It is commonly held that the main generator of jobs and prosperity is the small business sector. One of the problems that we face in the UK is that ‘small’ is defined in such a way that it covers 99% of all UK businesses. A much better definition would focus on the life stage of the SME rather than its turnover and its asset size. When viewed this way, SMEs fall into two distinct categories – those whose purpose is to grow into a substantial business (and thus create jobs) and those whose purpose is to provide a stable and comfortable income to the owners (our SME survey found this to be the larger category of SME). Public policy has recently encouraged both categories of SME, whereas it might be focussed on the former rather than the latter category in future years.
The Entrepreneurial Community takes responsibility for bringing to market the ideas of the Creative Community. The two appear to go together in tandem, and that a healthy Creative Community is a pre-requisite for a healthy Entrepreneurial Community. However, this is a necessary but not sufficient condition. We need to consider what else is needed to turn a healthy Creative Community into a healthy Entrepreneurial Community. Our survey of SMEs suggested that most SMEs are set up in Suffolk because it is a nice place to live, and that their greatest handicap is the lack of a mature business community. It was seen that this is the one factor that needs to change if Suffolk is to develop a thriving SME sector.
Given the anticipated onset of peak oil, climate change, and resource scarcity, we need to be mindful of the steps that the Entrepreneurial Community can undertake in order to give itself a degree of resilience to these anticipated problems. Indeed, we can reframe the issues to consider them as future opportunities yet to be exploited. As always, it is a case of what action can be taken today in order to help us face the future.
A key to resilience would be the encouragement of SMEs that were located in the Support Economy – the part of the Service Sector that focuses upon the provision of services that are tailored to the higher needs of the individual. This could be done through a series of initiatives, including the development of high speed IT interconnectivity links, the encouragement of off-line business networking, the development of a working culture that celebrates diversity, creativity and innovation, and the establishment of a series of creative hubs that connect the creative hotspots within Suffolk.
The absence of a well developed business community within Suffolk may not necessarily prove to be a handicap in the next two decades. Part of the charm of Suffolk is that the Industrial Revolution passed it by. However, if it is to retain that charm, it must ensure that the Sixth Wave – the technology to address scarcity - does not.
© The European Futures Observatory 2011