Foreword and Reports

Foreword from the National Chairman, Mike Cherry OBE

FSB’s history is rooted in small business owners coming together and supporting one another. During a year of great difficulty, uncertainty and change, that collective effort proved itself more important than ever. It is what FSB was set up to do and has proven so crucial during this time of crisis.

This has been a tumultuous year for FSB and its members, including a UK General Election, entering the transition period with the EU, and the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I was delighted to be able to attend FSB’s Volunteer Conference early in 2020. Our network of dedicated volunteers work hard to represent FSB at local, regional and national level supporting members and small businesses across the UK.

As the coronavirus emergency began to develop, being a member of FSB came into its own. The Federation stepped up with a raft of member support, communicated through our ‘COVID-19: Supporting Small Businesses’ campaign.

An extensive online hub was created. Members were offered help with business continuity planning, given details of the various government support schemes, and provided with resources to support mental health and wellbeing, including access to our health line FSB Care, and it was heartening to see everyone coming together, giving support where needed.

Live Q&A webinars with expert panels were provided to answer an array of questions from members and the wider small business community. At a local and regional level, a huge volume of virtual events were arranged to add to the support available.

FSB led the way in making the needs of small businesses and the self-employed known at the highest levels of government. We successfully lobbied for support schemes including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, grants, emergency loans and business rates reliefs.

The pandemic did not stop the clock ticking towards the end of the UK’s transition period, and FSB stepped up its calls for a pro-small business deal with the EU. Meanwhile, following intensive FSB campaigning, the Government negotiated its first Small Business Chapter in a new Free Trade Agreement with Japan.

Domestically, the late payments issue became all the more acute as coronavirus wreaked its effect on the economy and cashflow. We continued to push for change both at government  level and with the interim Small Business Commissioner.   

FSB’s partnership with X-Forces Enterprise stepped up a gear this year. We are encouraging military service leavers to start their own businesses, as well as helping employers to take on service leavers and reservists, who can provide a valuable extra resource. 

This year, the Government adopted our recommendation for a one-year employer National Insurance holiday for those who take on a service leaver. This tax cut will reduce unemployment, help those who have served our country and unleash their potential. Ren Kapur, our volunteer Armed Forces Champion, has now also set  up a regional network of volunteers.

Report from Melanie Ulyatt, National Vice Chair - Internal Affairs

During this extraordinary year FSB has worked tirelessly to be there for not only FSB members, but also the wider small business community.

In late 2019 FSB launched its new look website which featured campaigning at its core and in February 2020, initially to help prepare members’ resilience, and then in response to the demand for accurate information, FSB launched the Coronavirus COVID-19 online hub, the first of its kind in the UK.

The hub was visited by around 750,000 businesses in the first month after launch and by over one million by the three-month mark; it has continued to be the go-to destination for small businesses requiring trusted advice and guidance. It has included everything from clarity on the latest governments’ announcements, advice on business continuity planning and customer communications to mental and physical health resources and suggestions about how to embrace digital to help businesses survive and thrive.

The FSB Legal Helpline received a record number of calls (150,000) over the latter part of the year as so many business owners had to grapple with the legal implications of the pandemic. It’s important to note that the Legal Helpline has supported FSB members, literally 24/7 throughout the crisis. Just short of 50,000 calls were also answered by FSB’s contact centre.

FSB was also quick to switch to the delivery of virtual events and networking with coverage doubling to over 1,300 online events taking place from March to September, benefitting more than 30,000 attendees.

It’s a credit to both staff and volunteers that their flexible approach, hard work and dedication has resulted for the third successive year in the generation of a surplus.

Income from subscriptions and joining fees remains FSB’s most significant source of revenue and has benefitted from strong retention levels, resulting from the group’s ongoing focus on the quality of its offering and service to members.

Administrative expenses reduced slightly in the year as the organisation has continued to ensure cost efficiency within its operations, whilst increasing investment in the development of the business.

FSB’s balance sheet is strong and the group remained cash generative during the year. This positions the organisation well to progress its ambitious business plan.

As COP26 approaches, FSB has reinforced its commitment to a net zero UK by 2050 by championing zero carbon initiatives by members and by leveraging our proposed principles-led approach to Government.

Operationally, we’ve continued to make changes towards realising our ambition of being ‘digital by default’,increasingly becoming a paperless organisation. For the first-time, this year, we launched a fully digitised version of First Voice magazine as an alternative to the printed edition. We carried out a plastics audit across all offices and took decisive steps to abolish single-use plastic.

We’ve also stopped, or significantly reduced the printing and mailing of documents and other materials, further reducing our carbon footprint. We reduced the number of printers at our offices by 50 per cent, recycling all  obsolete technology we are able to, in line with environmental legislation and rules, and data security.

Report from Martin McTague, National Vice Chair - Policy and Advocacy

FSB was originally created as the voice of small businesses and the self-employed to those in power. In this tumultuous year, if FSB did not exist, someone would have had to create us.

The 2019-20 year began with FSB securing a high profile at the autumn UK party conferences. These were followed by a gridlocked House of Commons that could not agree a path forward on ‘Brexit’, leading to a surprise, unscheduled UK General Election.

FSB influenced each major party’s manifesto, launching our plan of policy proposals and hosting the only election event that year that saw the three potential new chancellors debating our ideas. A new Conservative Government was victorious; the first significant one-party majority government elected since 2005. Its new mandate included many of FSB’s proposals, not least the expansion of the Employment Allowance for small business, and a pledge for a NICS holiday for employing veterans. Crucially, the election resolved the outstanding fundamental on the UK’s exit from the EU – it would now happen in January 2020.

FSB approached Spring Budget 2020 as the moment to achieve the promises made to us in the election, pressing the UK Government not to postpone or sidestep – and they were duly delivered by the new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak. However, the Budget also became the first support package connected to SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19); a killer virus that had begun to impact the UK.

Throughout, we adopted three principles to fight for COVID-19financial support schemes for our community – they had to be as generous as possible, help as many small businesses and self-employed as possible, and be as swift as possible. Huge and unprecedented flagship UK-wide schemes we secured included the Coronavirus Job Retention (furlough) Scheme, the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), and Emergency Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans (CBILS) and Bounce Back Loans of £50,000.These were backed by deferrals for VAT and self-assessment, extra help in Universal Credit for the self-employed and a rebate to small employers for Statutory Sick Pay. In England, lifeline Small Business Cash Grants of £10,000 and £25,000 were sent backwards through the business rates system, leading to funding equivalents in the devolved nations that FSB Scotland, FSB Wales and FSB Northern Ireland tailored to their small business communities.

Millions were helped, but despite our best efforts, the government chose to deliberately cut out of income support groups such as company directors, the newly self-employed and those who earned over £50,000 or had less than 50 per cent of earnings from self-employment. We campaigned for these, trying to find new solutions. That quest continues into the financial year 2020-21.

Other areas of policy work continued through the year, often with a COVID-19 focus after March 2020. Policy reports on broadband, late payments, digital trade, business crime and ethnic minority businesses were well received across government, parliament and our community.

Having a UK General Election as well as leaving the European Union would be a lot for any year. However, COVID-19 transformed it. I am proud of FSB’s lobbying efforts from volunteers and staff at UK, national, regional and local level, which secured over £100bn of support going in to the small business and self-employed community that we represent.

In difficult times, FSB has come into its own for our members and the broader community. Our lessons learned will make us even better for the future.

Martin McTague
Chairman, Policy & Advocacy, FSB

Report from Julie Lilley, Chief Executive

None of this would have been possible without the unparalleled dedication, loyalty and huge expertise of FSB’s team of professional staff

The second half of this financial year, as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world, the resilience of our organisation was tested in ways that none of us would have ever been able to imagine before. In my report of last year (2018-19), I said that our members needed more support than ever. In 2020, that need stepped up several gears, and then some more.

Not only was the immediate survival of the UK’s economy, small business and self-employed community at risk, so too was the health, lives and livelihoods of our members, their employees and customers as well as our staff and loved ones. 

Having already developed a robust business continuity plan, the organisation was well equipped to react quickly, adapting to the fast changing situation and transition into a new working environment seamlessly.

Despite the significant challenges being faced by businesses and organisations everywhere, I felt certain that if our organisation pulled together, worked strategically and imaginatively as a tightknit team, we might just be able to weather the storm.

The resilience and expertise of our staff team enabled us to support our members in a variety of ways, through making sure their voice was heard and acted upon at the highest levels of government and through quickly developing and delivering a public relations and communications strategy and campaign. We created secondto-none social media and national and regional media coverage.

FSB was created over 46 years ago to support small businesses by having a strong voice that would be heard at the very heart of government and that remains so, more than ever today. As a result of our work during this year, our brand has never been so warmly received by its multitude of audiences.

Through the pandemic we built on our work to develop a crucial role in communities and part of our COVID-19 Supporting Small Businesses campaign underlined this, communicating how they were being part of the solution to the national emergency – from switching production lines to make personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators, to supporting the vulnerable and key workers in their communities.

A key aspect of the campaign was to facilitate member-to-member support, and we launched a new Facebook group in February which has been a lifeline to many of our members.

We also delivered a huge advertising campaign, part-funded by the generous support of JPMorgan Chase. Through this support, we delivered 1,300 online support events, open to all small businesses and attended by 30,000 people, by the end of September.

We negotiated with the government and the industry body for commercial radio for FSB to advertise on local radio across the UK for the very first time, reaching out in a new way to express support for the small business and self-employed community we represent. With Ocean Outdoor we launched a digital out-of-home (DOOH) PR campaign, lighting up our visual brand identity and creating ‘buzz’ on screens at prime locations across the UK. We partnered with Mail Metro Media to facilitate its generous offer of more than £5m of free advertising for around 1,600 small businesses.

The commercial impact of the disease on small businesses, the humanimpact on their owners and the fastpaced nature of the emerging policy decisions required our contact centre and field teams to be exemplary in their approach.

With lockdown taking effect, our contact centre not only had to manage a huge volume of calls and enquiries, but do so while staff had to switch to working from home, like so many other businesses. Enhanced communication across the department through new messaging technology was key as we endeavoured to answer complex questions from our members and essentially bridge knowledge gaps between them and government guidance, whilst directing to appropriate support from banks, councils and local support.

Knowledge management excellence was vital given the high volume, short notice and complexity of the government guidance so we engaged a new cutting-edge system and worked with organisations, such as Shopify in Canada, to establish best practice.

We enhanced our call tracking and insight approaches to ensure we were close to the nature of member contacts and fed this directly into central government; vital to policy development.

We collated case-studies from across the organisation which directly fed into our public affairs teams across the UK, lobbying for further government support. And, we utilised our field teams to engage in person with local authorities and big banks to intervene where they were not delivering the required level of service for our members.

Small businesses need our help more than ever and I’d like to express my personal gratitude to everyone within our staff teams for stepping up, going above and beyond and making FSB not only survive, but thrive, as the best membership organisation for the self-employed and small businesses against the most terrible of odds.

Many in the team have worked tirelessly, strategically and expertly; going far above and beyond what would normally be expected. They have done so with grace, compassion and sensitivity. I feel proud that through the crisis, FSB’s members had the backing of some of the best, dedicated professional expertise in the UK.

Back to Business: FSB General Election Manifesto 2019

The focus of the first half of the financial year had been on delivering the Back to Business: FSB’s General Election 2019 Manifesto and related campaign to successfully influence the UK’s political parties to adopt key FSB policy recommendations in their own manifestos.


COVID-19: Supporting Small Businesses and the Self-Employed

The members' stories: 

Being a member of FSB helped my business enormously through this crisis. It’s a fantastic organisation to be a part of, from the services I canaccess through my membership to the un-wavering support offered by the FSBstaff and working with other members. I feel like I belong. It’s been crucial to thebusiness’s survival during the pandemic.

 Daryl Chambers - InPower Academy

Without FSB’s assistance and guidance, our business, and many others in the sector, would have faced a very uncertain future. Now, with the financial support we’ve received, we feel that when we’re able to open up, we’ll have a fighting chance to continue to serve families in our community. I can’t overstate how important the help from FSB has been to us; it’s effectively given us a lifeline.

 Steve and Tracey James - Kingdom Come Play Centre

I was really impressed with the FSB events; everyone is welcomed and at ease. They’ve helped us all keep connecting, and supporting each other at a very uncertain time.

 Steve Gill - LemonTop

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