Postcode Anywhere’s Guy Mucklow has praised Lord Heseltine’s report No stone unturned in pursuit of growth, and has highlighted the importance of trade associations, civil servants and channelling government expenditure towards SMEs, to foster economic growth. Mucklow, Managing Director of the Worcester-based address auto-fill company, agreed that the UK SME community could learn from other countries, including the US and Germany, in how to better support innovation and British businesses.
In March 2012 the Prime Minister asked Lord Heseltine to report to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Business on how to more effectively create wealth for UK Plc. The resulting document was released this week.
“What struck me straight away about Lord Heseltine’s approach was the tone and style of the document,” commented Mucklow. “Gone was the dry as a bone, wade through treacle-type report that we have come to expect from government departments, and in its place was a refreshingly clear and well researched piece which was both engaging and interesting.
“Lord Heseltine describes his own background in business as: “We made mistakes, bad judgements and were over confident. Fortunately the good judgements outweighed the bad. Cash was always tight…”, of which I, as an entrepreneur, could relate,” he said.
Mucklow raises three crucial points made in the report that as the owner of a rapidly-growing UK business he believes are the key to growth: “Heseltine argued that trade associations could play a much more important role in helping to develop business in the UK, whilst also providing an important bridge between business and government. I wasn’t surprised by the apathetic take up of chamber membership in the UK, which at 104k is a fraction of the 3.6m admittedly compulsory members in Germany, but they need to re-address the benefits of joining above general training or support for export services. Postcode Anywhere gets tremendous value from our membership of trade groups that are a lot more specific in addressing our needs,” he stated.
He continued: “Secondly, the suggestion that civil servants should work more closely with business and adopt a more professional consistent approach in procurement would be welcome, since as a rule, they have very little working knowledge of being in business. I would also suggest that the UK Government takes a look at the experience and turnover of members of its own Cabinet. The lack of background experience in the IT industry in the Cabinet is poor, and largely boils down to discussions of silicon and roundabouts. Having Ministers who are better briefed and interested in their portfolios and who stay around long enough to see policy initiatives through from start to finish, would be helpful.”
He concluded: “Lastly, the report says that US has been very adept at channelling government expenditure to both SMEs and to those areas that it considers to be of strategic importance. They operate this through The US Small Business Innovation Research Programme, which issues over $2bn in contracts annually and has been behind the success of companies like Qualcomm and Symantec. UK Government IT procurement, on the other hand, has been disjointed and largely channelled towards very large systems integrators whose top 10 suppliers have averaged over 90 per cent of the £3 billion annual IT spend. Until government can find a more effective way of working with SMEs, this will always remain the case.”
Mucklow concluded: “As someone who is fairly cynical of the regular stream of hollow promises from government to fix things that are never backed up by firm action, it seemed to be at least a step in the right direction. Recognising that things aren’t perfect is encouraging and looking beyond your own borders for solutions, is never a bad idea. I for one look forward to seeing some of the ideas put into practice.”