EOW Reflections: Above and beyond

Everything that’s great about the UK’s small and micro businesses was on show this week. On Thursday the Small Business Britain Small Awards showcased category winners and shortlisted businesses that are all going above and beyond, delivering on purpose not just pursuing profit. Their contribution to the UK Economy and wider society as well as their local communities is phenomenal. We need to value this social contribution better.

It’s not just ‘the economy’ any longer. Propelling the UK forward as the place to do business is about much more. It’s the planet and its people. Small and micro business owners recognise that. They live in families and communities, they understand the needs of those people and they are getting on with making a difference. They are thinking about cutting carbon emissions and achieving net zero. They are reaching out to people in vulnerable circumstances and creating suitable jobs and opportunities. They are innovating and collaborating. If there isn’t a network where they can share ideas and best practice, they’re creating a hub. If there isn’t a platform where people in vulnerable circumstances can sell their goods or services, they are creating those platforms.

Everything that’s best about purpose driven people was on display on Thursday and reminds us that even when times are tough and unstable small and micro businesses are determined, tenacious, resilient, talented and making a difference. They are creating and driving social value.

On Wednesday at the Social Value Conference the talk was about the impact of social value given that The Procurement Act normalises Social Value in public procurement. Social Value is important, urgent and here to stay. It may start with procurement, but the conversation moved on to how to build a ‘Social Value Economy’. That goes well beyond public procurement. Everyone has a role to play. Small and micro businesses are already doing it even if they don’t see and recognise it as such and see it as business as usual rather than something that’s putting purpose before profit.

How can social value be measured better and celebrated so that others feel inspired and motivated to contribute to the Social Value Economy. It’s no longer just about the contribution firms make to the finances of the UK. It’s also about the contribution firms, no matter how small the firm or the contribution, make to the fabric of the UK.

This does all tie in with the environment but it’s really about people as well as planet. We need to get both right or we’re stuffed. How does it work in your business? Who is responsible for your social value? How do you measure it? There’s no one size fits all and it’s about thinking of standards to aspire to rather than doing what everyone else is doing. Is everyone involved and does everyone have a voice, because everyone will have ideas and those ideas will be as diverse as the people being heard and respected around the table.

For me, you won’t be surprised to hear, payments have a big part to play in driving firms of all sizes to create social value. If I get paid quicker and on time, I have the certainty to manage my cashflow, I am much more likely to invest in the social aspects of what we do rather than just struggling with delivering my core offering. I am more likely to think about the needs of the community, I operate my business in and think about creating opportunities for people in vulnerable circumstances, or creating jobs or sponsoring local projects for good, or allowing people to volunteer in work time. There are myriad ways to create social value, but I won’t look up and see them unless I feel the business is on a firm footing. If you want to help me create social value, and bask in some reflected glory for your own business, pay me quickly and fairly. Together we can help make a significant contribution to a better fabric for the UK.