UK View Of Small Business And Entrepreneurship
The ISBE (Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship) conference just ended in Liverpool and I’d consider the conference quite a success. The conference was held in the city’s Novas Contemporary Urban Centre, a venue designed as a hub for local employment and training. The site was terrific. It was such a pleasure to be at a multi-day conference in a building with a great deal of architectural character; every room was unique.
One of the opening sessions was a panel on Recession Coping Strategies, and particularly intriguing was a set of comments given by Alistair Anderson of the UK’s Federation of Small Business. Professor Anderson has been using data from more than 6,000 respondents to measure that impact. He described small businesses as the buffers or cushions that are absorbing the impact of the recession and mentioned that 85 percent of his respondents were actively looking for recession solutions. Their buffering activities, things they do that actually end up easing the pain of others in the economy, include 2/3 of the business owners lowering their prices (with 1/3 of them describing the price reduction as dramatic) while their employees are trying to support the businesses by working harder and smarter. The greatest challenge is the absolute reduction in total sales with the owners reporting that many of their business customers just are no longer there.
Anderson’s presentation was followed by John Leake of the Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus, one of two national science and innovation centers in the UK. Leake built on Anderson’s description by presenting examples of recession steps being taken the high tech companies in his area. First, he sees an emphatic focus on “speed to money” gained through increased attention given to both the product or service of the business and the engagement with the customer. Leake also described increased effort in building collaborative efforts to save time, find more routes to the market, develop the technology, and reduce costs.
The next speaker, Mike Taylor of Liverpool Vision, took us to the regional level by reporting that Liverpool businesses wanted to see a Liverpool response to the recession. In Liverpool, businesses placed hope with those that they knew. At the same time, they express concern about banking decisions not being made locally; the negative impact of these decisions particularly hitting the small and medium enterprises. Overall, the theme — trying to make a difference by working together with people you trust — came across loud and clear.
As a final observation on the Novas Centre – the art in the gallery was quite varied, some thought provoking and some just fun. I will admit that the life size cut-outs of the zombies are now the wallpaper on my phone. We all find our fun in different ways.
Patricia G. Greene
Professor of Entrepreneurship