You don't have to be mad
8th November 2009
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Who would start a new business in the current economic climate?  Well, you might be surprised to hear that I know of at least 60 that have got up and running in the Watford area this year alone. They range from accountants to waste disposal engineers and include thebestofwatford, which I bought as recently as late October in order to promote all those great businesses in the area who really are amongst the best in their fields. (Don’t forget to recommend any you know!)


Some of the new businesses that have opened this year will go on to join the ranks of the best but sadly many will fail. So while even good and long established businesses are struggling in the teeth of the current recession what kind of madness is it that induces apparently quite normal individuals to invest their hard earned savings into a new business when all around is gloom and doom in the economy? Well, I’ve been speaking to a few to find out. They are all different but they do share some things in common. Clearly, the owners are all prepared to take a risk and are willing to back themselves. They know that lots of hard work and good products or services by themselves are no guarantee of success. Most recognise that pricing has to be very keen and that effective marketing is crucial, not just to get started but to keep going through the difficult times as well as the good. Take Dean Ponton, for example who recently opened DNP Interiors. Dean is finding work for his upholstery business up and down the country. By keeping his overheads low and building up a resource of skilled workers who are prepared to be flexible he finds that he can win business on price and on quality but what upsets Dean and other local entrepreneurs that I have spoken to recently is the feeling that they are being hit hard by business rates that provide no incentive to new business and often end up crippling more established businesses as well. Surely, government and local councils could get their heads together to come up with some imaginative solutions to help these businesses to thrive. They are after all the engine that generates revenues for the government and provides the employment that keeps our communities alive.


Of course, it’s not just the tax regimes that are causing many business owners sleepless nights. So often as I go around the town talking to business people I hear the same story about how difficult it is to get paid. It seems that the biggest businesses at the top of the food chain are screwing suppliers down to the ground on price and then taking an age to pay. OK, we all know some of the top plcs are struggling to keep their own businesses from crashing to the ground but some of the worst culprits for keeping hold of their supplier’s money are massive cash businesses who are posting spectacular results.


When I think of our government and politicians of all hues I remember the story of Nero at his fiddle while Rome burns. Our politicians seem to have been engrossed with a different kind of fiddle lately. Would it be asking too much of our politicians to focus their attention on small to medium scale businesses? To put SMEs high up their agendas and to take some positive action to encourage them? Maybe government could spend a little less time dreaming up new ways to increase taxes and a little more time supporting the businesses that generate our nation’s wealth in the first place?

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