Telling the truth about SME life today

Is BIS just ?lipstick on a pig

“Only time will tell whether or not this new department will be any different to previous incarnations,” comments Mike Welch, managing director of, the online tyre retailer. “The new name ticks all the right boxes but without real action and effort to engage with the private sector, it will be little more than putting lipstick on a pig. “There is a real appetite from entrepreneurs to feed into policy – we just need to be given the chance. Hopefully this new department will give us the opportunity to do that and provide real value for businesses.”

Phil Holdsworth, head of consultancy firm Impact UK, is more sceptical: “I’d love to be disproved in my belief that ‘government super department’ and ‘innovation’ are not oxymoronic,” he says. “However, I do feel apprehensive about its success when you consider the size and complexity of the proposed department. Eleven ministers and any number of ministerial staff endeavouring to build Britain’s economic strengths leads me to believe that it will be many, many months – if not years – before entrepreneurs will see, hear and feel the benefits.

“For this super department to achieve its goals, it must take risks and be creative. Otherwise it will just be another government initiative that plays it safe, and is more focussed on developing policy than action.”

Martin Dix, founder of energy-monitor manufacturing firm Current Cost, reckons the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is too large to support exporting SMEs.

“Businesses like ours want government help,” he says. “We export our energy monitors and, given that the UK is world leading when it comes to being green, you’d assume the government would provide grants for such export businesses. To date, we haven’t received a penny.

"Mandelson’s ’empire’ needs to do far more to encourage the growth of Britain’s SMEs, particularly green businesses."

Simon Smith says that the only help he’s had from the government since setting up marketing agency Baber Smith in 1995 is the recent VAT payment holiday. "More often than not, the government is on the side of the employee rather than the employer," he tells us. "There needs to be a rebalance. The government should be encouraging small business owners to create jobs and hire people but, at the moment, there’s no incentive. "The government should implement tax breaks for entrepreneurs, which would encourage business growth. Specific funding for training would also help. However, I’m sceptical whether the new department will provide any practical help at all.”

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