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FTSE 100 CEO Stephen Kelly says small businesses are still being ignored as big business flocks to Davos

Global research by Sage highlights that only 27% of small businesses feel represented by politicians in their country’s decision making. The data has been published in the run up to the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) where politicians and big business will gather in Davos to debate the global economic picture. Sage CEO Stephen Kelly has lamented the absence of small business issues from the agenda, and called for greater representation, given that in most economies, entrepreneurs, or business builders, create 2/3 of all jobs.

The research measured sentiment of UK small businesses in 2016, showing that:

  •  The majority in the UK (61%) consider the wider global economy to be less stable and over half (55%) either have or are considering changing their business plan as a result of recent events.
  • There is positive as well as cautious business reaction to major events like Brexit, with 35% feeling that Brexit will be the political event that has the most positive impact on their business, whilst roughly the same percentage (38%) think it could be the most negative.
  • One in five are planning to export more in 2017, 17% less and 28% felt there would be no change. 
  • 70% of businesses think turnover will remain constant or remain the same over the next year.    

Clearly the role of government in helping navigate uncertain economic and political times will be key. 

  • Almost half (49%) singled out export opportunities and grants as being the most important thing that the government can now do.
  • The second most important was improvements to the tax environment (43%).
  • Good local services ranked third (33%).

In order to give business builders a platform to connect with policy makers, Sage is launching its ‘Forum for Business Builders’. The Forum brings entrepreneurs from around the world insights, events and policy-forming partnerships to give them a powerful collective voice that can be heard on the world stage.

It builds on Sage’s ongoing commitment to bring governments together with business builders. In December, Sage hosted a successful event in Dublin with an Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Irish entrepreneurs, and visited Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Australia to discuss small business challenges in their countries. It also hosted two events in the UK gathering Ministers and trade associations to discuss the implications of the EU Referendum on entrepreneurs.

Sage CEO Stephen Kelly, said: “Only too often when the world’s policy makers discuss the global economic picture, small businesses are excluded from the discussion. This is most evident with the annual World Economic Forum in Davos where small businesses aren’t an item on the agenda. Worse still, 60% don’t even know the event is taking place. It’s crazy when you consider that small businesses create two thirds of all the jobs in most economies, and represent over 98% of all businesses.

Kelly continues “Business builders are the heroes of the economy. They toil away long after the rest of us have gone home, making personal sacrifices to grow their businesses, to support their families and build their communities. Policy makers and big business must wake up to the fact that these heroes need to be supported and given a voice, if we are to ensure the future health and prosperity of the world’s economy.”

Jacqueline de Rojas, Managing Director UK & Ireland – Northern Europe at Sage, added: “We welcome the Prime Minister’s ambition to make Britain a country that works for everyone. This vision for a shared society and the forthcoming Industrial Strategy must set the framework for championing the whole business community right across the UK and not just in our major cities and not just for our major companies. This will contribute to the productivity gap and enable an agile business economy for everyone so that we can better compete at home and overseas.

In the shadow of Brexit it is essential that the UK reinvents itself as a digital nation of significance. Investment in digital infrastructure and skills to power the competitiveness of our country’s business builders is fundamental in driving confidence, innovation and growth. The Government cannot ignore the contribution of small businesses and entrepreneurship, with technology being their great enabler.

If we are to make Britain GREAT again, the voice of small business must be heard and it must be heard across all four corners of the country.”

The Forum is open to all small businesses and will be refreshed regularly with diverse content and insights from guest contributors and advisors.