Opinion

Grow your workforce and boost the Brexit economy

5 min read

14 October 2019

Taking the plunge from being a self-employed sole trader to becoming a business owner with a workforce of its own is a big leap. But it's a beneficial one.

Graduating from being solely the master of their own destiny to having the livelihoods of others in their hands can be a daunting prospect. But it has to be encouraged for the country to have a more robust economy, which creates more good quality private-sector jobs.

The benefit(s) of working for yourself

employment

There are more private sector businesses but are they employing people?

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with people working for themselves and ploughing their own furrow. Many people, from men and women in vans to freelancers in all kinds of industries, enjoy the flexibility and freedom of being self-employed.

So, delving a little deeper we discover that the UK private sector is pretty much made up of non-employing businesses, 4.5million to be precise.

It can be a tough existence, but for those that can make a success of it, there can be an enjoyable living to be made. My worry is that the scales of the private sector economy are weighted too heavily towards these individuals.

News on our business population

Last week, while most entrepreneurs continued to be on Brexit-watch or, for those in central London like Pimlico, tried to get things done despite the Extinction Rebellion protests, some important numbers have been released that paint an interesting picture of British business:

According to the business population estimates for 2019, published by the Office of National Statistics, there were 5.9 million private sector businesses in the UK at the start of this year.

There are more private sector businesses

The headline statistics makes for good reading. Firstly, that overall figure is an increase of 3.5% on 2018 with more than 200,000 additional businesses, which further proves that we are an entrepreneurial society that is enterprising and self-motivated.

I know from my experience there was very little advice and guidance around when I wanted to transform my plumbing service into a tangible business, but that’s completely different nowadays.

Making up the vast majority of the near six million private sector firms are small businesses, those that employ up to 49 people, followed by 35,600 medium-sized companies employing between 50 and 249, and completed by 7,770 big companies that have workforces of more than 250.

Too good to be true?

All this sounds pretty good, but when the bonnet’s lifted we find out that the engine is made up of a lot more parts than expected. And just by the laws of sod, the more parts there are, there more chance there is of something going wrong.

But many are ‘non-employing’ businesses

So, delving a little deeper we discover that the UK private sector is pretty much made up of non-employing businesses, 4.5million to be precise, meaning that more than 75% of British firms don’t employ anyone apart from the owner.

Of course, this is better than having all our eggs in one basket with everyone working for the state in a Jeremy Corbyn dream world. But as an entrepreneur who has taken that journey from sole trader to SME with a large workforce, I’d love to see more people following the same path.

Employing people is good for the economy

Taking the first steps will be scary, often because its perceived there isn’t anyone around to help. By their very nature of being sole traders, their existence as a business owner may feel very isolated, but that doesn’t have to the case.

I know from my experience there was very little advice and guidance around when I wanted to transform my plumbing service into a tangible business, but that’s completely different nowadays.

There’s help and advice out there…

Up and down the country there are groups like Enterprise Nation, The Entrepreneurs’ Forum and Start Up Britain whose whole purpose is to help business owners with mentorship and projects that help them develop and grow.

It gives me immense pride to be one of the millions of British entrepreneurs that have taken an idea, product or service and turned it into a business idea.

What we need

We have to insulate the economy against outside forces, is to help more of these entrepreneurs grow their businesses to create valuable, fulfilling jobs and strengthen the backbone of the economy, which is made up by vertebrae teaming with thriving private sector businesses.