Small businesses are the backbone of the UK economy, driving growth, opening new markets and creating jobs therefore their contribution is vital. As seedbeds for innovation, they encourage competition and bring fresh ideas that challenge the status quo. This stimulus in turn incentivises others to adapt. Simply put, small businesses are good for UK plc (of which they represent 99.9 per cent of businesses). It goes without saying then, that they should be encouraged to flourish.
However, it is important to look at the wider landscape and see that the path ahead has its challenges, such as prohibitive regulation, red-tape and access to finance.
‘In 2014, there were an estimated 5.2 million businesses in the UK – 99.9 per cent of those being SMEs, therefore this research is a concern if organisations are to continue to grow and thrive in today’s market.’
This is where standards come to the fore, not only as a benchmark for best practice but attainment also. Standards can help push boundaries and stimulate debate on the most effective way to do things. With every ambitious business vying to ‘do things better’, standards are always evolving to fit the purpose for which they were intended.
Whatever you want to show your customers and suppliers you do, there is likely to be a standard that covers it. They are created collaboratively by experts and draw together best practice and knowledge from across industry, government, testing and certification to academia, consumer groups, trade unions and most importantly, businesses.
‘It’s vital that businesses have the necessary knowledge to be more efficient in their business to ensure customer satisfaction, improve employee engagement and to enable access to new markets,” continues Gouldstone. ‘Standards or management systems can help businesses to focus on the products and services that they deliver, their business processes and the way that they manage their organisation as a whole.
‘However, it’s not just a simple case of buying a standard – businesses should firstly understand what it is that is required for their organisation in order to improve. What are the biggest risks? What processes need to be implemented? What leadership is required? Secondly, they should ensure that employees have the necessary tools and skills to understand their part in the process – workshops, seminars and training are a key element of this. There are systems available that can help to effectively manage core areas of any business. Finally, once a standard is in place, businesses should market their achievement to potential and existing customers – this provides customers with reassurance that a company is working as efficiently and effectively as possible and are committed to quality.’