Crystal Ball Gazing 2011

It is around this time of year that most pundits start providing their forecasts of what they expect of the year ahead. Some will be serious, some will be humorous, most will be wrong. For the rest of us it is just a bit of fun to get us through those gloomy January days.

Although I don’t tend to go in for this sort of thing (or make new year’s resolutions ) one prediction that I am prepared to make is that Government in all its forms will continue to proclaim its undying support for small and medium sized businesses, state that they are the economic future of the country and then spend the whole year acting in a way that is totally contrary to what they have been saying.

This is all borne out by this week’s latest publication from the Department Of Business, Innovation & Skills entitled “Bigger, better business – helping small firms start, grow and prosper.” Perhaps the clue is in the title…..

The document is big on advice, web 2.0 technology, reaching out to under-represented socio-economic groups and mentoring. It has less to say on issues like funding, regulation and education. It has nothing to say about changing attitudes to enterprise among government departments, educational establishments and (whisper it) large corporates.

This is not intended to be a slight on many well-meaning good intentioned people. I genuinely believe that hearts are in the right place. However the attitude and culture required to survive and thrive as a small or medium sized business is totally alien to nearly everybody in government.

This is hardly surprising. People in government receive salaries, holidays and sick pay. They very rarely take any personal or business risks. They almost never have to lie at wake at night wondering where the cash is going to come from to pay their staff. In short they have no connection with the problems that SMEs face and therefore no real feel for delivering the right solutions.

Government is big. It acts big. It understands big. Therefore it can be no surprise that when it gets down to the nitty gritty of actions rather than words it will err on the side of big.

Never mind. In spite of everything (including government) good SME businesses will continue to succeed and grow, not because of Government help (or lack of it) but because they understand their customers, markets, people and finances. As the meerkat would say “simples”. And predictable.

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