Common sense has no political colour

Written by Elizabeth Vaga, OBE, Group Chief Executive Officer, Informed Solutions

Government, of any colour, holds the privilege of creating policy.  Given the challenges that all nations have faced over the last 15 years, starting with the global financial crisis, many people would recognise that we need bold, progressive, ambitious, transformational policy.  Policy that promotes, energises, and sustains the economy, growth and productivity across the breath of the UK’s city-regions.

It’s well recognised that SMEs are the backbone of the UK’s economy, and that mid-sized and scale-up businesses are the engine room of innovation, growth and international trade.  The UK’s 5.51 million SMEs represent 99.9% of UK businesses, employ 61% of the total workforce, and contribute £2.4 trillion (53%) to the UK economy.  Therefore, common sense suggests that leveraging SMEs and scale-up businesses is key to the UK’s prosperity, growth, economic resilience, and global competitiveness.

The UK needs a pipeline of great businesses.  Businesses that challenge the existing marketplace and make it more diverse, competitive, resilient, and productive.  Businesses that are aspirational, with a growth mindset, and that contribute economically through high-value job creation, commercialising innovative products and services, and that increase the UK’s international trade.

If we shape great policy that builds great businesses then we also shape an economy that encourages and incentivises UK entrepreneurs, SMEs and scale-up companies to build the successful small businesses that are an important part of our local communities, and that can go onto becoming the mid-sized, large businesses and exporters of the future.  Great policy that encourages SMEs to invest and grow will create skilled employment opportunities across local communities; businesses that more willingly adopt technology and better train their staff; and stronger more globally competitive industries across our regions.  Great businesses also tend to give back to the communities from which they grow.

There is a very real ‘Valley of Death’ for companies that are disproportionately burdened by government regulations and unnecessarily difficult or complex trading conditions.  Businesses have not yet finished navigating through the long and sustained period of financial, health, energy and economic challenges that started with the global financial crisis of 2008.

As an entrepreneur and economist by background, I am faithful to the concept that common sense should have no colour when it comes to matters of business and the economy.  Adding costs, bureaucracy and increasing burdensome regulations will be enormously detrimental to the recovery and growth of UK businesses, and therefore also to our economy.

It makes no sense to make it too difficult for small, medium and scaling companies to run a competitive, profitable business.  It makes no sense to discourage entrepreneurs from working hard, assuming personal and financial risks, taking on debt, investing in innovation, recruiting additional staff, upskilling their people, scaling-up the business, and taking their products and services to new international markets! 

Great policy balances the harsh realities and hard work of running and scaling up a company with incentives that encourage ambition, investment, risk-taking and perseverance.  This is especially important in key sectors, which often require significant investment in R&D, high-value skills and capability development, and regulatory compliance burdens as the business grows.

As a founder, my executive team and I have built a business that is successful, resilient, has a scalable digital operating model, can diversify and adapt depending on market conditions and opportunities, is able to raise capital when needed, and has successfully navigated more than three decades of UK and global economic cycles.

As a leader, I believe in the principle of ‘what is good for the hive, is good for the bees’ and our people are part of a great hive, evidenced independently with a 97% rating in “Great Places to Work” – being in the top 1% of employers globally.  Informed Solutions is a mid-sized international business, headquartered in Greater Manchester, recognised with two Queens Awards for Innovation and three World Innovation, Technology and Services Alliance Awards.  Therefore, I offer these opinions based on considerable lived experience as an entrepreneur which started, built and grew their business internationally over 30+ years and 4 UK governments of different colours.

In my view, key enablers for sustainable growth are incentives for ambitious, scaling, successful businesses and patient capital investors.  The key disablers of growth are burdensome, unnecessarily complicated regulations that drain productivity, disincentivise hard work, and remove rewards for risk taking and business success.  I am especially keen to see bold, progressive government policy that incentivises companies to recruit and build skills (competent, confident, better paid staff); adopt digital capabilities (more productive, scale-up ready businesses); demonstrate responsible and sustainable business practices (because ethics and behaviours matter) that create social value as well as economic value; and grow businesses into international markets to increase the UK’s global competitiveness.

Our national and regional economies, local communities, and future prosperity rely on great businesses.  Of course, the UK celebrates those rare unicorns.  Equally importantly, we need to build broader, stronger and more resilient economic foundations for sustainable development and growth.  This means, encouraging entrepreneurs, investors and scale-up businesses to fill the ‘missing middle’ – i.e. we need more small companies to successfully grow into mid-sized and large businesses.

My ambition for our incoming government is that they create bold, progressive policy that encourages, incentivises, celebrates and rewards the success of all great UK businesses – start-up, scale-up, small, medium, and large.

My hope is that common sense has no colour.

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