So just why is it so rare to see decent business support provision developed specifically with the micro-enterprise in mind?  Well I suspect because there is a perception amongst the powers that be that it is hard, expensive and wasteful.

  • There are just too many micro-enterprises to offer more than a generic website.
  • Micro-enterprises are just too heterogeneous – they all have different wants and needs.  There is no one size fits all solution for them.
  • They just don’t have the capacity to absorb and act upon the services and guidance we offer.  There is no HR team to work with our skills offering, no marketeers to get involved with our business development work.
  • Micro-enterprises just aren’t able to engage strategically with support.  Everyone in the micro-enterprise is too busy doing their day job to invest in their development. They have no discretionary time to invest.
  • There is little return on public investment in micro-enterprise. They start small stay small and die small.  They are just lifestyle businesses that have little potential for job creation.
  • We don’t really understand them.  Our boards and committees are overloaded with people from big business.
  • To make a significant economic impact it is much easier to work with the big employers.  One big employer could trigger thousands of apprenticeships across the UK.  We might need to work with 10 000 micro-enterprises to find just 100.
  • Big businesses understand how the game is played.  They come to breakfast meetings, read policy papers and generally know how to work with the system.  Micro-enterprises tend to be much more opinionated, impatient and generally difficult.
Personally I think that each of these are actually reasons why enterprise support should be emphasised.  It is a massive market, driven, focussed and unlikely to indulge in pointless grandstanding and meetings.  The diversity of the sector means that is faces every problem and opportunity imaginable but also that the sector has all of the experience and skills within it that it requires.  The challenge is to get the know-how flowing. HINT when dealing with a large market this is not done by fielding a few experts.  If we can influence just a small part of the micro-enterprise market then we can make a massive difference.
Perhaps it is time we changed the rules of engagement to recognise how micro-enterprises work.  Drop the committees, agendas and the policy reviews and start committing to action and learning instead.