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Paying up

Companies that dither over their bills hurt us all

By Paul Uppal  

Around a third of payments to small businesses are late—the current amount owed to small business stands at £14bn. This has led to 20 per cent of small businesses running into cash flow problems due to late payments—50,000 businesses fail in the UK every year. If small firms were paid on time, it could deliver a £2.5bn annual boost to the economy.

I feel especially strongly about this as I ran a small construction company for 20 years, and while it was a hugely rewarding experience, it was very challenging. The daily pressure and responsibility for my company’s success weighed heavily. The long working hours, unpredictable cash flow, being able to maintain business growth and long-term viability were a few of the difficulties I faced. I was emotionally attached to my business. It was my child.

Being appointed the Small Business Commissioner provides me with the opportunity to give something back. I want to be a voice for small businesses and help create an environment which will enable them to flourish and grow.

“The long hours, unpredictable cash flow and business growth were a few of the difficulties I faced”

Based in Birmingham, The Small Business Commissioner (SBC) is an independent public body set up by Government to tackle late payment and unfavourable payment practices in the private sector. Since the launch of SBC, we have gained invaluable insight into the payment practices of larger businesses. Furthermore, we have now built up a detailed picture of which companies are poor payers.

My team and I are working with those companies to show them of the impact their actions are having on their supply chain, and by association, GDP. The tide is turning.

While engaging with small businesses it has become abundantly clear they are unsure about where to get the best finance deals. Many SMEs are unaware that Local Growth Hubs are able to provide financial support for SME growth investment. While I cannot endorse any financial services, I can certainly help build the gaps in knowledge about what is out there.

I see my office as the solution to this long-standing issue. Successful businesses are built on integrity, entrepreneurial spirit and trusting relationships and I want to highlight that Britain can be the best place for entrepreneurs to establish and grow their own business.

Small businesses are vital to the growth of the UK economy with 98 per cent of businesses in the UK being SMEs. I want them to grow in confidence, assert themselves and create a long-lasting culture of promoting fair treatment when it comes to payment practices.

Read more from our financial inclusion supplement

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