By Ben Dowd, O2 Business Director
Small businesses form the engine room of our economy. Last year, small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) alone accounted for 47 per cent of private sector employment and over a third of turnover – so there’s no doubt that their success is crucial to economic recovery. If Britain really is to get back on track, I believe we need to do more to help start-ups and small businesses thrive.
The recent extension of the Funding for Lending Scheme is another welcome initiative from the Government to encourage small business growth. But it’s not just about funding. Big businesses have their own important role to play in helping Britain’s entrepreneurs turn their ideas into reality; the Government can’t go it alone.
For too long, businesses in the UK have worked in silos and it’s damaging our ability as a nation to innovate. I believe that big businesses need to take more responsibility and work together to help smaller players reach their full potential. By applying our assets, we can help catalyse the success of start-ups and SMEs.
Businesses need to invest in innovation, not simply by acquisition but by incubation. We need to foster entrepreneurs — whether in start-ups or larger companies — and enable them to quickly implement their ideas to create widespread business benefits.
This is nothing new in the digital services space — many companies are incubating start-ups and getting first refusal on their ideas. Our incubator programme Wayra, here in the UK, is giving British start-ups an injection of investment and access to vital expertise and insight from within our business.
But incubation isn’t limited to the tech sector.
All businesses have something to offer our small business community, be it funding, mentoring and training, or simply the use of office and workspace. Big businesses need to find new ways to apply their strengths to help small businesses thrive.
If we are going to put Britain back on top, we all need to continue to support our small business and start-up community to provide the foundations for future growth. Only with a joint effort from Government and businesses will we see our economy get back on the road to recovery.