By Malcolm Williamson, Commercial and Enterprise Director
I was interested to read the FT last week and the story ‘Debate rages over genuine voice of British business.’ The author was seemingly suggesting that the UK needed a single voice for business, one authoritarian narrator to speak to the rest of the world about our business interests.
This puzzled me. Business leaders increasingly look to diversify to ensure they capture all the value embedded in their organisations, so why would we want to try and squeeze all the different voices of business in the UK to just one voice?
The value of numerous voices is that it ensures the many facets of business can be represented and heard. Large multi-national corporations have different priorities to that of a sole trader; whilst the larger business might be looking to influence the EU or the World Trade Organisation on international market regulation, the sole trader might want to lobby their local MP on parking restrictions near their business. One voice cannot address these very different yet relevant issues.
Where Britain could benefit from one voice in business is a joined up strategic approach to communicating where business advice and support can be found. Business support in this country can be confusing and fragmented, to say the least. There are a myriad of cross sector groups, membership organisations, local Chambers of Commerce, LEPs (Local Enterprise Partnerships), Growth Hubs and informal networks amongst many others that service the British business community, all of which offer valuable but very different services that, all too frequently, are not truly connected for the benefit of the business recipient. In addition there are also a number of private sector organisations and consultants offering business advice to small businesses directly. These many voices, whilst reflecting a diverse picture of the business landscape, externally can sometimes muddy the waters for British Business owners trying to navigate and source the right support to meet their diverse needs. It is in providing clear direction and a simplified, connected access to a broad spectrum of support to help Britain’s busy business owners to find the support they need, that a unified single voice would add most value.