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On Saturday, 7th December, businesses, local authorities and business organisations across the UK celebrated ‘Small Business Saturday.’ Originally developed in America, the idea of having a special day in which to raise the profile of small businesses has proved so successful that it is hoped that UK businesses will have receive a similar boost from the day.
As the definition of a small business is one turning over less than £10m per year, substantial numbers of British businesses were able to use this celebration of small business to boost their profile. Speaking about the day London Mayor, Boris Johnson, said “London’s 800,000 small businesses are the very lifeblood of our economy, supporting millions of jobs for local people and offering consumers a fantastic choice.”
The choice of a Saturday for the event was a deliberate measure to encourage people to support local and smaller shops in the run up to Christmas but that doesn’t mean that other organisations were not able to take advantage of the heightened awareness generated by the event. The FSB has recently reported that micro businesses are becoming increasingly confident about the future and with measures announced in the Autumn Statement aimed at helping business still further the 7th December was truly an occasion in which to celebrate our smaller businesses.
But events such as these only serve to enhance the profile and it is up to the businesses themselves to ensure they are in a position to maximise their opportunities. Businesses which have survived the recession have been tempered by tough times and it is not unusual for a spirit of ‘all in this together’ to prevail. But once out of the storm tossed waters, employers and employees will need to look anew at the world around them, to move on from the ‘make do’ mentality and to truly forge a new future.
With small businesses accounting for some two thirds of all employees in the UK, the time of recovery will be a time of restlessness, a time of reflection and a time of change. Employers who have held on to employees through the bad times will need to make sure that the business culture is strong enough to keep employees engaged and wanting to stay.
But a time of hope, of growth and of change is not just a time for ‘same old, same old’ or for simple employee engagement. Businesses which succeed will be the ones which reach out to embrace a new imperative and that means transforming into an innovation culture. In the recession we’ve seen businesses vanish from sight, some of them household names which many would have bet would have been as solid as a rock. Many of these died because the world moved on and left them behind. And it can happen again, but it is less likely to affect those which have truly embraced innovation.
And let’s be clear. Innovation isn’t just for the few who are tasked with coming up with new ideas. Building an innovation culture means infusing the entire business with the spirit of innovation. It means daring to be different, it means creating something special which makes your business stand out from every other similar organisation. Most importantly, in an era in which every business large and small has access to the same technology, an innovation culture which produces exceptional levels of customer service means that every business can compete on more than equal terms and even smaller businesses can rise above the rest.
Who will be the winners and the losers in this new era? We don’t know but we do know that the businesses which transform themselves through strategy and innovation are the ones which have the greatest chance of lasting success.