Posted: Mon 5th Dec 2011
You may have heard of the Red Tape Challenge - it's the Government project that's reviewing and updating the book of business rules and regulation. They're doing it with a view to making it easier to operate as a business in the UK; and they're using 'crowdsourcing' via the Red Tape Challenge website as a way of gathering the views of businesses. This is a good idea: there are undoubtedly a lot of rules introduced over the years that aren't strictly necessary or are simply redundant because times have changed or that replicate rules that already exist elsewhere. It's good, too, that the Government is enlisting the help of businesses themselves to discover which, if any, are problematic to businesses.
So far they've looked at all sorts of things, from employment rules to consumer regulations. Now they've turned their attention to start-ups. With the aid of online technology, our small business environment is changing rapidly and we're seeing different kinds of businesses emerge in numbers not seen before. Businesses like Example Marketing, where a team of 'freelance' marketers operate under a joint banner are becoming quite common. So, too, are businesses like Enterprise Nation itself, where all the 'employees' are outsourced workers operating at home. This is the new norm in the small business world, where technology is making it possible to operate in more flexible and cost-effective ways. We're extremely innovative in the ways we're embracing the opportunities that digital technology gives us. But we're also what the Government calls 'disruptive' because we don't always fit into established ways of doing things. What we need is a regulatory system that keeps pace with our innovations and can cater to our disruptive business models. So, for example, do we need a new kind of partnership agreement for businesses like Example Marketing, or a new kind of employment contract for businesses like Enterprise Nation? Do we need to give certain kinds of business-owner (parents of young children, for example) a new tax status that makes it easy and cost-effective to run a business part-time? What about 5-9 businesses and social enterprises?
To its credit, the Government recognises that times are changing. They're asking for businesses to answer four questions (which are pretty loaded, by the way):
What was your experience of setting up a new business model?
What specific problems did you run into?
What were the rules and regulations that got in your way?
What part of the system held you back?
Of course, we'd love to see them giving us a chance to tell them about lots more things that we all have issues with (we outlined some of these in our Small Business Report (pdf) this year). But it's a start. And the Government has shown that it does want to make life easier for start-ups with the new My New Business portal on the Business Link website. This puts everything you need to start and register a business in one place - before this, you might have had to trawl through dozens of different Government websites to access this information. So we say take part in the Red Tape Challenge. The Government says it's listening, so let's tell them what we think are the barriers to starting and running a modern small business in the UK.
It's easy to leave a comment. Just go to the Red Tape Challenge website and start typing. You can tell us, too, by the way - we'd love to know what you'd like to change about starting a business in the UK. Just leave a comment in the box below. Photo credit: Karsten Tolkmit