EOW Reflections: The Post Office

We’re stronger together. If there was one message that came through loud and clear from the TV drama on the Post Office this week, it’s that, if you can all get together your voice is much more likely to be heard.

I know I can be a nag, but I have been saying to small businesses and the organisations that represent them, for about 3 decades now, you need to combine forces when occasion demands, set aside your own priorities sometimes, and get behind the next ‘big cause’ to give yourselves a chance of being heard. Small is not insignificant but when a small business is alone the danger is it becomes isolated, perceived as a troublemaker, an outlier. As soon as there’s a credible cohort the red flags start to go up. Collectively small businesses can be very strong.

One MP in the TV drama talked to one sub-post mistress who told him she’d been accused of taking money when she hadn’t. He said ‘I’ve got two more cases like this in my constituency’. Suddenly there were three, the penny dropped, and the MP saw the light. 3 together are much more powerful than three individuals. When a lawyer heard about the plight of the sub-post masters, and came forward offering help, he asked Alan Bates to get a cohort of 550 together to build the strongest possible case.  That was a pivotal moment. There’s strength in numbers.

There are all sorts of issues that small businesses are currently grappling with, with bigger, stronger, louder customers. Issues with retail, ecommerce and payments platforms started to emerge last summer. People were having money withheld. If the money isn’t flowing in from sales, small firms can’t produce the goods to fulfil the next orders and quickly go out of business. Individuals trying to push for change can find themselves ignored. 550 of them are more likely to be heard. In the US there’s a class action being prepared against one of the big retail platforms for holding sellers’ money in reserve. We’ll be watching with interest. Collectively those small businesses will have the strength to achieve their goal and create change.

You are rarely the only person, entity, small business being harmed by poor behaviour. If someone says ‘you’re the only one’ don’t take that at face value. Look for others on online and social media groups, put out feelers, ask any network or business group you’re a member of. Get people gathered on an online chat if not in-person and talk about your experiences. If there’s a number of people, all experiencing similar harms there’s something causing that harm. The more people talking about it the more chance that others will listen. The more people listening the better chance someone with power to make change will hear and act. Get together. Everyone will have useful ideas and contacts who can help to come up with next steps.

Resolution may take time. The Post Office scandal has been rumbling for 20 years so far. But the resolution being proposed now wasn’t dreamt of until people got together, were brave enough to talk to others about their experiences, realised they weren’t the only one and took the strength from each other to act. We’re stronger together.