AUTHOR: Jurga Zilinskiene
DATE: January 23, 2020
A Meeting with Exchequer Secretary Simon Clarke MP
Last week I wrote about my New Year’s resolution to inspire fellow business leaders and politicians to work together for a new decade of increased productivity. And thanks to my pioneering colleagues at Be the Business, I already find myself surrounded by supportive and like-minded allies.
Just two weeks into the new decade, my colleagues and I had the perfect opportunity to put our case directly to government when we met with the Rt. Hon. Simon Clarke MP on Tuesday 14 January. Mr Clarke’s responsibilities as Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury include enterprise and productivity, taxation for small businesses, support for economic reform, regional economic policy, and public-private partnerships – all issues that are particularly close to my, and Be the Business’s, heart.
We lost no time in explaining to him that unlike initiatives that exist to encourage start-ups and new business, Be the Business is unique in focusing its ground-breaking mentorship programme on established, privately held companies. This is a major – and frequently underestimated – sector of the UK economy that has grown by almost 70 per cent in the first two decades of the millennium, and now encompasses just under 6 million companies; accounting for about 99% of all UK business.
Yet, until now, this vital generator of both employment and turnover has received virtually no support in terms of business strategy or leadership. Just imagine if we could make 99% of UK companies more productive! And to those who think (as I used to, before I saw the light!) that, unlike start-ups, experienced, successful business leaders don’t need mentoring to increase productivity, I say: think again!
At the outset of Be the Business, I was sceptical about how a mentor could bring anything new to the table for someone such as myself, who had single-handedly nurtured and turned a company from a 3-person team into a global force creating work for thousands. However it didn’t take me long to understand that mentoring is less about passing on acquired knowledge than about opening one’s eyes to potentialities and giving one the confidence to try something new. In my own case, my brilliant mentor encouraged me to trust my instincts and forge ahead with my tentative plan to expand into the Northern Powerhouse – in retrospect, one of the best moves I have made in Guildhawk’s continuing success story.
My business has benefited enormously from Be the Business membership – and this is just one of many examples of how the initiative’s remit is tailored specifically to the needs of established businesses. We’ve proved time and again that mentoring helps businesses to increase productivity through positive leadership. But to really take things up a gear, we need government support for this pioneering initiative that is making a real and practical difference to businesses in the UK and helping them to compete on the international stage. We’re hoping that Be the Business, with its independent, not-for-profit agenda, will then set the benchmark for other initiatives dedicated to the goal of increasing our all-important productivity.
Simon Clarke listened to us with great interest, and admitted that he had learned a lot about the productivity crisis and its damaging effect on the country’s economy. We emphasised our commitment to creating high-quality, skilled employment, increasing output, and helping established businesses to grow outside of London, playing a critical part in the rejuvenation of other regions. I reminded him of my own case, whereby we are on track to create more than 200 skilled jobs in Sheffield – something which simply would not have happened without the encouragement of my Be the Business mentor. If that’s not sufficient evidence of the direct benefits, I really don’t know what is!
In the days following our meeting with the Exchequer Secretary, I reiterated the points we had discussed in a follow-up letter, in which I emphasised the vital role that government funding would play in underpinning the initiative’s current programme to increase productivity and bring skilled employment to the UK after Brexit. I also touched upon another subject of common concern to the UK’s privately held businesses: over-inflated commercial property prices, which are crippling the organic growth of many otherwise thriving and profitable companies, and posing a significant threat to productivity.
Rest assured that I’ll keep on bending the ear of government at every opportunity, until I get the right answers and the results we all need to see!
 House of Commons Briefing Paper No. 06152, 16 December 2019.