferociously bloody-minded.
I bounce back and drive forward.
I contribute to the economy, society, my community as well as seeing my family and friends right.
I am hugely significant but have no respect.
I’m a small business owner.
Did you guess right? Maybe not. Maybe the lack of respect point threw you off the scent.
Small is not insignificant. Collectively 5.6 million of us contribute 3 times as much to the economy as the UK’s medium sized firms and providing half of employment, half of growth and 75% of innovation. What not to love, cherish and nurture about that? Yet three very influential people have said to me individually and unprompted this week that small and micro business owners, sole traders and freelancers are not treated with the respect they deserve.
Unless you are one or run one, you have no idea what it takes to run a small business. So here’s my rant:
I’m not unemployable. I just don’t want to work for a creativity sapping, idea and morale crushing organisation or institution. I want the freedom to use my creativity and talent, and the flexibility to respond quickly to the needs of my customers while managing the rest of my life, and to pivot if circumstances such as a pandemic demand. And I most definitely am not trying to avoid/evade/pay less tax.
I’m the CEO, COO, CFO, CTO, CPO, CPO, head of marketing and sales, product development, stakeholder and customer engagement, customer service, I do the HR, H&S, invoicing, procurement, approvals, AP, logistics and make the tea and clean the loo etc, etc.
I do the job during the week to suit the customers’ working hours and run the business in the evenings and weekends. I do it because I love it. Can you do all of that? Would you know where to start? If you could, and would like to, get out there and do it because it’s wonderful. If not, then please treat me with the respect I deserve.
Respecting me and all the 5.6 million small and micro business owners that keep this country afloat means giving us the opportunity to speak and be heard, listening to and hearing and learning from our experiences, helping us assess and articulate our needs, putting that support in place (and its usually not money), giving us a role in setting up systems, processes, policies. Do things with us, not ‘for’ us without understanding us and our needs. And pay us the money we’re owed quickly, so we can keep up to date, upskill, retrain, invest in better technology or equipment, and deliver better products or services. If you pay us quickly, we pay our way, contribute more and have resilience and sustainability in the tough times. If you withhold our money we shrivel and die.