Women on Top: Positive Effects on Business

Democrat candidate for the US presidency, Hillary Clinton, has said in the past that she wants to be known as the “Small Business President”. During her impressive performance on Monday’s extraordinary Presidential Debate, she made it clear that she was determined to make to small business a priority, should she be elected to office. Clinton vowed to make “starting a small business in the United States as easy as opening a lemonade stand”, which certainly spoke to a wide economic sector and a significant voting body.

Clinton has a personal affinity with the small business owner, afterall, her father was one. He owned as small printing business, and it provided for the family. “ When my dad ran his small printing business—he printed drapery fabrics in Chicago—it put food on the table; it gave us a good, solid, middle-class home and lifestyle. And I don’t think it’s old-fashioned to say that’s what I want for every family that wants to work for that here in our country today.”

If she takes over the reigns from Obama, Hillary Clinton’s strategy for promoting the growth and support of small business in the USA will be made up of several exciting features, many of which the UK government can relate to. (see http://www. great business.gov.uk/).

Her strategy includes, briefly: more accessible funding; streamlining the process of the licensing startups; revising taxes for small business; and incentivising healthcare benefits for small business employees; opening up new markets and promoting trade; providing recourse for small businesses that get “stiffed” – or aren’t paid by their dues (Trump is famous for not paying his contractors); by providing incubators and training and support for business owners; and making the government more user-friendly, making a 24-hour response time to small businesses with questions about federal regulations and access to capital programs, standard.

Back on this side of the ocean, Theresa May has been vocal in her support of small business since becoming the UK PM. She recognises that Britain’s 5.4 million small and medium sized businesses provide people with jobs, put food on families’ tables and underpin the strength of our economy and listening to, and working with smaller firms is the answer to building an economy.

Like Clinton, May is keen to promote the global expansion of UK small business elsewhere, and Brexit provides UK small business with a golden opportunity to do just this. “I also want those firms, across all the sectors of our economy, to be able to take advantage of the opportunities presented by Brexit, such as exporting to new destinations.”

The British Prime Minister has recently disbanded the business advisory group, which was set up by Cameron during the 2010 coalition, with a view to making the body more representative. The new members, Number 10 has said, will come from business big and small. This is another example of May showing her support of SMEs, and has been welcomed by small business leaders including the Federation of Small Businesses, saying that they hope for a larger voice now that the Brexit negotiations are taking place.

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Strong women at the top (l – r, above – below): Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon, UK PM Theresa May, Angela Merkel, PM of Germany and US Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. (Pic source: http://atlanticsentinel.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Nicola-Sturgeon-Theresa-May-Angela-Merkel-Hillary-Clinton.jpg)

According to a recent new study, a third of British women in business have felt that they had been positively affected by strong women leaders. Clinton, along with PM Theresa May, Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon and Germany’s adept Angela Merkel, amongst others, are having a marked effect on women worldwide – and on business in the UK. Crunch’s operations director, Justine Cobb, said “It’s fascinating to see that the female business community in the UK is feeling buoyed by the rise in female political leaders.”

This group of political heroines are leading by example and this is translating into economic growth in the UK. Backed up by the data collected, Crunch found that the number of women starting their own businesses had grown 42 per cent since 2010, and almost a third of all the new businesses are now founded by women. Obviously, a third is still someway to half, but at least the progress is in an upward direction.

In times of economic uncertainty, it is clear to see how valuable competent role models are, and how they can become catalysts for change in society. With inspired examples of what is possible in one’s sight, it is easier to set positive changes in our personal lives motion. The sooner that female leadership is normalised in society, the better for young girls around the world. Let’s hope that the “Small Business President” becomes just that. The small business community is watching the race for the Oval Office in hope – and with bated breath.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

 

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British SMEs: Beating the Brexit Blues

SMEs were the focus of much attention from both sides of the Brexit campaigns, and there is no surprise why. These businesses are the bedrock – the wheels and cogs – that keep our economy going.

