By Daniel Hunter
The growth of UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is being undermined by spiralling costs of doing business, suffocating red tape and bullying tactics from big businesses, a major new poll from the Forum of Private Business (FPB) reveals.
The poll of over 4,000 UK SMEs showed the extent of damage felt by small British businesses, with nearly half stating that their business partners are neither interested in fostering a long term relationships (47%) nor open to negotiating payment terms (46%). A further majority (70%) stated that behavioural late payment had been a problem in the last 12 months.
The majority of SMEs polled (52%) said that in the face of supply chain abuse from big businesses, they would be forced to broaden their client base to minimise any future disruption to their cash flow. There are an increasing number of high profile cases where this behaviour is seriously undermining the ability of small suppliers to manage their cash flow adequately.
The poll revealed a major crisis of trust in big business amongst British SMEs. Utilities companies (79%) and banks (69%) were singled out as the least likely to take responsibility for their actions by small and medium sized business owners.
By contrast, the majority of SMEs (80%) believe that the UK’s larger private family-owned firms are the most trustworthy enterprises.
The new research echoes a ComRes poll commissioned by the Forum of Private Business in January 2015, which showed that over three quarters (78%) of the British public agree that big businesses are more likely to prioritise profits over high ethical standards. A further three quarters (74%) of the 2,000 Brits polled believe that the majority of big businesses have no concern for small business owners in the UK.
In response, the Forum of Private Business has launched its Business Ethics Pledge, which calls on big business to commit to a 5 point plan to protect and promote small British businesses ahead of the Election.
Phil Orford, Chief Executive of the Forum of Private Business said: “SMEs already unfairly disadvantaged by rising costs and red tape are held back from growing by bad business practices.
“Our latest poll confirms that the supply chain is fit to burst with hurdles and roadblocks that discriminate against small firms.
“Big business has all the aces, and it is time for affirmative action from the next Government to crack down further on this ethical deficit that threatens to break the backbone of British business — small businesses.
“Westminster is starting to listen. The Chancellor has answered our member’s calls for punitive measures for those involved in abusive or excessive tax avoidance (76%).
“We welcome last week’s Budget announcement to use taxation as a way to influence better business practice in the UK, to ensure that all businesses pay their fair dues. We want a system that does not unfairly target many of the small to medium-sized firms that form the backbone of the UK economy.
However, there is still a lot more that the Government should do.
“The UK’s political parties should be judged at the Election on their commitment to put business ethics at the top of the political agenda.”