Meeting the Minister: Small businesses meet Anna Soubry

To celebrate the launch of The Start Up List in the Sunday Times, business editor Dominic O’Connell sat down with the government’s small business minister Anna Soubry to discuss the most challenging issues facing small businesses in the UK. Our very own Phil Mottram Enterprise Director of Vodafone UK opened the event and talked through the opportunity that digital and technology now presents to small businesses. The audience packed full of start-ups and entrepreneurs also got a chance to ask the minister about the policies that are directly affecting their businesses.

Some of the top concerns amongst the small business crowd were about the lack of access to talent and developing workplace skills. One member of the audience asked the minister ‘what start-ups can do to attract and engage with students before they start working?’ This is because smaller businesses seem to lose this pool of fresh talent to bigger more established corporates with well-structured and advertised graduate schemes. Strategies to address this were discussed such as small business focused recruitment fairs and giving small businesses a voice into local school and college networks enabling them to tap into fresh pools of talent.

Funding was a big theme with the audience voicing that although big banks claim to be there to support them, advice and assistance from a bank manager isn’t always available and there is a huge need for this kind of service. The Minister talked through the growth in alternative finance options for small businesses and there was much discussion around the need to better educate small businesses of the alternative means to seek funding for their business.

Small Businesses in attendance also expressed a need for tailored support from the Government with things like Growth Hubs. They are desperately in need for advice and guidance to help them grow their local businesses.

Set ups like UKTI, working with businesses based in the United Kingdom to assist their success in international markets, are a classic example of what’s needed, but they need to make businesses more aware of their presence.

Obviously, the Governments support of small businesses is crucially important for sustained growth in the UK, but there are several challenges ahead. Their concentrated support is a necessity to help them grow, and will in turn affect the growth of the nation’s economy. Something we believe Anna Soubry is well aware of, and sees as her major challenge as a minister.

Watch highlights from the day here:

Along with some of the conversation from twitter: