I was very honored to be invited to represent the 4.7 million UK small businesses at a government round table discussion about the Civil
Society Strategy. Whilst it was an incredibly empowering day, it was also a stark reminder of attitudes towards small businesses and how we have a long road to travel together.
What was it all about?
Many organisation, the government included, are awakening to the importance of different stakeholders make a positive impact on society. In a world where technology has broadened but not deepened relationships the need to proactively engage in local communities has never been greater. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport want to facilitate a strategy to create an environment where businesses, charities, youth organisations, social enterprises and citizens come together for the greater good of our society. At the meeting there were a range of these different stakeholders. We discussed the responsibility of business, finance issues as well as the framework for partnerships.
Perspective of the small business.
There were some fantastic conversations and case studies about how so many different stakeholders were making a positive impact in society, however one strain of conversation exposed a brutal reality to me. The feeling of the room was that “SMEs don’t get it”. Specifically, several of the big corporate clients, who are leading some fantastic initiatives, felt that small businesses were on the back foot when it came to appreciating the benefit that ‘doing good’ can have on their business.
Guiding small businesses to grow through social good has been my life’s work for the last few years and this was a stark reminder of how there is still a long way to go. However, for me, the small business is one of the most exciting places to create this sort of change. There are huge advantages for small businesses creating a positive impact. Whilst we may not have the resources and large funds that our big corporate compatriots have, we have other advantages they don’t.
We, the small business owners, have ingenuity, nimbleness and proximity on our side:
How Small Businesses can make an impact?
Small business owners are not going to be able to match the vast financial resources of the big corporates or highly funded charities. However, we can use our businesses to be the actual vehicles for change and in doing so create more engaging, successful and profitable enterprises.
Many small business owners are awakening to the fact that customers no longer want just good products or services. They want good feelings. They want to feel part of something greater than themselves and feel like they are making a difference in the world that they are electronically connected to but often feel unable to access. Using our businesses to do good we are allowing our customers to not just make a purchase but to feel like they are actually making a difference. This can create a serious commercial advantage.
Creating a story for our businesses about ethical supply chains, impactful recruitment strategies, responsible consumption and fresh engaging ideas that make a difference to the world will always stand out in our noisy market place. It is these strategies that not only do good but also attract loyal engaged customers and dedicated staff.
The best stories that I hear about businesses making a positive impact nearly always come from SMEs whose founders make the decision to do something great and integrate that as value in their supply chain or product offering. So, whilst we might not be able to fund a new social initiative we can create a big impact. With small businesses accounting for 99.3% of private sector enterprises we are a huge dynamic force.
The government will continue to develop their strategy to encourage more stakeholders to pull together and make a positive impact. Many charities and community organisations will do more great work. Large corporates will continue to lead and fund progressive projects. I hope that small businesses will continue to embrace a social good agenda for the benefits of society and their businesses. I also hope that together with all the other stakeholders we can continue to work together, just like we did at this meeting, to create more partnerships for everyone’s benefit.
Inspired to increase the success of your small business for good? Three actions you can take right now: