This year has seen one crisis after another adversely affect the lives and livelihoods of 5.2 million micro-business owners. I didn’t think life could get harder for all startups and micro-business owners than when 3 million were excluded from government income support during the pandemic, but it has.
Despite my best efforts with my “Be More Happipreneur” Shows and 30 years old “#Payin30Days or Less” and “Slash Unavoidable Business Costs” campaigns, we still face an uphill battle in getting those with big and regular monthly salaries, particularly in Government and the FTSE 100, to understand the benefits to their organisations, society, the environment, communities and country of supporting ALL enterprising people.
The good news is that we are a flexible and “resilient” bunch. Micro business owners cannot afford to complain, and three out of four of us say we are optimistic about our businesses in the future.
Many of us have now taken on employed jobs, side hustles and other new income streams to see us through the crises. The downside, as you’ll have seen in most towns, is many vacant premises. There is less investment, growth and innovation. More enterprises are failing or are shelved. We buy less stuff. Fewer people, particularly those over the age of twenty, are employed in our businesses.
Even the 70+ oldie happipreneurs like me are taking positive action. I’ve given up social media and my often over-enthusiastic tens of thousands of followers to free up a few more hours daily to earn my living.
None of our business?
Below, I’ve picked some issues contributing to these crises. The cumulative effect is that substantial money worries seriously affect 2 out of every 5 business owners’ mental health (two million people and their families).
4 million children are in poverty, and a major contributor to this awful statistic is the difficulty micro business owners, self-employed people, and freelancers have in now making ends meet through no fault of their own.
You didn’t join the Alliance to get involved with my or other Alliance members’ campaigns, but you’re very welcome to, and this blog gives you five more actions you and your network of micro-businesses could take to help all micro-business owners in England.
Our Alliance is Research-led
Two brilliant reports of micro business research have come out today from Fiverr and Micro Business Alliance member Simply Business (SB), and both show that delayed payment, loss of customers due to the cost of living and the crazy basic business costs, including utility costs, threaten lives and livelihoods.
Over half of all business owners, including freelancers, believe they are neither supported nor respected by the government, institutions and society.
A key role of the Micro Business Alliance is to gain this respect by showcasing our contribution to innovation, employment, the economy, high streets, the environment and local communities.
The average delayed payments owed to micro businesses is £5,000, which on an average £70,000 annual turnover, brings great uncertainty, anxiety, and stress. It strangles businesses. (SB). It often takes 3- 5 weeks EXTRA after complaining to get paid. It seems that people on monthly salaries will never understand that we, micro business owners have all our bills to pay monthly too.
Almost two-thirds of all business owners say that unfair payment terms, unfair payment practices and late customer payments are a problem for them. (SB and many others).
Nine out of ten women business owners say the government should do more to support them (SB).
Better and faster policymaking
Despite Ministers, Shadow Ministers and senior government officials from all the key departments being willing to meet with and work with the Micro Business Alliance, there is no sense of urgency to alleviate these crises.
We should be grateful that they realise the Alliance’s importance, meet with us and listen to us. It gives us hope that a policy which led to 3 million being excluded from income support during the pandemic can never happen again.
It won’t be in my lifetime, but the Alliance will eventually convince the policymakers that a few hundred of our biggest companies imposing 45 days to 120 days “take it or leave it payment terms” on their suppliers is a root cause of the cashflow crisis and unfair payment culture that kills micro businesses and strangles startups at birth.
#PayIn30Days or Less
Government can say to ALL companies that they will not contract with them, buy from them, fund (including furlough) them, license them (including planning permission), or bail them out unless they pay ALL their bills, ALL the time, within 30 days. The first step is to ask to see copies of all their payment terms in operation. Do not allow them to bid or tender for work or funds unless they #PayIn30Days or less ALL their bills ALL the time.
Of The PM Rishi Sunak’s new 14-person Business Council comprised of CEOs of major companies, half of them do NOT #PayIn30Days or less.
