Accompanied by 4N member and media consultant Fiona Scott, we had a fruitful meeting with Paul Uppal, the Small Business Commissioner, who was pleased we’d made the effort and persevered to meet him face to face to introduce 4N to him.
He is keen to engage with us as a network and suggested he could do this in several ways. We are equally keen to act quickly to ensure he sees we are serious about engaging at the highest level with those who make decisions around SMEs in the UK.
Firstly Paul wanted to highlight his role for SMEs. His remit is to ensure fair payment practices for the UK’s 5.7 million small businesses through education, general advice and, in certain circumstances, to negotiate on their behalf with bigger businesses who are not paying their outstanding invoices in a timely manner.
Paul did run a business himself for 20 years so he’s fully aware of the devastation, stress and worry which can be caused when big ‘names’ don’t pay their smaller suppliers quickly. He seeks to educate bigger businesses where invoices can get lost in their structure and procedures and that the delays around non-payment have a personal cost down the supply chain.
This advocacy service, supplied by Paul and his team, is free of charge and there are some restrictions around what he can do.
It became clear Paul has had success during his first year of office, though he cannot often shout about it as most companies he advocates for often don’t want everyone to know they’ve had issues of this kind.
However his role is challenging because there needs to be a complete change of culture in the way bigger companies do business with smaller companies. His aim is, over time, to make those bigger names understand the impact of their delays and act more ethically with small suppliers.
Paul, or a member of his team, is keen to circulate articles from time to time to the 4N community and we hope you’ll all engage with those when they appear.
He’s also asked if we can take part within the membership in any surveys – or wider business surveys he’s aware of in government - where 4N members could have input. We talked specifically about an embargo'd survey around a 'traffic light' system for small businesses and we’ll be sending out the link for that shortly.
One survey being conducted now is here around late payments.
It is available at: https://beisgovuk.citizenspace.com/ccp/responsible-payment-culture-cfe
This feedback is really important as it will help shape and inform policy and legislation.
The closing date for responses is 29 November 2018, BEIS encourage responses to be made via the link attached, alternatively email responses should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and written responses to:
Responsible Payment Culture CfE SME Growth Team The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, 1 Victoria Street, London, SW1H 0ET
Paul and his team are also interested in receiving results from any surveys we are conducting among our membership. He’s already seen a copy of our Year On from Brexit survey and it's likely we will do another one given that Date Brexit will soon be upon us. We've yet to frame the terms for this – so any meaningful suggestions would be helpful.
We are also considering inviting Paul to be a speaker at our larger events such as one of our AcceLerate conferences or our inaugural Christmas event in 2019, likely to be an awards event and likely to be in the Midlands.
We hope you will all see this as a positive step by 4Networking to be seen as a credible network to those in elected office so that, over time, we are consulted on SME issues as a matter of course.