In the UK, running a small business and being your own boss is one of the most challenging yet satisfying things you can choose to do. The UK now has a record 5.5 million smaller businesses and self-employed, but rate of growth for their business has started to slow.
Our country’s prosperity in 2017 will be founded on the success of our small businesses. In turn, that success rests upon all of us truly creating a new entrepreneurial culture. This means the whole of society – Government and business, customers and employees, public and private sectors – all choosing to support smaller businesses and the self-employed. Politicians need to pursue policies that make it not just easier to set up a business, but also to run it, putting small businesses at the very heart of policymaking. Teachers need to include running a smaller business as a viable option within careers advice. Customers need to spend more of their money with innovative local businesses, supporting their local communities, rather than with distant multinational brands.
The UK’s decision to leave the European Union and the resulting change of Government in 2016 did create a huge amount of uncertainty, but new Ministers from the Prime Minister down have been listening to our concerns and suggestions, as has the Opposition. Brexit will bring opportunities and risks for our members, and the strategy adopted in the upcoming negotiations must manage those risks, whilst accelerating the opportunities it provides. FSB’s research and policy programme will conclude in the coming months to inform that process.
FSB is growing its offering to members, and those aspiring to start their own business. In 2017, we want to directly assist those looking to start a new business with a package of benefits specifically designed for pre start-ups. Our aim is to reduce the risks of setting up on your own and increase the proportion of new businesses to help them to thrive. As an organisation, we also need to constantly respond to the new challenges that all smaller businesses face. With most now potentially at risk of cyber attacks, we are widening our core offering to introduce comprehensive protection and advice, an area where small and micro businesses are under served. This both encourages better preparation and a rapid response to those targeted.
It’s been our responsibility, since FSB was set up in 1974, to shine a light on the challenges that the self-employed face. We are in effect the trade union for the self-employed, and we champion their interests in everything that we do. We’re proud of our roots and our ambition, but we must also ensure we are ready for what comes next. FSB has already begun a modernisation programme to ensure we are also fit for the future. In the last 40 years, our region and branch structure has grown and developed. It has served us well, but remains largely unchanged despite the world of business being transformed. The aim is to ensure we give greater support to members locally on the ground.
FSB is funded by members, for members – and they set our strategy and participate fully in our work at every stage. In late 2016, FSB’s Board invited all members to take part in a survey in order to hear their views on our plans for change. We are taking that feedback and using it to inform our decision making as we work to look at our structure and set the right course for the next few decades.
This has been my first year as National Chairman. I want to thank all our members and staff in the success of our great organisation. As we look to the coming 12 months, I along with the Board will ensure that FSB is here to support you both in your business, and in helping to get your views heard by policy makers at the highest level.