According to government figures, SMEs accounted for 99.3% of all private sector businesses at the start of 2015 and 99.9% were small or medium-sized businesses. SMEs employed 15.6 million – 60% – of all private sector employment in the UK, making their contribution to the economy enormous. Did you know that the combined annual turnover of SMEs was £1.8 trillion or 47% of all private sector turnover in the UK? Rather impressive stats.

As a previous SME owner myself, I must confess that I was absolutely gutted when the Brexit referendum results were revealed, and wondered how many of my fellow SME business owners would be affected by the predictions of a full-on recession.

But what is heartening news is that there have recently been some surprisingly upbeat post-Brexit surveys and barometer results published – it seems that SME owners are rallying against the forecast economic doom and gloom:

According to the September 2016 Owner Managed Business (OMB) Barometer from Bank of Cyprus UK, over half (51%) of business owners and small businesses expect revenues to increase in the next 12 months, with a mere 15% disagreeing.

Commenting on the research findings, Nick Fahy, Chief Executive of Bank of Cyprus UK said that despite the general post-Brexit blues, the UK’s business owners and small businesses remain optimistic about their prospects. There was an immediate reaction to the Brexit news, but that the nation’s vital bedrock of businesses – the shopkeepers, family-owned businesses, the small and medium business owners and the independent traders have remained stable. It was vital that the UK government kept the SMEs in mind when negotiating the best deal with the EU, as to fail to do so would let down the British people.

What was quite noteworthy in the survey, was that 55% of small business owners did not think that the UK’s Brexit trade negotiations would necessarily boost key activities – sales, export, commercial opportunities, customer base and talent pool – for their businesses. It seems that many businesses are UK based and UK focused, while others may be trading/ or planning to expand their business to with non-EU customers.

One could say that the massive fintech revolution that has taken place in the UK could be spurring these statistics on. New York, Singapore, Hong Kong , Australia are the fintech hubs outside the UK, and may be making trade with the EU less vital in that sector.

If the UK government emphasized the positive advantages of trading with the UK, creating incentives such as an attractive tax regime, and geared-to-growth regulations, this would certainly drive this industry forward and set the UK up as a more competitive option than Europe to international traders and investors.

Another huge bonus was that, according to the same survey, a large portion of SME owners (45%) believed that the UK economy was in good shape, with a 28% saying they didn’t agree.So much for the doom merchants and nay-sayers. The overwhelming feeling is that British SME owners are doing what they are best at, and simply carrying on regardless, making the best of the situation.

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So far, so good. Brexit is not having quite the negative effect we thought it would on SMEs. Google Images

In another recent survey  conducted by CitySprint, that over half the SME businesses that thought that their businesses would suffer post Brexit have now changed their minds, and believe in a more positive outcome. Two-thirds of the respondents reckoned they were in a better place than they were this time last year.

The fall in the Pound may have resulted in better exporting deals for SME that trade internationally. This has encouraged overseas buyers to snap up British-made goods, because they are available at a lower price.

City AM also recently reported that two large banks – JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley – had adjusted their outlook to a more positive one, following news that the services purchasing managers’ index (PMI) soared from 47.4 to 52.9 in August. Results below 50 indicate economic contraction – and two consecutive contractions indicate a technical recession. This recent result was an unexpected outcome – and one that showed that the economy is much more resilient than expected.

The two Morgans have now revised their expectations for the UK economy, Morgan Stanley saying that it can now predict that the UK will avoid a technical recession, to grow by 1.9 per cent this year. The bank had previously foreseen the economy shrinking by  0,4% in the third quarter, but it now foresees growth of 0.3 per cent. Which is a very positive result after all Britain has been through.

With more than half a million new businesses being created every year on this little island, we are right up there with the best nations in the world in terms of resilience, innovation and enterprise. As the Brexit blues clear, the doom-mongers are being pushed to the sidelines. Backed by more-positive-than-expected predictions from the financial sector, SMEs have every right to feel buoyant and bullish about the future British economy.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

Inspiring Women in Tech Series #3: Eileen Burbidge, MBE

Eileen Burbidge (@eileentso) has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. “I saw really smart people get nothing but others who hit the jackpot — even though they weren’t that hard-working but because they had timed it right. One of my guiding principles now is that the best you can do is try to increase your exposure to luck and recognise lucky options.”

