It’s not often that the Queen impacts my business (much as I’ve tried pitching to HRH on the benefits of good PR.)
But the Queen’s Speech last week could really have a huge positive effect for small businesses owners.
The bane of every SME is chasing the bills. It’s part of the routine. You make allowances, especially when it’s another small business that’s struggling to make ends meet. A week or two goes by, that’s OK. Three, four weeks, I’m starting to get edgy. Over a month and I’m on the phone. But what then?
I waited patiently for six months for one client to pay. They never did. We ended up in the small claims court. It’s a huge gamble. The cost amounts to several hundred pounds when you take into account lost time and the fees to the court.
But when it’s a big business failing to pay up, the odds weigh even less in favour of the small entrepreneur. The chances are they’ll have a legal brief, meaning you need to have one too. Both solicitors will be content to drag out the proceedings as they collect their hourly fee – leaving you to foot the bill as your business is neglected. Lose the case and your business is in the gutter.
So, it was music to my ears to hear Queenie speaking up for us. The landmark introduction of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill could be a very significant piece of legislation. It’s the first time a law has been designed specifically to address the needs of small businesses.
The proposed legislation addresses directly the issue of late payments and the serious cashflow problems caused for businesses. It also seeks to reduce the impact of costly and burdensome regulation on small firms.
The package of measures is designed to create a fairer marketplace and improve the general operating environment for small businesses. It tackles issues around prompt payment, access to finance, employment law and procurement. And it’s fairly specific – for publicans there’s a section on rent increases demanded by large breweries and changes to beer prices.
The highlight is strengthening the Prompt Payment Code and forcing larger businesses to publish their payment terms to increase transparency on the ethical treatment of small suppliers.
The Small Business Bill will be published on June 16, followed by a Second Reading, Committee and Report Stages and Third Reading of the Bill in the Commons before it reaches the Lords and completes its passage through both Houses by March 2015, in time for the General Election.