Bite-sized Budget

The first Autumn Budget for many years is over. And while laced with jokes and jibes, it brought few other surprises.

Chancellor Philip Hammond seemed relaxed and at home in his annual primetime slot. He announced very little that was ground-breaking. Instead, opting for a steady mix of measures from across the board.

Here are a few highlights…

The economy as a whole didn’t fare too well, with growth forecast for 2017 downgraded from 2% to 1.5%, and not rising again to 1.6% until 2021.

For the younger generation, a so-called ‘millennial railcard’ is to be introduced offering discounted fares for those aged 26-30. Alongside the abolition of stamp duty with immediate effect for first-time buyers purchasing properties worth up to £300,000.

For those in work, the tax-free personal allowance will rise to £11,850 in April 2018 as will the higher-rate tax threshold which will increase to £46,350.

Businesses of all sizes will welcome the fact that rises in business rates will now be linked to the preferred CPI (consumer price index) not RPI (retail price index). And small businesses will breathe a sigh of relief that the current VAT threshold of £85,000 will remain for two years, following rumours it could be dropped to as low as £20,000.

With a nod to technology and the future, the government has pledged £500m for 5G mobile networks, fibre broadband and artificial intelligence, and £540m to support the growth of electric cars. The chancellor also announced an additional £2.3bn for investment in research and development.

And as we enter the season of goodwill, while the price of cigarettes will go up, the cost of fuel, wine and beer has been frozen again. Cheers Phil and Merry Christmas!

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SMEs – the unsung heroes

According to the CBI (Confederation of British Industry), small businesses are the life-blood of the UK economy and account for 99.9% of private sector companies while providing 60% of private sector jobs.

Credible data in a crowded information-overloaded world.

I have the pleasure of working with companies large and small, global and local, and am continually impressed in particular with the SMEs (small and medium enterprises).

While they’re all individual, they also have several distinct characteristics in common:

  • Ambition – they know what they want, are already on the right path to achieve it, and have no intention of stopping until they do.
  • Bravery – it takes guts to set up on your own and go for it and they have this in spades.
  • Creativity – smart ideas come from smart people who think way outside the box and beyond.
  • Drive – determination and hard graft is what turns a small business into a medium enterprise and the potential for it to be snapped up by a multinational.  Think Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream!
  • Energy – day in and day out they seem to have an insatiable appetite for what they do and maintain a consistent level of high energy.
  • Fun – and perhaps this is why all of the above is possible; they have fun!

It’s not all a breeze, however, with ever-increasing hurdles in the form of access to finance (or lack of), complex employment legislation, tax bureaucracy and red tape…  But as many SMEs prove, if you want to make a difference you will.

In the words of the late Apple founder and entrepreneur, Steve Jobs: “We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here?”

So let’s hear it for our SMEs; the unsung heroes of the UK economy.

Age of entrepreneurship

Yesterday the Chancellor delivered his Spending Review speech and I watched with both my business owner and business adviser hats on.  It was painful viewing: necessary, but nonetheless painful.

And the key phrase of the day today?  We have now reached the age of austerity.  True.  But I also believe we have reached the age of entrepreneurship.

When I set up my consultancy business – Claire Dee Communications – just over a year ago most people thought I was mad.  A start-up in a recession: it’ll never work.  But it did, very well actually, and we’re already in profit.  Why?  Because not only is necessity the mother of invention, she is also the sister of entrepreneurship.

In a recession many organisations shed highly skilled people, but they still need to undertake highly skilled activity.  So they turn to small businesses and freelancers who ooze knowledge, experience and skill.  And so these acorns become young oaks and then woodlands and beyond.

An excellent example of business growth in difficult times was perfectly illustrated at the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards 2010.  Earlier this week I attended their very glamorous ceremony at the Park Lane Hilton Hotel in London, and I came away feeling proud and inspired.

In particular, I recall the words of the overall winner Ayman Asfari of Petrofac: aim high.  I couldn’t agree more; and I will.