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Why Small Businesses matter...

View profile for Andrew Ashley-Edwards
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Business law specialist Andrew Ashley-Edwards shares his thoughts on his long running affection for the nation’s small businesses.

There is no disguising the general decline of the Great British high street in the 21st century and it is regularly featured in news and articles alike.  Small businesses do not start and end with the high street however.  They run through the fabric of our society and have vital importance to our every day lives that we often fail to recognise.

This is not intended to be a ‘facts and figures’ article but it is worth noting that the accepted definition of a small or medium business (SME) is one that employees less than 250 employees.  Surprisingly perhaps, more than 99% of all businesses in the UK fall into this category.

You can probably quite easily name a handful of large businesses that are an obvious feature of everyday life but in the majority of cases there will be a multitude of small businesses without which the larger companies could not exist.  Take for example any well known large high street retailer.  To exist they need to be supplied with stock which has been manufactured, packaged, stored and delivered usually by a number of small businesses.  Their premises are probably maintained, cleaned and repaired by other small businesses.  They may use external businesses for web design, hosting, telecoms, public relations and advertising.  I am sure you get the idea!

Almost 50% of the UK workforce is employed by small and medium businesses, with more than 30% of all employees working for businesses that employ less than 10 people.  That means approximately half of the working people you know will work for an SME.

Clearly without small and medium businesses the country would have a major problem!

Some of the country’s most driven, enthusiastic and creative people have taken the path to small business ownership.  For most, it would have involved many risks, tough weeks and months where profit was a distant dream and personal hardship to get the business up and running and then sustain it through difficult economic and trading conditions.

Sadly, many small businesses fail but the individuals behind them often return with new and better ideas and approaches making a competitive and diverse business community in the UK. 

Owners of these businesses are faced with ever changing regulation, taxation and customer expectations.  That is to say nothing of 10 years of economic instability, tough lending conditions and then the uncertainty about the future following the country’s planned departure from the European Union.

We have already seen how uninspiring and repetitive the UK high street can be without small businesses, as one town transforms into a mirror image of the next.  It is essential to keep going, support small businesses and find ways to keep ahead of the challenges facing us.

So from one SME to another – keep up the good work!

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