At the SFA Annual Conference 2018, the SFA officially launched its campaign for a national Small Business Strategy.
Launching the campaign, Sue O’Neill, SFA Chair, stated: “Small business has a lot to be proud of but, in contrast with the multinational sector, the small business sector is not performing at its optimal level in many areas. This is clear whether we look at the rate of start-ups, success in scaling our businesses, productivity and exporting… Changing government policy step-by-step has got the small business sector to where it is today. There are many State supports for small firms but, from an owner-manager’s perspective, they are fragmented, confusing and inconsistent. There are many individual success stories, such as those being showcased at today’s conference, but also many tales of struggling businesses. One thing is certain: the potential of the sector has not been realised. That is why the focus should now be on creating a leap forward for small businesses.”
Conference delegates received two new publications, the start of the SFA’s Small Business Strategy campaign series. The first sets out the scale and impact of small business in Ireland, which is enormous. The second document explains why a Small Business Strategy can harness entrepreneurship to create the next leap forward for the Irish economy.
Delegates were encouraged to read the materials and to support the campaign by raising it with their local representatives and spreading the message with the hashtag #smallbizstrategy.
Sue’s speech went on to outline eight key considerations for government when developing the Small Business Strategy:
1. The strategy should be a common vision with whole-of-government buy-in. It should not be confined to the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, although that department will, no doubt, have an important role to play.
2. Public awareness and acceptance of the strategy is essential. The man on the street could tell us the broad strokes of Ireland’s FDI strategy – this is where we should try to get to with the Small Business Strategy also.
3. The strategy should support all small business. No business owner should feel alienated or that they are not in the ‘right’ sector on the ‘right’ trajectory. An Ireland that is truly open for business must encompass firms of all sizes, sectors and levels of ambition.
4. The strategy should provide coherence and consistency. It should ensure that all policies and schemes are aligned and that there are no contradictions in the government’s approach to small business. Equally, it must guard against mismatches between rhetoric and practice.
5. In the same vein, a business-friendly approach must be instilled in public officials across the apparatus of the state. Entrepreneurs should expect to find a positive, business-friendly and customer-centric attitude when dealing with officials from the Local Enterprise Offices to Revenue and from the CRO to Welfare.
6. The key policy areas to be addressed are: tax, the cost of doing business, regulatory burden, suitability of business supports and enhancing spillovers from multinationals to indigenous firms.
7. The strategy should be seized as an opportunity for a new approach to communicating with small businesses. This is an area where there is nowhere near enough focus at the moment. It leads to good support schemes being undersubscribed and a feeling that decisions are being thrust upon businesses.
8. All other decisions affecting small business should be informed by the strategy. This means that when important decisions are being made, whether about the future of pensions, the funding of higher and further education or the response to Brexit, the Small Business Strategy will give the principles on which the decisions are taken.