What have you done for me lately?

I wonder how many people read the title but hear it in their heads as if Janet Jackson was singing it?

It’s a very selfish and expectant line, but also reflective. It questions whether a relationship can be considered an equal partnership. There is also a suggestion that someone has given more than the other.

If that’s the case, it’s probably not a fair deal.

How often do we see this in the business world, especially with new businesses and startups? Are they getting a fair deal when working with more established companies?

Ship now – I’ll pay whenever.

In the UK there’s currently a focus on late payment terms; where a larger company takes the services or product of a smaller one and determines when they should be paid. Sometimes three or four months after receiving the goods or service. The smaller business is pressured into signing the arrangement otherwise they won’t get the order from the bigger company.

A bigger businesses taking advantage of the smaller one… we’re still living in a world where the laws of the playground apply: I’m bigger than you… so you’ll do what I tell you.

Imagine applying this behaviour to a restaurant or a hairdresser: “Thanks for the cut and blow dry, I’ll pay you in three months.”

That’s ridiculous, and so is this whole situation.

Look around our current playground. The smaller businesses (fewer than 20 employees) outnumber the bigger ones by a ratio of 30:1. (ONS 2017 Business Population) They don’t need to be repressed and worried about their cash flow. They need the help and support of bigger businesses.

Where to start

I personally think this can and should start with the banks, backed by central government (possibly even the Small Business Commissioner).

The banks offering services to small businesses have local branches, they have the local contacts that they can recommend and leverage to aid their smaller business customers.

So many small businesses are unsure of their digital skills (as mentioned in a previous blog), or they lack in other areas of business (funding, insurance or legal), then there needs to be a program to address this skills gap.

If someone wants a loan to expand their dog grooming business but they don’t have the skills to put together a business plan, don’t send them off with their tail between their legs.

Recommend a local business coach that can help them. Ask them if they have thought about the insurance implications or the health safety aspects of opening larger premises.

The point is that a small business owner doesn’t necessarily know all the facts when starting trading and this may hamper future growth (setting unfair payment terms definitely does), paying anyone late – even when terms are not set – will just send them out of business.

How can I help your business?

We need to start looking at how we can help small businesses. They’re in the majority and we all benefit when they are successful. When they fill their appointments and make more money, they hire more staff, they use more of other products and services because they have the need and funds to do so.

We need to start giving back. If a small business goes bust, who are they going to buy goods or services from then?

It’s not about what have you done for me lately but what have I done for you?

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