We’ve made a great start
This summer, the Alliance highlight for me and other steering group members was at Far North’s Micro Business Unite event when the HMRC Director for Small Business bravely conducted a Q&A with the theatre’s packed audience of micro-business owners. Many in Government and the Opposition are listening to us.
However, the steering group of the Alliance led by Ian Cass really do need Alliance members to get involved to show to the Government and the most powerful and largest companies in England that we share a common purpose and are determined to make life better for the micro business owners we are engaged with as customers, suppliers, colleagues and members.
Here are 5 new issues and actions in which you may wish to get involved:
1.The Online Marketplace/Platforms Crisis. Ask your network to sign the Etsy petition
Lately, the biggest online selling platforms (e.g. Amazon) have introduced policies that increase their profits but make it harder for micro businesses to make ends meet.
On average, platforms reserve 3-10% for sellers with good track records and reviews. Etsy now withholds 75% of the sale for 45 days or until tracking details have been added. The 25% sellers are receiving is struggling even to cover the basics such as packaging and postage, that’s before you consider stock, utility bills, wages, and so much more, including paying their suppliers and freelancers they work with. Sky News and others have covered the story. The serious debt and grief this is causing is massive. You’ll notice that every complainant uses an assumed name. Such is the power of online platforms to remove an account instantly. You can ask your micro business owner contacts to sign the petition HERE
2. The Cashflow Crisis. Show your network that the Alliance prioritises eradicating unfair payment terms and practices and asks the Government to use its influence to ensure #PayIn30Days or less of all bills all the time.
Non-payment, for many reasons, is a big problem too. Monthly I get emails from desperate micro business owners.
This last week one of the businesses I chair will lose £50,000 (half of which has been owed for 6 months), and the 45 micro business owners involved in the business support programme we deliver on behalf of the LEP/DWP, will only have received half of the programme they signed up to. Why? The main contractor to the LEP for this DWP-funded programme has gone into administration.
It is worse for one of our partner companies. Like our business, they are long-established and will close, leaving the owner in serious debt, and her 5 staff will be made redundant.
As usual, DWP and the LEP have washed their hands of us as micro business sub-contractors and all our micro business owner clients too. As with the Etsy case above, the Small Business Commissioner’s Office has no remit to help us
3. The Discrimination Crisis. Help us make the Micro Business Alliance research and annual census the “go-to” resource for all policymakers, MPs, think tanks, media and influencers.
We plan to launch an Annual Census of Micro Business Owners at our Annual Review event on March 22nd 2024. Hull City Council has offered us their research team, free of charge, to set up the survey.
We hope that Alliance members will get their micro-business owner network to complete the survey online.
Like the aforementioned Simply Business survey, we aim to get over 1000 respondents to make the survey/annual census influential.
Please let me know at email@example.com of any questions you would like to be included in the survey/census.
Also, please let me know of any recent micro-business research studies your organisation has conducted and how we can quote from and credit your organisation in our final report.
4. The “Understanding Enterprising People” Crisis
Book it before I snuff it. The entertaining “Be More Happipreneur” Show, in collaboration with Yorkshire in Business, is still touring, is tailored to every audience, and includes Alliance Steering Group members on the Q&A panel. Details at https://tonyrobinsonobe.com
5. The Respect and Unity Crisis. Sign up for the first Micro Business Alliance annual review lunch on March 22nd, 2024; help us to get the national media there and KEEP RECRUITING Alliance members – it’s ALL free.
The Micro Business Alliance Annual Review and Lunch, followed by a young entrepreneurs event, takes place at The Happipreneur Festival in Scarborough at 12.30 on March 22nd, 2024. The lunch and event are free to Alliance members, thanks to the sponsorship of Hull City Council, Yorkshire in Business and the John Cracknell Youth Enterprise Bank.
Ian Cass, Chair and Leader of the Alliance and Liz Barclay, Small Business Commissioner, will speak, and the whole Steering Group will attend to answer your questions.
Please let us know if you intend to be there and why not sponsor or attend the whole two-day and two nights festival (tickets £99) – bring your team or sponsor a micro business owner customer or supplier. Details at: https://happipreneur.co.uk
Thank you – have a great summer. Tony