By Jenny Powley, Director, RAC Business Services
The “cutting of red tape" is a popular electoral and policy promise which will no doubt be bandied around over the coming months as the General Election approaches. But, the UK’s army of small businesses need more than election promises. They need practical, tangible solutions to help them manage the myriad of different business roles they juggle every single day.
In the Queen’s Speech in June, the vision behind the Government’s Small Business Bill was revealed. Amongst other things, it introduced a deregulation target which will require future governments to publish a target for cutting regulatory burdens in each parliamentary term.
Earlier on in the year, the coalition claimed it had become the first government in modern history to reduce overall domestic regulation for business while in office, abolishing or simplifying 800 regulations, with tens of thousands of pages of red tape still to face the chop. However, no matter how hard Whitehall works to reduce the burden of red tape, EU-inspired regulations keep coming thick and fast.
Last year, a panel of leading business men identified 30 pieces of EU legislation that they believe should be cut or amended to assist UK businesses. For example, the EU’s onerous health and safety regime has led to a “box-ticking mentality.” The experts believe that small firms across the EU could save €2.7bn (£2.29bn) if the stringent health and safety laws were changed.
So while cutting red tape is very much top of the agenda for our current crop of politicians, the day-to-day challenge of meeting these demands and staying on top of changes, while building a lasting business, is unabating.
Recent research from RAC Business has found that the average SME owner is performing a combination of general management (61%), finances (53%), sales and marketing (40%), HR (40%), new business development (34%) and general administration (32%) tasks. As such, this daily juggling act is become increasingly stressful.
Against this backdrop, many SMEs are outsourcing key roles to outside organisations. It's a useful way for businesses to keep costs down during the current economic climate, particularly as workforces become smaller and more pushed for time. Many small business owners outsource functions such as payroll administration, HR and marketing but fewer have realised the merits of outsourcing the management of their fleet of cars.
Small business owners tend to have three main areas of concern: keeping the costs of fuel and wear and tear of the vehicles low; controlling and understanding the risk attached to having drivers and vehicles out on the road; and making the whole process as easy as possible to manage on a day-to-day basis.
There is a huge duty of care responsibility that comes with having drivers – red tape that isn’t going away any time soon. Creating robust records and reports of where they are, how they are and what they are doing is often in itself a full-time job filled with significant amounts of regulation and legislation that can backfire on an organisation that is either unaware or non-compliant.
It is now possible to use a free online RAC fleet management platform that tracks fleet data, sends reminders when MOTs are due and tax has expired, and identifies which drivers are using the most fuel. RAC’s Business Club is already making a difference to more than 6,000 SMEs across the country, providing much-needed administrative support and removing the headaches that can arise with fleet management. By lessening fleet and vehicle administration and management, business owners can focus on what they do best - growing their own organisations and helping to keep Britain moving in the right direction.