One can be presented with opportunities, but securing them is another talent altogether. Describing herself as an “accidental venture capitalist”, Ms Burbidge credits her progress with being naturally curious and adventurous, her workaholic tendencies, good communication skills and quick thinking.

Her Chinese parents (her father was an engineer and her mother worked in finance) instilled in her a tough work ethic from an early age. In an article by Ben Rooney, Eileen says that she couldn’t see what the big fuss about Tiger Moms was. She laughs now, but said that she thought that was how everyone was raised. “My parents had this view that they had to work much harder than non-immigrants. They impressed the same view upon us as kids. ‘You are not going to get the breaks when anyone looks at you,’ they would say, ‘so you have to prove that you belong there.’

In the US, for Burbidge, the fact that she was a woman was secondary to the fact that she was ethnically different. “I have had more to prove, and more to overcome, looking Chinese, than I have for being female. I grew up thinking that if I were white, I could do whatever I wanted. I thought white girls had it easy. It never even occurred to me that white girls would say they were disadvantaged.

As one can imagine, Burbidge is passionate about being a great example of how women can thrive in the tech world. She says that women should use the fact that they are a minority to their advantage  – “being conspicuous can be an opportunity to stand out“, and revels in memories about when she has been in meetings as a token female and has ended up flooring the men around the table with her intelligent contributions. She has said many times that being a woman has not been a hinderance to her in this field, and that in fact it is an industry where you can create whoever you want to be behind the computer screen.

Eileen-Burbidge

Burbidge studied computer science at the University of Illinois, “before it was trendy”, and started her career in San Francisco working for a telecoms company. This was the start of the tech boom in Silicon Valley and she rode the tech boom wave, becoming Market Development Manager at Apple Computer. Between 1996 and 2003, Burbidge lived the life, likening the atmosphere in Silicon Valley to Wall Street in the 70’s. She moved across to London in 2004, thinking that gaining international experience would be a good idea, expecting to return to the US after 2 years. Lucky for London, she stayed. “It’s so much more fulfilling to work in tech in the UK because it is earlier in its life cycle and you can shape it more.

Her career path took her to iconic tech companies which were relatively new – Skype, Yahoo and Ambient Sound Investments. She went on to co-found White Bear Yard with Stefan Glaenzer and Robert Dighero, who became her partners at Passion Capital, a leading early-stage technology and internet VC firm, which was launched in 2011.

Apart from working at Passion Captial, Eileen acts as board director for DueDil, Digital Shadows, wireWAX, Lulu and other portfolio companies. When assessing potential startups to invest in, her criteria for possible  are rather interesting: be friendly to the receptionist. Relationships are important. People are your company. How you treat people is vital. Burbidge looks for dedicated individuals who are willing to put in the hours and the passion required to make a success of their ideas.

The London tech scene has exploded, with the digital economy growing a third faster than the UK economy as a whole. Earlier this year, the Tech City cluster of businesses reported that 1.56 million people were employed in digital companies in the UK, with 328,000 of those in London.Digital is already 10 per cent of UK GDP and it is forecast to be 15 per cent in 2017… (It’s) the sector with the greatest job creation compared to the national average and we have 10 times as much venture financing coming into London tech as we had five years ago…. it’s fantastic that the Government has recognised it — economic growth is consistent with its mantra as a government but also in terms of job creation.” 

Listen to Eileen Burbidge being interviewed by TechCrunch here:

Despite the Brexit vote, Burbidge remains positive. The UK, and London “remains the biggest tech centre in Europe and continues to attract the best talent and companies from all over the world. These are attractive factors for any investor and there will be plenty of opportunities for investment in the coming months and years ahead,” she responded to a recent report by the investment database Pitchbook for London & Partners, the promotional body for the London Mayor’s office.

With the passionate-about-tech Eileen Burbidge here as Chair of TechCity UK, as HM Treasury’s Special Envoy for FinTech and Tech Ambassador for the Mayor of London.our official Tech Ambassador – are we surprised the message for UK’s tech scene’s future is a bright one?

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

 Featured photograph by Techworld.com

 

 

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