On 9 June we'll have a new government. What small business issues should it address? We asked some entrepreneurs to tell us.
Put your questions to candidates and spokespeople from the main political parties at Enterprise Nation's free General Election small business debate in London on 18 May. Book your place here.
"Stop SMEs dying when their owners retire. 99.9% of the businesses in this country employ less than 250 people, and 99.3% employ less than 50. They provide almost half of the populations employment and half of the economic turnover in the UK. However, their owners are aging and there is little incentive to encourage the transition of businesses from one management team to another. Most owner-managers are nervous of buying another company, and we will see an ever-increasing number of businesses wind up over the next five years, making inevitable redundancies, because there aren't enough purchasers willing to take over the business. In addition, funding to support management buyouts, such as that which is already available in Wales, could be rolled out around the UK, along with a programme to communicate this message of the importance of succession planning to the current owner managers.
"End FCA delays holding back crowdfunding. An overhaul of the leadership and strategy at the Financial Conduct Authority is needed, in particular those who are involved in regulating the crowdfunding industry.
"End 'Wonga rates' and confusion around the government's designated platforms for SME finance. Brought in from November 2016 was a requirement for banks to refer any SMEs declined for funding to one of three 'designated platforms', which are online finance brokerages. Here businesses can pitch their requirement for finance directly to alternative lenders, many of which are online lenders only. Whilst this in principle may seem a great solution for businesses, there is a distinct lack of any advice during this process, and the government is effectively encouraging businesses to sign-up to potentially high rates of interest, not dissimilar to money lenders of the 'Wonga' type service which has been so much concern in the area of consumer finance."
Kirsty McGregor, Corporate Finance Network
"Enshrine the voluntary Prompt Payment code into law that says business to business invoices must be paid within 30 days."
Sarah Lafferty, Round Earth Consulting
"The dividend tax increases have really affected small business owners, so I'd like to see a pledge to reduce these, especially with the potential ramifications of Brexit.
"I'd also like to see a reduction in business rates as they are far too high, and I'd like to see a pledge to cut red tape to get businesses exporting!
"As well as this, I'd welcome a promise to keep EU nationals working and living in the UK. I know the issue is ambiguous with the Brexit.
negotiations going on, but it would be helpful if we could give this guarantee and keep immigration reasonably high to allow businesses to hire the best talent."
Dwayne D'Souza, MedExpress
"Guest lecturers and lessons in starting up your own business in colleges and universities to encourage entrepreneurship and business mindset in younger generation to see it as a career option."
Kerri Walker, Kerri Walker Media
"If I'm completely honest, if I saw any party giving genuine respect to the owners of small businesses, I'd be inclined to vote for them. In general, most of our so-called representatives seem to believe that "small businesses" are still corporate affairs, with up to 100 employees. Where are all the creative mavericks? The one man bands? The full-time freelancers? These people honestly don't seem to understand the isolation and the risk we face in order to follow our dreams, they just add to it."
Daire Paddy, Daire Paddy
"We are a monthly vinyl and craft drink subscription club with a large number of our record club members living outside the UK, across Europe (especially Italy). Every month we post a large number of subscription boxes to Europe, and therefore a key concern for me as the co-founder is how businesses like ourselves will be impacted by Brexit negotiations."
Gabriella Barrett, We Are Hurd
“Many businesses are already struggling to attract investment from traditional sources, so in the light of EU funding schemes worth £3.6bn stopping in 2020, and also the European Investment Fund, which accounts for more than one third of investment in UK-based VC funds, slowing its activity in the UK, British businesses could be facing a massive shortfall. The new government must help open up alternative finance for businesses.
"The power of the crowd is immense and will one day become the micro-economic financier of choice. For high street banks the reality is that alternative finance platforms are already raising significant amounts of debt for UK SMEs. This trend needs to continue, with more and more organisations able to access finance in this way.
"The new government also needs to back up its rhetoric on supporting entrepreneurs. I hear a lot about the importance of entrepreneurs and I would love to see that manifested in actual policy to support us. Entrepreneurs are building the future FTSE 100 firms, providing employment and helping support local and national economies so it is vital that we receive tangible help. Tax breaks, free pre-school care and free or subsidised office space are all policies that would make a huge difference to the UK’s entrepreneurs."
Emily Mackay, Crowdsurfer
"To go back into Europe! Hard Brexit will be damaging to small business and entrepreneurs unless funding that is currently available from the EU is continued. It will stifle development and entrepreneurs, especially from university. Also if we close off markets to export to, or put barriers up to export, then this will only have a negative effect."
Nigel Clarke, Morgan Innovation & Technology
"A commitment to re-joining, or having access to, the European single market is a big priority for me. I don’t like the idea of hard Brexit and believe that leaving the EU is going to make it very difficult for UK businesses to compete on a level playing field, regardless of whether you’re an exporter. It seems certain to affect the economy, which will in turn affect businesses, while also diminishing London’s status as a gateway to Europe for tech innovators.
"For too long, governments have not put enough focus on or investment in the development of our future workforce, so policies on improving technical skills and increasing STEM education amongst school leavers would be very welcome.
"I would also like to see a root and branch review of the business rates system, which is currently only proportionate to the size of your property, not taking into account what you do or how much money you make. It would be much fairer to see it linked to revenues.
"S low and unreliable internet is a significant problem in this country, which is impacting the productivity of start-ups and SMEs. We need a commitment from the political parties to enable better broadband through direct payment from the government to infrastructure providers or to BT, which currently has a monopoly on the network."
"Incentives and support for sustainable clean-tech products to be manufactured in the UK; many of the products currently on the market in the UK have been imported from China, thus adding to the carbon footprint of the product. This would also generate UK jobs, which could be located in areas of high unemployment. In addition this would show that the party take climate change seriously."
Andrew Clough, The Brew
"Incentives and support for sustainable clean-tech products to be manufactured in the UK. Many of the products currently on the market in the UK have been imported from China, thus adding to the carbon footprint of the product. This would also generate UK jobs, which could be located in areas of high unemployment. In addition this would show that the party take climate change seriously."
Peni Brudenell-Pryke, Greengineering
Put your questions to candidates and spokespeople from the main political parties at Enterprise Nation's free General Election small business debate in London on 18 May. Find out more here.
Keep up-to-date with the issues that matter in our small business General Election tracker.